Property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property so it is safe for visitors.
If the premises is not maintained regularly, and hazardous conditions are not taken care of in a timely manner, visitors can suffer serious injuries…and file premises liability lawsuits to seek compensation.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Like many personal injury cases, premises liability cases are based on negligence.
Negligence means that the owner of property failed to take “reasonable care” to avoid causing injury or harm to other people.
We’ll discuss the role negligence plays in a premises liability case in the next section, but first, let’s look at common types of premises liability cases:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dog bites
- Accidents in restaurants or retail stores
- Construction accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Injury or assault caused by inadequate security or maintenance
- Work-related chemical exposure
Premises liability lawsuits may involve a wide variety of locations and scenarios, but they all share one thing: the owner’s failure to keep the premises safe.
Proof in a Premises Liability Case
Premises liability cases depend on the laws and procedures of the state where the injury occurred. For example, some states place a focus on the condition of the property, as well as the actions of the property owner and the injured person.
Legal status of visitor
Other states may focus more on the legal status of the injured visitor. A visitor to the property may fall into one of three categories:
- An invitee is someone invited onto the property of another. Invitees include friends, social guests, family members, or neighbors. In a retail store, a customer would be considered an invitee.
- A licensee is someone who enters a property for their own purpose and at the implied consent of the owner. A licensee may be someone like a salesman or a courier.
- A trespasser is someone who enters the property with no authorization.
Owner’s duty of care
The property owner’s duty of care may depend on the legal status of the visitor.
For example, a property owner owes an invitee a duty of reasonable care to keep the property safe for them. The property owner expects invitees on the property, so they should take appropriate steps to ensure that the premises is safe.
With licensees, the property owner may owe a lesser duty of care. The licensee may also have some degree of responsibility to be aware of hazardous conditions and do their part to avoid it.
For example, if a courier delivering a package slips and falls on an icy walkway, the homeowner may be responsible to some degree if they knew about the conditions for some time, but did not take steps to remedy it.
However, the licensee (courier) may still be at fault to some degree if they noticed the ice and didn’t try to avoid it.
Finally, a property owner owes no duty of care to trespassers since they have no right to be on that property. Exceptions are made if a trespasser is a child, in which case reasonable care should be exercised by the property owner.
Negligence holds people accountable for the unintentional harm they cause to others. If you file a lawsuit, you must prove that the defendant, or property owner, failed to uphold their duty of care required in the situation.
As the plaintiff, or person filing the lawsuit, the amount of compensation you seek will be affected by your actions in the accident, too.
According to West Virginia’s comparative fault laws, how much you were at fault for your injuries in the accident may reduce the amount of compensation you seek.
For example, if you enter a retail store and slip and fall from a puddle of melted ice, it’s more likely that the store owner will pay your injury damages if they knew about the hazard, but did nothing to correct it in a reasonable amount of time.
However, if there was an entry mat to dry off as well as a “Wet Floor” sign posted near the puddle, and you slipped and fell from running into the store, you may be found more at fault for the accident since you were careless — and the store owner may not have to compensate you as much.
Harm was caused
In a premises liability case, you must show that you were injured from the accident.
You may provide evidence with medical records, expert testimony from medical professionals on your injuries, or your personal testimony.
Negligence caused or contributed to harm
Finally, you must show that the defendant’s negligence contributed substantially to your injuries.
As we discussed, you may be partly at fault for your injuries, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t receive any injury damages at all in the case.
If you are partially at fault, the amount of compensation you receive is reduced by the percentage of your fault.
For example, if you’re seeking $10,000 in injury damages and you’re found 20 percent at fault for the accident, you’ll receive $8,000 in compensation.
Get Advice from a Premises Liability Lawyer
Premises liability cases can be challenging to navigate. Laws vary by state and it’s up to the plaintiff to make a case for negligence, fault, and reasonable care.
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