The short answer is yes, you can sue if you are injured on another person's property. You will be eligible to file a premises liability claim when you suffer harm on another person's property. The basis of the premises liability claim will be negligence.
Property owners owe visitors and guests a duty to ensure the property is safe from any dangers. If dangers are present, they must warn said guests and block off the dangerous area. Keep in mind that state and local ordinances can alter the outcome of a premises liability case. Discuss your legal opinions with a premises liability attorney.
Property owners are liable for anything that happens on their property. There are many subcategories to premises liability claims, from dog bites to slip and fall. Essentially any accident that causes harm to a person while on another party’s property constitutes a premises liability claim.
Obtaining compensation is not so cut and dry. You must consider many legal nuances, and property owners may shift the blame onto you. Without the proper legal foundation and assistance, the property owner can win.
Why You Were on the Property Matters
The law classifies individuals on a property in three ways. The category you fall into will determine whether a property owner owes you much of a duty of care and whether you have a case.
What Is an Invitee?
An invitee is any party the owner expected to come on the property to conduct a transaction. This definition will apply to businesses that invite consumers to purchase their products or services. The two parties share a common goal.
The property owner attempted to sell the product and make a profit. The invitee is on the property to purchase the product. The most common example is grocery stores. The grocery store owner has to keep the property safe for anyone who comes to shop there.
If any dangers are present, there should be signage to warn visitors. The property owner should conduct regular inspections to look for hazards or safety issues. The property owner owes this category of individual the highest duty of care in premises liability cases.
What Is a Licensee?
The next category an individual on a property can fall into is a licensee. Being the second on the list, they are owed the second highest duty of care by property owners. Typically licensees are social guests or a party conducting work on the property.
These guests have permission to be on the property. An example is friends and family that come over for a birthday party. They are not there for a business purpose but have a reason to be on the property. When you have a party, you must warn visitors of any dangers.
Let us assume there is a broken tile in the hallway. You must block this section or have a sign that says to watch out. You can also inform each guest about the damaged tile.
Who Are Trespassers?
Finally, we have uninvited and unwanted visitors. As you might imagine, these individuals receive a property owner’s least duty of care. An individual who enters the property without the owner’s knowledge is a trespasser.
There is a limited duty of care offered to trespassers, but this definition can vary. It is highly disputed how safe a property owner should keep their premises if a trespasser is afoot. A trespasser is different from a burglar, and you should be wary of these classifications as they can be mixed up and used interchangeably when there are genuine differences.
Business Versus Residential Properties
Business owners have a higher standard of care owed than homeowners. Businesses see more increased traffic, and there are many different areas that a property manager must secure. Property owners will also need to inspect the property as a hazard can appear within minutes. If the weather changes, business owners must take additional steps to secure the premises. Rain and snow require anti-slip devices near entrances.
A residential property owner does not have to prepare for high traffic within their home. When there is a person on the property, the homeowner expects them to be there and can quickly warn of any hazards. Property owners may also have fewer means to handle a premises liability lawsuit. These claims will go through the homeowner's insurance which can be limited. Speak with a premises liability attorney to determine the best legal recourse for your injury.
Foreseeability and Reasonableness
The court will consider two factors in premises liability cases. First, the court will use reasonableness to determine the classification of the individual on the property.
The court will look at:
- How the individual was using the property
- Why the individual was on the property
- If the accident was foreseeable by the property owner
- Whether the property owner took steps to remedy the dangerous condition or warn of the hazardous condition
What Is an Attractive Nuisance?
One exception to trespassing is an attractive nuisance. This doctrine applies to children since they are easily attracted to “fun things .” Essentially, there are special legal duties afforded to children who enter a property because something on the property was attractive to them; this can be many things from a playground, pool, or hot tub. The child enters the property to play with the said object and hurts themselves.
The child is not a trespasser because there was an attractive nuisance on the property. In theory, if that nuisance were not there, the child might not have entered the property and harmed themselves. Property owners must place warning signs or fences so that a child does not easily access their property.
What Causes Injuries?
The primary cause of injury is negligence.
Some of the most common reasons for premises liability injuries:
- Dog attacks
- Wet floors
- Unsafe sidewalks
- Misplaced objects
- Hazardous materials
- Inadequate lighting
- Not adhering to building regulations
- Dangerous elevators
An injury can happen on a property for many other reasons. After an injury, report the incident and call emergency services. Even if you believe it is a minor injury, you still need medical attention.
Proving a Premises Liability Case
Several elements need to be proven to obtain compensation. The first element that must be present is the duty of care. The classifications establish the duty of care we described above. Suppose the owner owes you a duty of care; that is step one in your premises liability case. This factor is an essential aspect of any premises liability case. The next factor that must be present in the case is a breach of the duty of care.
A premises liability attorney must prove that the property owner breached the duty of care they owed to the invitee or licensee. The third element is that an injury occurred because of the breach. One way to prove this element is to seek medical attention immediately. When you get a medical examination, this will directly link the incident on the property and your injury.
The final factor that a premises liability attorney must prove in a premises liability case is damages. The extent of your damages sets your financial losses related to the injuries you suffered from the accident. These financial losses result in compensation.
You can garner compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical costs
- Emergency care costs
- Lost wages and future earnings
- Loss of enjoyment of life
You need to contact a premise liability attorney before the statute of limitations runs out to file a claim. You will lose a premises liability case if you wait too long.
Prepare for Property Owner Defense
For a successful claim, you will need enough evidence to prove the negligent actions of the property owner caused you direct harm resulting in damages. The majority of evidence will be collected immediately following the accident. While video surveillance can go a long way in your case, it is not always available.
If possible, take pictures of everything around you. Do not move or further harm yourself; grab your phone and take photos from your location. It is also vital to file a lawsuit against the correct party. Various parties can be held liable, and it is essential to have a premises liability attorney that can decipher who the responsible party is.
As with any legal matter, the other party will have the opportunity to defend themselves. Most commonly, property owners will use the defense that the person was not a guest. The property owner will argue that you are a trespasser and therefore have no authority to file a claim. Trespasser claims are typically dismissed or rejected.
Another possible defense the property owner will use is that you were reckless, which caused your injuries. They will employ various tactics to prove the accident was your fault. If they can prove this as fact, then your case is dismissed. The property owner’s attorney can present other less common defenses. A premises liability attorney can shoot these down if there is sufficient evidence of your injury.
Dogs are highly protective of their owners. If a dog feels its owner is in danger, it will defend itself. If the claim involves a dog bite, the dog owner can argue that you provoked the dog in some form. In other words, if the dog owner and their attorney prove you provoked the dog, the court will deny your premises liability claim. However, you should not be discouraged as a premises liability attorney can work to prove the opposite. An attorney can show the dog was dangerous and has an aggressive past.
What is the most common premises liability claim?
The most common premises liability accidents are slip and fall across the board. These accidents are also easily avoidable.
What do I do if I suffer harm in an accident on another person’s property?
You need to take a few steps after suffering an injury on a property. First, you need to call emergency services and get medical attention. Next, collect as much evidence as is feasible for you. Do not hurt yourself trying to collect evidence. Evidence collection can include gathering witness information, taking pictures, and requesting medical documentation. The final step you need to take is to meet with a premises liability lawyer.
Is there a time limit to file a claim?
Yes, there are individual statutes of limitation for any injury claim. You will need to speak with a premises liability attorney to determine which laws apply to your case.
What if the owner did not know about the dangerous condition?
Ignorance is a tough defense to use. While a property owner can claim they did not know about the dangerous condition, they can still be liable for an accident. They must regularly inspect the property. Typically this defense strategy does not hold up in court.
What is a hazardous condition?
The term may sound vague because it covers a range of topics. Essentially, any condition that can cause visitor harm is considered hazardous.
This idea brings us to the original question. You can sue someone if you get injured on their property. However, it is not as easy as it sounds as you need sufficient evidence and an experienced premises liability attorney. You need patience for a successful claim.
Call a Premises Liability Attorney Today
A premises liability claim can take time to resolve, especially without irrefutable evidence. You need a premises liability lawyer to gather as much evidence as possible at the scene. Follow all doctor recommendations and treatment. If you do not follow the doctor’s orders, the defendant can argue that you are uninjured or that your injuries are not substantial. You must also avoid social media and speaking about your case.
Most importantly, trust your premises liability attorney.