Recently, a woman in Wheaton, Illinois was awarded $4.5 million for a personal injury claim after being struck on the head by a door closer at a Wells Fargo office. While this is an extreme example of how much can be awarded in premises liability lawsuits, it does show that victims in these cases can receive significant compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, and long-term disability.
Receiving what you’re owed in these types of cases is a matter of gathering the evidence, reviewing the facts, and presenting your story in the best possible way. This requires careful planning and assessment of the data surrounding your claim as well as the representation of a skilled attorney.
At the core of any personal injury case is the matter of negligence. In the case of premises liability, this means failure to ensure a reasonably safe environment for visitors. For instance, the bank in the above example had a duty to provide a safe place for their customers, and they failed in that duty by neglecting to maintain the door closer that struck the plaintiff on the head.
In order to count as negligence, the situation must meet the following criteria:
- The defendant must actually own the property
- The property owner was aware—or should have been aware—of the hazard
- The property owner failed to take reasonable measures to warn visitors of the hazard or repair the problem
The property owner must also be considered to have owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This means that if the plaintiff was not on the property legally, for instance, or if the defendant had no reason to believe they would be on the property at all, then it could make it more difficult to receive compensatory damages.
Once the property owner’s duty and the violation thereof have been established, it must be proven that their negligence resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. This can get complex, especially in instances where:
- The injured party should have been aware of the hazard (i.e. it was obvious)
- The injured party was partly or wholly responsible for his or her own injury
- The conditions on the property didn’t directly lead to the plaintiff’s injury
These can complicate a case, and the defendant will try to use these to minimize or deny their obligation to pay damages.
Telling the Story
All the evidence together should portray a story that accomplishes the following:
- Presents the facts in a way that indicates the property owner was negligent in their duty
- Incurs the sympathy or favor of the jury, judge, or other parties
- Tells the truth
The last point is especially important. If it comes out that the plaintiff is obscuring or misrepresenting the truth, it can hurt the case. Showing the facts, stating the truth, and knowing the law are all important when it comes to presenting your case, whether in court or during settlement negotiations.
Through it all, skilled legal representation from an experienced personal injury lawyer is vital since they can weigh out the different factors involved in your claim and make the best possible case for your injury. Hart David Carson, LLP, can assist you through this process.