What Is Premises Liability?
If you are injured on someone else’s property, then the area of the law you will likely have to deal with is that of premises liability. Premises liability law governs whether or not the owner of a piece of property (the “premises” part of the term) is liable for an injury that occurs while someone is visiting that property.
Types of Cases
There are many types of personal injury cases that can fall under premises liability. Common cases include:
- Slip and fall
- Dog bites
- Snow and ice
- Swimming accidents
- Fires and burn accidents
- Toxic fumesSpinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Elevator or escalator accidents
- Inadequate security
- Inadequate maintenance
- Wrongful death
These are highly varied, but if they occur while on someone else’s property and are the result of the property owner’s negligence, they would fall under premises liability.
Negligence and Duty of Care
In most situations, the owner of a piece of property (such as a store, amusement park, or house) owes visitors to their property a duty of care. If you have been invited onto the property as a visitor or licensee, the owner is responsible to make sure the property is safe for you (within reason). However, if you are trespassing, the owner likely won’t be held liable.
If the property owner fails to take reasonable measures to make the premises safe for visitors, and if your injury is a result of that failure, then the owner can be considered negligent and held responsible for paying damages.
For example, suppose you’re visiting your neighbors down the street. While you’re there, their dog—a feisty Chihuahua by the name of Rose—flies into the room and viciously bites your foot and ankle, injuring your toes and Achilles tendon. As you frantically kick the dog away and roll around on the floor in pain, your neighbor says, “Oh, she does that sometimes.”
Since your neighbor knew that Rose might attack you and apparently did nothing to mitigate that risk—such as locking her up or properly training her—they would be held responsible for your injury.
Of course, knowing a property owner was negligent and proving it are two different things. In order to be found guilty in a premises liability case, there are certain items you will need to prove. These include:
- You were on the property legally
- You were injured as a result of a defect or hazard on that property
- You were not aware of the hazard or defect (or could not be expected to be aware of it)
- The property owner knew or should have known that the hazard or defect was present
- The owner should have either given proper notice of the hazard or repaired/remedied it
Photographic evidence of your injury and the hazard along with a precise recounting of how the accident transpired will help you in your case. Eyewitness accounts are helpful in making sure your story is accurate. In addition, expert witnesses may be necessary to show that a hazard could have and should have been prevented or repaired.
Throughout the process, you need a skilled premises liability lawyer. Hart & David can provide the legal expertise you need and help you secure the compensation you deserve.