Have You Been Injured As a Result of a Dangerous Condition on Someone Else’s Property?
Premises liability cases rest upon the theory that the owner of property is responsible for any unsafe conditions upon the property. In the event that there’s a personal injury due to the unsafe condition, premises liability law states that the property owner may have to pay for any damages he or she suffers.
The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Abels & Annes are here to help. We can advise you of your rights and help you get compensation for your injuries.
Many people equate premises liability with slip and fall cases, and this is correct. It could be a wet floor in a supermarket, upon which a patron falls and injures his back. However, premises liability law is much broader than that and not so simple.
Contrary to what many people believe, merely getting injured on someone’s property—even if it is a serious injury—is not always sufficient to create liability. Like all negligence cases, the elements of Premises Liability fall into a general pattern:
- The defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff
- There is a breach of that duty
- The breach causes an injury to the plaintiff
- There are damages to the plaintiff as a result
Accordingly, when it comes to premises liability, as a general rule, landowners (or occupiers of land, such as the operator of a grocery store on leased land) have a duty to maintain and keep their property in a reasonably safe condition to avoid injuring those who are on the property. Failure to maintain safe premises constitutes a breach of that duty. An individual suffering an injury as a result of an unsafe condition may be able to hold the property owner legally liable.
Premises Liability FAQ
Here are questions and answers to several premises liability issues:
What Are Common Types of Premises Liability Accidents?
Our premises liability attorneys in Chicago know that many property owners are not always diligent in keeping their property free from dangerous hazards. People suffer injury by the negligence and inaction of irresponsible property owners should get the compensation they deserve. Some common types of premises liability accidents include:
- Broken Stair Accidents
- Wet and Slippery Floor Accidents
- Hotel Accident
- Elevator Accident
- Porch Collapses
What Should I do if I Get Injured on Someone Else’s Property?
- Take photos of the condition. Whatever it was that was the cause of your fall, you want to preserve the evidence. Take lots of photos from several different angles. If necessary, take video as well.
- Make a report. If the injury takes place at a business, like a store, report the fall to management while you are still on the premises. Show them what happened, if it helps. Ask for a copy of their report. They will probably refuse, but it can’t hurt to ask.
- Seek medical attention. If you are in pain, go to an emergency room, urgent care, or your primary care physician. If the store asks if you need an ambulance, don’t refuse if you feel you need medical assistance. Sometimes injuries are more significant that you first realize.
- Contact a slip & fall lawyer in Chicago. Call an attorney ASAP. Further, definitely do this before you start talking to the defendant’s insurance company. Depending on the case, an attorney might want to act quickly. He or she might want to preserve video, take additional photos, or even retain an architect for an immediate inspection.
What Are Common Injuries From Premises Liability Accidents?
- Broken bones (fractures). This is the most common injury we deal with after a slip & fall or a trip & fall accident. And even worse, a lot of breaks require surgery with the insertion of permanent hardware to fix the fracture.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). A serious jolt to the head, or hitting your head on a fixed object, may cause a TBI. This can range from a concussion to the more serious with long term effects.
- Back and neck injuries. Depending on the way the accident occurs, back and neck injuries can be common. Often we see accident victims sustain disc herniations or protrusions as a result.
- Torn ligaments. In premises cases, often a plaintiff will sustain an injury like a torn rotator cuff, labrum, or meniscus. These injuries often require surgery.
- Death. Depending on the type of premises liability case, tragically there can be fatalities. For example, in a porch collapse case or a building fire.
When Will a Property Owner Be Liable for an Injury Occurring on His Property?
In order to be liable under the theory of premises liability, the owner of land (or occupier) must have notice of the dangerous condition. This notice can be:
- Actual notice. That is, the landowner is aware that there is a broken stair, for example. Or, that someone spilled a bottle of olive oil in the grocery store aisle.
- Constructive notice. That is, a responsible owner, in the exercise of ordinary care, would or should know of the dangerous condition.
In some cases, the latter might be shown by something as simple as failing to meet a building code requirement. For example, if a building does not have enough fire sprinklers or smoke detectors. Here, the owner could be said to have constructive notice of the fault. This, because a responsible property owner exercising ordinary care would make sure his building met all relevant codes. Further, there is notice here even if the owner was not in fact aware of the deficiency.
The notice requirement, however, also means that if an owner has no reasonable means or opportunity of ascertaining the dangerous condition, there might not be liability. For example, a grocery store patron breaks a bottle of oil on the aisle floor. And then the customer simply walks away without notifying a store employee or taking any other steps to minimize the danger. Next, someone unaware of the condition walks down the aisle immediately afterward and slips and falls.
In this case, the owner of the grocery store may have a defense. They had no means or opportunity of ascertaining or responding to the danger. Therefore, a judge or jury may find there was no breach of duty to the plaintiff.
What’s The Difference Between Invitees or Licensees and Trespassers?
In addition, the law of Premises Liability distinguishes between different types of people who may be on a property, and the status of that person may determine liability. In Illinois, the law distinguishes between invitees or licensees and trespassers.
- An invitee or licensee may be customers in a store, ticket-holders for an event, firemen, policemen, job applicants, baby-sitters, houseguests, delivery persons, and so on. In other words, they are individuals who are allowed or invited to come onto property for a specific purpose that benefits the landowner.
- A trespasser, however, is not invited or welcome by the landowner. A trespasser may be a criminal who has entered property for an unlawful purpose, or it may simply be someone who enters onto private property for some other reason.
A landowner owes a duty of care to invitees or licensees to:
- Be aware of any conditions that might pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the invitee or licensee
- Anticipate that the invitee or licensee may not be able to discover or realize the risk of harm
- Exercise reasonable care in preventing the invitee or licensee from suffering the harm
What is The Standard of Reasonableness?
Incidentally, there is no hard and fast rule for what preventative measures are required, other than the standard of “reasonableness.” For example, reasonableness may require
- A prominent warning sign for a slippery floor
- Fencing off an area where there is a hole in the ground
- Extra lighting for a stairwell
- Special paint markings for an uneven sidewalk or step
- A warning light or bell for oncoming traffic
In other words, “reasonableness” requires an owner to take steps that would be sufficient to make an invitee or licensee aware of and capable of avoiding a dangerous condition. Accordingly, even if a landowner has taken some precautionary measure, an injured party may always allege that the precaution taken was not reasonable under the circumstances, or that some other or additional steps should have been taken.
For a trespasser, however, Illinois Premises Liability law is much less burdensome. While a landowner may not willfully or wantonly injure a trespasser, a landowner generally has no duty to protect trespassers. There are some important exceptions to this principle, such as where
- The landowner is carrying out some particularly dangerous activity on the land
- There is an unreasonably dangerous area on the land
- The landowner is aware of and generally tolerates frequent trespassers (for example, if a landowner knows that children frequently walk through his land as a short-cut from a school bus to their homes)
But generally, a landowner has no duty to minimize the risk of harm to trespassers.
Can I Recover For Slip and Falls on Ice and Snow?
Under Illinois caselaw, these claims have become increasingly difficult. In addition to treating trespassers different from others, Illinois has other rules that can protect landowners from liability. Illinois is a state in which harsh winters are commonplace. The state has some special considerations with respect to snowy or icy conditions.
Because landowners are not insurers of invitees or licensees, Illinois courts have adopted a general rule that “natural” conditions that can make property dangerous, such as icy sidewalks or water tracked-in off of someone’s boots, should not lead to premises liability. However, like most areas of the law, this rule, too, has some important exceptions.
In particular, courts recognize that landowners may create or exacerbate the normal dangers of ice and snow. Or, there may be underlying conditions that create danger in icy or snowy conditions.
For example, a landowner may clear or remove snow in a particular way that creates a new danger. Consequently, injured parties may still be able to make a valid premises liability claim even where an injury involves icy or snowy conditions.
Should photos be taken after a slip & fall accident? Watch this video for the answer.
Should You Contact a Chicago Premises Liability Lawyer at Abels & Annes, P.C.?
Clearly, many personal injury cases involving premises liability can be complicated. Not many of these cases are straightforward and easy to settle. In premises cases, difficult questions often arise in proving one or more of the elements needed to demonstrate liability.
In addition, some injuries can be very critical. There can be broken bones requiring surgery, or serious back and neck injuries, or even brain damage. This is especially true when the injured parties are elderly. As a general rule, the more serious the injury, the greater incentive for insurance carriers to mount a vigorous defense.
At Abels & Annes, we represent clients in slip and fall and other premises liability cases involving serious injuries. Once in a while this type of case settles out of court, but much of the time we file a lawsuit and fight for our client in court.
We firmly believe that bringing premises liability claims are an important measure in enforcing businesses and landowners behave responsibly toward others. Our goal is to fight for the rights of accident victims that sustain injury due to the negligence of business and property owners.
If you need assistance or advice in evaluating a premises liability case, contact the law offices of Abels & Annes in Chicago at (312) 924-7575. Your consultation is free and, if we take your case, you will never pay a fee unless a financial recovery is made on your behalf.
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