Attorney Matt Jett
What is a “Premises Liability” Case?
Strictly speaking, any case that arises from the negligence of the owner or manager of a property is a premises liability case. Sometimes these come from Slip-and-Fall cases – such as at a grocery store. The slip-and-fall is perhaps the most commonly occurring premises liability case that we see. However, these cases arise from other accidents as well. Dog bite attacks fall under this category in most scenarios. Anytime someone is hurt because of a dangerous condition on someone’s property the damage caused potentially will be filed as a premises liability claim.
What gives rise to a case for premises liability?
In order for a premises liability case to come about, there must be some injury or damage that is caused to a person due to the condition of someone’s property. Typically, there will also be a general negligence claim to be made as well, but for the purpose of this, I’ll group the two together. In all situations, there is a level of duty that a property owner has to any visitors to his or her property. The duty is defined in one of a few different ways, and these types of duties have to do with why someone is on a particular person’s property. If a person is simply a guest, such as inviting your neighbor over to a barbeque, you would owe them a smaller duty than if you owned a BBQ restaurant and the person was coming in to patronize your business. Essentially the level of the duty that exists limits the types of injuries or accidents that the owner is liable for.
- When someone is on property to spend money, they are protected against most types of accidents.
- When someone is simply visiting another person’s property they are protected against certain accidents, but not as many as if you were a customer there.
- When someone is on your property and should not be there (a trespasser) they have the least amount of protection under the law.
- Invitee – (you are a customer)
- A dangerous condition must exist on the premises such that the premises is not reasonably safe;
- The possessor of the premises either knew about the condition, or through the use of ordinary care should have known;
- The possessor failed to use ordinary care to either fix the danger or warn that it was there
- Licensee (you are a guest, but NOT a customer)
- A dangerous condition exists on the premises
- The possessor actually knows about the danger
- You (or the person who is hurt) did not know about the danger, and could not have discovered it using ordinary care
- The possessor knew that you didn’t know about the condition; and they didn’t fix the danger or warn you about it.
- Trespasser (you are not supposed to be there)
- Generally, no liability, unless:
- Child trespassers that are known to the possessor there can be liability
- Other trespassers if the possessor did something to make the land more dangerous on purpose to hurt them
- Generally, no liability, unless:
Who pays for the damage?
Property owners should always carry appropriate insurance for injuries that could arise from their property. Businesses carry liability insurance that covers injuries, and individuals should always have homeowner’s insurance, or other property liability insurance to cover these types of claims. Even if you are “careful” there are times where people make mistakes, and those mistakes can cost someone their health, or even their life.
Why do you need a lawyer for this type of case?
Consulting with an experienced premises liability attorney is very important when it comes to hiring a lawyer for these types of cases. There are very specific nuances in the law that many lawyers will not know about, which could end up being extremely important in the outcome of your case. The rules of safety are not commonly known by people when it comes to how to make sure a business is keeping up with its duty to keep its customers safe. The mistakes that they make which can lead to accidents are oftentimes not obvious. It takes a lawyer familiar with these rules to be able to quickly and correctly identify potential sources of liability so that the evidence of the mistake can be recorded and later used to prove your case. An inexperienced lawyer could easily overlook crucial pieces of evidence in a case, which may lead to a great case becoming a case that loses. How do you get the best lawyer for your case?