Property owners, tenants and occupiers have a legal obligation under federal, state and local laws to provide a reasonably safe environment for every authorized visitor or licensee on the premises. When that obligation is breached, innocent victims can suffer devastating injuries or death. When the harm is a result of negligence, recklessness, carelessness or intentional action, responsible parties can be held legally responsible for every personal injury or fatality that occurs on their property.
In many situations, the injured victim can suffer serious injuries including:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Broken bones and fractures
- Damage to internal organs
- Head injury
- Broken wrists
- Wrongful death
Every injured victim or surviving family members in a wrongful death have the legal right to file a claim or sue for financial compensation from every party at fault for the accident or incident. However, the laws that govern premises liability injury claims are complex. Proving which individuals are at fault can be especially difficult for the plaintiff. This is because being injured and killed on the premises of a retail store, supermarket, residential home, government agency or commercial establishment might not be enough on its own to win a lawsuit. This is true even if you have proof that the premises was an unsafe condition or had a major defect that caused the injury.
When an authorized visitor enters the property of another, they can reasonably expect to not be injured or killed while on the premises. Typically, a victim suffering an injury on another’s premises hoping to file a claim for compensation must ensure that they were an invitee (invited onto the premises by the occupier or owner) or a licensee (an individual permitted access and use of the premises) and not a trespasser unless they are underage.
The vast majority of premise liability claims with injuries can occur in locations in the community that can include:
- Parking lot
- Grocery store
- Restaurants and bars
- Motor lodges and hotels
- Apartment complexes
- Shopping malls and centers
- Conference centers
- Sports stadiums
- A neighbor’s residence
Common injuries involved in premise liability claims are not always as noticeable or obvious as though suffered in vehicle accidents. However, they often include broken bones, burns, electrical shock, head injury, spinal cord injury, brain trauma, neck injury, lacerations and cuts.
A skilled attorney who specializes in premise liability injury cases will be able to determine which parties are at fault to file a suit or claim against all responsible individuals. The most common types of premises liability claims involve:
- Staircase accidents
- Slip and fall incidences
- Uneven surfaces
- Defective sidewalks
- Slippery surfaces including accumulated ice or snow left on a sidewalk
- Dangerous property
- Electrocution by exposed electricity
- Explosions and fires
- Insufficient lighting
- Lead poisoning
- Willful neglect of the property
- Exposure to hazardous material
- Inadequate or negligent security
- Building code violation
- Poor construction
- Defective electrical wiring
- Shoddy building materials
- Children on property
- Unsupervised swimming pools
- Inadequate maintenance
- Dog or animal bite
- A lack of warnings or markings that announce any potentially unsafe environment
Not all premises liability injury claims involve commercial establishments. Many accidental injuries are caused by defective or dangerous conditions at private homes. Usually, the homeowner has the responsibility to cover all compensation for damages occurring on their property in the event that someone is injured, killed or suffering other damages.
However, if the entire house has been released or rented, every tenant on the lease could be held legally at fault for the injuries or death. Legal responsibility of a rented apartment where a tenant or guest is injured is often well defined. The landlord (property owner) or management staff might be legally responsible to maintain all components, conditions and materials outside including entryways, stairways and hallways. This also extends to immovable objects inside the apartment including appliances, fixtures, walls and floors.
Children on Property
While every visitor has a legal obligation of their own personal safety while an authorized visitor or invitee on another’s property, the law handles children’s responsibility differently. The property owner, management, tenant or occupier has a legal duty to secure the environment if a child is likely to be visiting the premises, even without authorization. The property possessor, or owner, is required to give warning when they know, or should have known, that a child could likely visit the premises.
The landlord, manager or possessor of the property has a limited legal duty to provide reasonable warnings that can prevent death or injury to a trespasser. The law typically restricts liability to artificial conditions in control of the owner or occupier that could potentially cause death or serious injury.
Filing a Claim or Lawsuit
Premises liability claims and lawsuits are complex. Successful litigation often requires the skills of an experienced personal injury attorney who handles premises liability injury claims. Winning a case often necessitates conducting a prompt investigation to gather evidence for proof. Reputable law firms that are successful in handling premise liability claims will usually hire investigators to perform a variety of services including:
- Photographing the unsafe condition, exposed hazard or surroundings prior to any repairs or destruction of the evidence
- A thorough examination of the scene of the accident performed by safety engineers to determine any human factor that might have caused the accident
In addition, the personal injury attorney will interview property owners, employees, and all eyewitnesses in an effort to establish which parties are at fault. Common questions that need to be answered to move the case forward include:
- What length of time did the unsafe condition or exposed hazard exist?
- Had the owners, occupiers or tenants received any complaints from other individuals noting the unsafe condition prior to the occurrence or accident?
- Were there any building code violations contributing to the accident causing the injury
- Have any other individuals suffered the same type of injuries because of the existing problem?
A skilled premises liability attorney can evaluate the circumstances surrounding the case to determine the level of compensation the victim is entitled to receive. Most of these claims are handled on contingency without payment of any upfront expense or fees until the case is won or settled out of court. Each premises liability claim is time-limited by the state’s statute of limitations. Because of that, it is essential to seek competent legal representation quickly to ensure that the victim’s rights remain protected.