Can you sue if you get hurt on private property? Accidents sometimes happen when a social guest visits another person’s private property. These can include slip and falls, falls on stairs, getting hit by falling objects, and other injury-causing incidents.
When an accident occurs, and the accident victim suffers injuries, they can assert a claim—or file a premises liability lawsuit—against the property owner. Since most homeowners have insurance policies, that policy should come into play if you sustained injuries in an accident on someone else’s property. Therefore, if you file a personal injury claim, you will likely deal with the homeowner’s insurer.
Navigating the insurance system and filing a premises liability claim on an insurance policy can be an extremely daunting task. This is especially true if you do not have experienced legal representation in your corner representing you at every stage.
A knowledgeable premises liability lawyer can deal with the insurance company directly on your behalf and help you submit the documents necessary to prove your claim. Your lawyer can also assist you during the settlement negotiation stage of the process and help you determine whether a particular offer is worth accepting, given the premises-accident circumstances and your injury.
Finally, if you decide to litigate your premises liability claim in court, your lawyer can take the necessary legal actions on your behalf and prepare you for all litigation proceedings, including your deposition, arbitration hearing, or civil jury trial in court.
What is the Legal Duty of a Premises Owner?
Premises owners, including private property owners, have a duty to maintain their property for the benefit of their visitors. These property visitors may include social guests—or individuals who go onto the property for their own benefit and not to benefit the premises owner. In a nutshell, property owners have a duty to at least warn about—or at best correct—dangerous conditions they know exist on their property.
Common defects that might exist on private property that can lead to an accident include:
- Snow and ice on property driveways and sidewalks that have not melted
- Loose or improperly secured stairs on a property staircase
- Loose railings on a staircase or balcony
- Loose carpeting or flooring
- Defective furniture on the property
Whenever these defects exist on someone’s private property, they can create slip, trip, and fall hazards that lead to accidents and injuries. If you suffer injuries due to a property owner’s negligence, you should talk with a premises liability lawyer right away about your legal options—and whether or not you are eligible to assert a personal injury claim.
If you qualify, your lawyer can start working on the claim right away by advising you on how to proceed and opening a claim with the at-fault property owner’s insurance company.
Types of Injuries in Private Property Accidents
Private property accidents can lead to numerous injuries for which an accident victim may need to go to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency room. The accident victim may also need to pursue ongoing treatment following their initial medical visit. The comprehensive medical treatment that a premises accident victim undergoes depends mainly upon the severity of their injuries and the types of injuries that they suffer in their accident.
One of the most common accidents that can occur on private property is a slip-and-fall or a trip-and-fall accident. These accidents usually happen out of the blue when someone is walking along, slips, and lands on the ground—usually with a significant amount of force.
In a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident, the accident victim may suffer a fractured bone, especially if they land on their knees, elbows, arms, or legs. In these circumstances, the accident victim may need to undergo one or more surgical procedures to get better.
Even if the slip and fall victim does not suffer a bone fracture, they might still sustain a soft tissue injury, such as a muscular contusion. While these injuries may not require surgery to correct, they are often painful and require ongoing treatment, including physical therapy.
Accident victims who fall to the ground and land on their neck or back can suffer spinal cord injuries, especially if one or more nerves become severed in the accident. Spinal cord injuries often lead to partial or total paralysis.
When an accident victim suffers a partial paralysis injury, they may lose sensation in the upper or lower half of their body. Moreover, they may be unable to move the affected body parts. On the other hand, with a complete paralysis injury, many accident victims cannot move or feel in any of their limbs.
Paralysis injuries are usually permanent injuries that affect the accident victim for the remainder of their life. The accident victim may need extensive physical therapy to get back some movement or sensation in the affected body parts.
In addition, when a premises accident victim strikes their head or neck on the ground in a slip and fall, they may sustain a traumatic head or brain injury. While these injuries are sometimes a bump on the head or a slight headache that lasts for several days, other head injuries are far more severe injuries.
For example, an accident victim may suffer a concussion—or a brain bruise—that causes short-term memory loss, frequent headaches, and other severe complications. They may also suffer from post-concussive migraines. In the worst-case scenario, head injury victims may end up in a temporary or permanent coma.
In many instances, premises accident victims who sustain one or more of these injuries are unsure of what to do or where they should turn. First and foremost, an accident victim should seek emergency medical care immediately after their premises accident.
In addition, they should get in touch with a skilled premises accident lawyer about how to go about pursuing the monetary compensation they deserve to recover. Your lawyer can set you on the path to recovering favourable monetary damages by filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the responsible property owner.
Filing an Effective Premises Liability Claim or a Lawsuit in Court
Most homeowner insurance policies make provision for accidents, including slip-and-falls, that occur on the insured premises. Therefore, when a visitor to private property sustains an accidental injury, they or their lawyer can pursue a claim with the homeowner’s insurer.
It is not unusual for premises accident victims to undergo significant medical treatment, including medical procedures and physical therapy. Accident victims may also have to miss time away from their job so that they can concentrate their full attention on recovering from their injuries.
Once an accident victim’s medical treatment is nearing completion, their lawyer can start gathering their medical records and preparing to file a claim with the homeowner’s insurer. A personal injury lawyer can also collect photographs of the accident scene, injury photographs, and lost wage documentation from the accident victim’s employer. All of these documents may become relevant during settlement negotiations and even more so if the case must go through litigation.
After an insurance company adjuster reviews all of the relevant case documents, they will need to make a decision about whether to accept fault on behalf of their insured homeowner. If the insurance company decides to accept liability for the accident, then the case may proceed forward, and the parties may enter into settlement negotiations.
During the settlement negotiation stage of the premises accident case, you should involve your lawyer during every step of the process. Your lawyer can make an initial starting demand, and the insurance company adjuster will likely respond with a much lower offer. It may take several rounds of negotiations before the insurance company adjuster increases their settlement offer significantly.
If the adjuster disputes liability in your case, or if they simply refuse to offer you fair monetary damages given the nature and extent of your injuries, you have the option to pursue litigation in your case. If you decide to go that route and your lawyer prepares a lawsuit for filing, settlement negotiations may continue even while the case is pending in court. If you eventually decide to take your case to a civil jury trial, your lawyer will prepare you to testify on the witness stand and will prepare documentary evidence to submit for the jury or judge’s review.
Many cases in litigation do not proceed all the way to a jury trial, as they settle at some point along the way. Other cases may proceed to binding arbitration, mediation, or some other type of alternative dispute resolution that does not involve a jury or bench trial. Your lawyer can help you determine which of these options best suits your case and is most conducive to recovering favourable monetary damages for your premises- accident injuries.
Common Premises Accident Damages You Could Recover Via Settlement or Litigation
Accident victims who suffer injuries and other damages on private property may be eligible to receive significant monetary compensation, depending upon the specific accident that occurs and the severity of their injuries. Generally speaking, the more severe an accident victim’s injuries in their premises accident, the more compensation—and the higher the monetary damages—they are eligible to recover via settlement or litigation.
First, injured premises accident victims can collect monetary damages for their physical pain, suffering, and inconvenience. This pain and suffering may come in the form of ongoing symptoms, some of which they may endure for a lifetime. Past damages for pain and suffering compensate accident victims for their symptoms beginning on the accident date.
However, when an accident victim sustains a permanent injury on someone else’s private property, they can recover the anticipated value of their ongoing pain and suffering. While there is no hard-and-fast formula for calculating pain and suffering damages—especially future damages—many lawyers will use life tables to try and quantify the specific value of a pain and suffering claim.
In addition to pain and suffering compensation, premises accident victims can pursue lost wage compensation if they have to miss time from work after their accident. Employer earning statements, tax returns, and other financial documents become essential when pursuing a claim for lost wages. In addition, if an accident victim had to switch to a lower-paying job because they can no longer perform their job duties after a premises accident, they can assert a claim for loss of earning capacity damages.
Depending on the accident and injury circumstances, individuals can also bring a claim for loss of use of a body part, especially if they suffered permanent paralysis or spinal cord injury. If their quality of life declined significantly due to their premises-accident injuries, they can bring a monetary claim for lost quality of life—or for loss of spousal companionship and consortium.
A skilled premises accident lawyer will know the correct tactics to use to convince an insurance company adjuster to compensate you for your pain, suffering, and other accident-related damages.
Call a Premises Accident Lawyer Near You Today
If you suffered injuries in an accident that occurred on someone’s private property, taking timely legal action is one of the most critical steps to recovering favourable financial compensation.
In fact, waiting too long to file a claim or lawsuit can hurt your case. In a premises accident case, as with any case that involves personal injuries, the time clock starts to run on the accident date. The clock then stops precisely two years later, to the day. When accident victims fail to file a timely lawsuit, they may inadvertently waive their right to collect the monetary damages they deserve.
An experienced premises accident lawyer will be aware of the statute of limitations deadline in your case and can immediately file suit in the court system on your behalf, if necessary. By having skilled legal representation in your corner at every stage of your premises accident case, you significantly increase your likelihood of recovering favourable monetary damages, either through a financial settlement or litigation at a jury trial or binding arbitration hearing.