Have You Been Injured As a Result of a Dangerous Condition on Someone Else’s Property?
Premises liability cases are based on 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 the injury victim 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 that causes a patron to fall and injure their back, or when a customer falls on a spill because of a leaking AC at a hair salon.
However, premises liability law is much broader than that, and it's usually 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 who suffer injuries due to negligence and inaction of irresponsible property owners should get the compensation they deserve. Some common types of premises liability accidents include:
Broken or Dangerous Stair Accidents
Staircases can be inherently dangerous. But when a property owner fails to keep their staircases in good condition or doesn’t promptly fix a hazard, injuries can occur. Some of the most common staircase injuries are caused by:
- insufficient or no lighting
- obstructions in the walkway
- torn carpeting or rubber stripping
- loose handrails
- uneven risers
In serious situations, entire rails or staircases can collapse and lead to serious injuries or death.
Wet and Slippery Floor Accidents
Wet or slippery floors are one of the most common causes of slip and fall incidents. When wet floors in businesses are not properly identified or cleaned up by the property owners or managers, they can lead to serious injuries. Slip and fall victims don’t always just suffer a simple fall and a little embarrassment. Many suffer serious repercussions like head injuries, neck and back injuries, and broken hips.
As we have mentioned, premises liability is more than just slips and falls. This area of law encompasses all dangers that can occur on a property that an owner must take steps to help prevent. For example, a hotel owner has a responsibility to ensure there is:
- proper lighting to prevent trip and falls
- working door locks to prevent intrusions
- steps to prevent slip and fall hazards
Many injuries at hotels could have been avoided if proper precautions were put in place by hotel staff and management.
Elevators are common in buildings all across the US. But they’re especially common in big cities like Chicago. When an elevator is not properly maintained by building operators, serious injuries can occur. Elevator injuries can be caused by elevator doors closing too quickly, sudden drops leading to passengers falling down, and uneven ledges while people enter or exit. Elevator accidents that are eligible for premises liability lawsuits are usually caused by lack of maintenance or defective elevator parts.
Landlords are responsible for proper upkeep on all building structures, including balconies and porches. When these structures are not properly built, repaired or maintained, it can lead to a porch collapse that can cause severe or deadly injuries.
Rental Property Injuries
Whether you are renting a house for years or just the weekend, the property owner has a responsibility to keep the premises safe. If you reported a hazard to your landlord or to the owner of your vacation property and they fail to fix it, you may be eligible to file a claim for damages you incurred due to your injuries.
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?
Almost every type of injury you can imagine can occur in a premises liability incident. Below are some of the most common injuries we see at Abels & Annes.
Broken Bones (Fractures)
Broken bones are one of the most common injuries 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. Recovery after breaking bones can take months. This affects the injury victim's ability to carry out daily tasks as well as their ability to earn income. Because of this, broken bones can end up costing injury victims thousands of dollars in damages.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
A serious jolt to the head, or hitting your head on a fixed object, may cause a traumatic brain injury. This can range from a concussion to a more serious brain injury that has long term effects. No matter how serious the brain injury, almost all TBIs create issues for victims. Some may only cause issues lasting a few weeks. Still others may last a lifetime. In either situation, damage to the brain is always a concerning injury.
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. Injuries to the spine and the surrounding tissue can:
- cause severe pain
- limit mobility
- cost victims thousands of dollars in time away from work
- require surgeries
- induce permanent disability
In premises cases, often a plaintiff will sustain an injury like a torn rotator cuff, labrum, or meniscus. These injuries often require surgery and a lengthy recovery time. People who have suffered from these types of injuries are entitled to lost wages and other damages suffered as a result.
If a landlord or property manager does not properly maintain or repair their property, it can lead to other serious injuries like burns. Burns can be caused by faulty water heaters, electrical issues, or by damaged appliances. Burns are not only seriously painful. But they can also leave victims with debilitating scars and long-lasting nerve damage.
Depending on the type of premises liability case, tragically there can be fatalities. When a property owner or manager’s actions or inaction lead to a loved one’s death, their surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages incurred by the loss of their loved one.
When Will a Property Owner Be Liable for an Injury Occurring on Their 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 come in two ways:
- Actual notice. The landowner is aware that there is an issue with the property. For example, this may be awareness of a broken stair or that someone has spilled a bottle of olive oil in a 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 the 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 and licensees, and trespassers.
Illinois premises liability laws don’t distinguish between invitees and licensees as they are both authorized to be on private property. However, Illinois does recognize that trespassers are not authorized to be on property. Therefore, Illinois recognizes a difference between trespassers and invitees/licensees.
Licensees and Invitees
Licensees include family, friends, and other social guests who arrive onto the property for non-business related purposes. Land owners should be aware of any conditions that might pose an unreasonable risk of harm to licensees.
Examples of Licensees: Friends who show up unannounced. A city worker dropping off mail. A religious missionary delivering church materials.
Invitees are those on a property for commercial related activities. This would include contractors, plumbers, or any other sort of handyman coming onto a person’s property. It also extends to patrons shopping in a supermarket for their groceries. Property owners should exercise reasonable care in preventing an invitee from suffering the harm that may ensue from unsafe premises. They should also anticipate that the invitee may not be able to discover or realize the risk of harm on their own.
Examples of Invitees: A friend you invite to your house. Customers of a grocery store. Patrons at a restaurant. Guests at a hotel. Residents of an apartment complex. A spectator at a sporting event.
The obligation a property owner has when it comes to trespassers on their property is significantly less. Trespassers, by their very nature, do not have permission to be on the grounds at all. With that being said, property owners are not allowed to intentionally create hazards or traps for trespassers.
Examples of Trespassers: Someone who is breaking into your house. Someone who you asked to leave but came back unannounced. A person who hops your fence to cut through your yard.
Below we discuss some reasonable exceptions to trespassers.
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.
What damages can I get compensation for after an injury on someone else’s property?
Fortunately, the law allows an injured person to bring a personal injury claim against a negligent property owner so they can pursue compensation for the costs associated with their injuries. Through a premises liability lawsuit, you can pursue compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Future medical treatment
- Lost income
- Reduced future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Any other damages directly related to the personal injury incident
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.