The laws involving premises liability cases are built on the legal concept that an injury or death was caused by a defective or unsafe condition on another’s property. Nearly every personal injury case including premises liability claims are founded on negligence. To receive financial compensation for damages, injuries or death, the victim or surviving family members must prove how the owner, management, tenant or occupier of the property was negligent in maintaining or owning the premises.
The legal principles of premises liability laws hold property owners, tenants and occupiers responsible anytime an authorized visitor (invitee) enters onto the premises and is hurt by some type of dangerous condition. While slip and fall accidents are the most common form of accidents with injuries involved in premises liability laws, others include:
- Ice and snow-related accidents
- Defective condition including malfunctioning handrail, broken stairway or exposed electricity
- Inadequate premises maintenance
- Wet or oily floors
- Loose floor tiles, uneven sidewalks or broken threshold
- Swimming pool drowning or accident
- Escalator or elevator accident
- Insufficient security to protect against assault or battery
- Flooding or water leaks
- Fires and explosions
- Animal bites
- Exposure to harmful chemicals and toxic fumes
Any potentially dangerous situation or unsafe condition on another’s property can be the foundation of a claim or lawsuit based on premises liability laws.
Large apartment complexes, commercial buildings and retail establishments must provide adequate building security using proper locks and other safeguards to protect the public. Likewise, most swimming pool accidents occur because of an unsecured or unsupervised pool environment. Because of that, many municipal laws and city ordinances require a locking gate or ongoing supervision as a safeguard to protect the public.
A Duty of Care
Property owners, managers, occupiers and tenants have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care when maintaining or owning the property. This duty of care extends to authorized visitors or individuals with the implied permission to visit and use the property. In detail these involve:
- Invitee – Authorized visitors are considered “invitees” within implied or express permission by the landowner or tenant to enter the premises. These can be neighbors, relatives, friends, shoppers or attendees at an event.
- Licensee – Vendors, salespersons or other individuals who enter and use the property through implied or express permission are considered “licensees.”
- Trespasser – Any individual without proper authorization to be on the premises is considered a “trespasser.” Usually, the trespasser has no implied or express permission to be on the property.
The duty of care protects invitees and licensees against any condition that is known or should be known by the landlord or tenant, that others are not likely to discover. The duty of care does not extend to any trespasser unless that individual as a child. In that event, the landowner, manager or occupier must exercise reasonable care to prevent all potential foreseeable risks of danger to a child that is caused by an artificial condition like a swimming pool, lake or anything that will likely attract a young child’s attention.
Seeking Legal Assistance
The possessor or owner of the property can be made vicariously or directly liable for any injury that occurs on the property. Because of that, victims or surviving family members can seek financial compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering or wrongful death by filing a claim or lawsuit in a premises liability case. To win the case, the victim or surviving family members must prove three specific elements that include:
- The defendant possessed or controlled the premises at the time of the accident or incident
- The plaintiff (victim) was a licensee or invitee to the premises at the time of the injury or death
- The defendant acted negligently or wrongfully in that the injury or death could have otherwise been prevented
Seeking compensation usually requires the skills of an experienced personal injury attorney with a comprehensive understanding of premises liability laws. Most of these cases are handled on contingency where payment is only collected once the case is negotiated during the settlement procedures or a financial amount is awarded in a successful trial.