How do you prove premises liability? Premises liability cases arise when property owners fail to maintain their properties in a condition that’s reasonably safe for visitors. In any personal injury case that arises from a premises accident, the accident victim has to satisfy their burden of proof to recover damages. If the accident victim cannot meet their legal burden, a court or jury will not award them damages at trial.
Insurance companies also make it difficult for accident victims to recover monetary damages following a premises accident. In a nutshell, insurance companies are only looking out for their bottom line and are trying to save themselves as much money as possible. Therefore, they may try to downplay the severity of the premises accident and the resulting injuries. They might also try to shift some or all of the blame onto the accident victim.
Following a premises accident, many accident victims do not know what they should do. After an accident, you should first seek follow-up medical care at your local hospital emergency room or urgent care center. Next, you should talk with a knowledgeable premises accident lawyer who can represent you throughout your case, advocate for you in court, and pursue the highest monetary compensation available.
Accidents that Lead to a Premises Liability Claim
Premises accidents often happen when property owners fail to maintain their properties in a safe and careful manner. One of the most common accidents that happen due to a property owner’s negligence is a slip-and-fall accident. These types of accidents are especially common at grocery stores and restaurants, where food and liquid frequently spill onto the floor and create fall hazards. However, slip-and-fall accidents are not the only accidents that form the basis of a premises liability case.
Other common premises accidents involve swimming pool accidents, playground accidents, and incidents that result from negligent (or absent) security on the premises.
If you can prove each legal element of your premises accident claim, you may be eligible to recover various damages from the premises owner’s insurance company.
The Legal Duty of Care That a Property Owner Owes to a Property Visitor
Premises owners owe most property visitors a high duty of care. The duty of care that a premises owner owes to a property visitor typically depends upon the visitor’s status on the property at a given time, as well as their reason for being present on the property.
Business invitees are individuals who enter a property for the property owner’s sole benefit. For example, diners at a restaurant and customers at a store are usually business invitees during times when they are legally present on the premises. A property owner owes a business invitee the highest available duty of care.
Specifically, the property owner must regularly inspect their premises for both known and unknown hazardous conditions. Upon discovering such a condition, the property owner must take reasonable and timely steps to either warn about the defective condition or correct it so that it no longer poses a danger to property visitors.
In contrast to business invitees, a social guest—or licensee—is present on someone else’s property for their own benefit. A guest who visits someone’s house, for example, maybe a licensee. As with business invitees, property owners owe licensees a high duty of care. Specifically, the property owner must regularly inspect their premises for apparent hazardous conditions and take the necessary, reasonable, and timely steps to warn about or remedy those conditions.
Finally, a trespasser is an individual who is on someone else’s premises without the owner’s verbal or written consent. An individual who enters someone else’s land where a no trespassing sign is visible is a trespasser on the premises.
Under most circumstances, a property owner does not owe a trespasser a legal duty of care. Therefore, if the trespasser suffers injuries on the owner’s premises, it’s on them. However, in some instances, a property owner may owe a duty of care to a known trespasser, such as a child trespasser. A known trespasser is someone whom the property owner knows to visit the property on a regular basis.
If you suffered injuries in a premises accident that occurred when a property owner deviated from the standard of care, you are not alone. A skilled premises accident lawyer near you can help with ascertaining your eligibility for monetary damages. If you are eligible for compensation, your lawyer can help you file a claim against all potentially responsible parties. Your lawyer can also assist with settlement and litigation options and help you select the best course of action for pursuing your premises liability case.
Breach of the Legal Duty of Care
In addition to establishing that the responsible property owner owed you a duty of care, you must also show that the property owner deviated from the prevailing standard of care in some way. For example, the property owner might have known that a staircase or railing on their property was defective, yet they failed to post a notice about the condition, warning property visitors about it. The property owner might have also failed to close off the defective staircase or repair the defect within a reasonable time period.
To prove that a property owner violated their duty of care, your lawyer may need to retain an accident reconstructionist or another expert to testify in your case. If your lawyer retains an accident reconstructionist, that individual can piece together how your accident occurred after reviewing all available incident reports, photographs of the incident scene from immediately before and after the incident, eyewitness statements, and other potential evidence.
The expert may also need to visit the accident scene to obtain more information. After concluding their investigation, an accident reconstructionist will likely prepare a report that they can authenticate on the witness stand in court, helping you prove your premises liability case at trial.
Actual and Legal Causation
Likewise, to recover monetary damages following a premises accident, your lawyer will need to establish both actual and legal causation for the accident. First, the accident victim, through their lawyer, must establish that the premises accident should not have happened but for the responsible party’s negligence. This is called but-for causation. Next, your lawyer must show that the accident was a foreseeable result of the at-fault party’s negligence.
Again, when proving causation in a premises accident case, it may become necessary for an accident reconstructionist to testify in court on your behalf. That expert can state that a particular individual or entity was the likely cause of the premises accident.
In premises accidents, many accident victims sustain debilitating and permanent injuries. When an accident victim suffers injuries on someone else’s property, the monetary damages that the accident victim recovers will vary, depending on certain factors. In most cases, judges and juries will determine the severity of the accident victim’s injuries, ascertain whether the accident victim had to miss work time following their accident, and determine whether the accident victim likely suffered a permanent injury in their accident.
To prove that an accident victim is eligible to recover various monetary damages, a medical expert may become necessary in the case. For example, a treating medical provider can testify about the true cause of the accident victim’s injuries and establish that the injuries are permanent in nature—and unlikely to become better with additional treatment.
During settlement negotiations and litigation, a skilled premises accident lawyer in your area can highlight the strengths of your case and help you prove the duty, breach, causation, and damage elements of your personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Injuries That Occur on Someone Else’s Premises
The injuries that a person may suffer in a premises accident depend largely upon the circumstances surrounding the incident, including whether the accident victim fell to the ground. Other factors that affect a premises accident victim’s injuries include how the accident victim landed on the ground and the degree of force involved.
In a slip-and-fall accident scenario, accident victims may strike their heads on the ground, sustaining a traumatic head or brain injury (TBI) in the accident. Common TBIs include concussions, ongoing migraines, and even comas. Moreover, if the accident victim strikes their neck or back on the ground, they might suffer a permanent spinal cord injury or a full or partial paralysis injury that prevents them from moving one or more of their limbs.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help you handle every aspect of your premises accident claim or lawsuit. While every case is different, your lawyer can help you ballpark your settlement or jury verdict compensation and work to get you the best possible result.
What Damages Can I Recover Following a Premises Accident?
When someone falls to the ground or becomes involved in another type of premises accident, they may suffer both minor and long-term injuries. Depending upon the injuries which an accident victim suffers—and the medical treatment they undergo following their accident—they may recover various monetary damages. Accident victims recover these damages by settling their claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company or by taking their case to a civil jury trial or binding arbitration hearing.
Since every premises accident case is different, the damages that an accident victim may recover will also differ from case to case. First, accident victims can pursue monetary damages for their emotional anguish and mental distress, especially if they underwent mental health treatment with a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
In addition, they can pursue damages for their lost earnings if they had to miss work time after their premises accident. Many accident victims must take time off work to attend medical treatment and physical therapy appointments—or simply due to their severe pain.
When an accident victim must find a new job—or change their career entirely—due to the injuries they suffered, they can pursue a claim for loss of earning capacity. In a loss of earning capacity claim, the accident victim can recover the difference between their former compensation and their current, decreased amount of compensation.
Moreover, premises accident victims can seek monetary damages for their loss of the ability to use a body part, such as with a spinal cord or paralysis injury. If the accident victim’s premises accident injuries affect their ability to be intimate with a spouse, they can also bring a claim for loss of spousal consortium and companionship.
Finally, an accident victim may be eligible to recover monetary damages for their loss of life enjoyment if their quality of life went significantly downhill after their accident.
One of the best ways to ensure that you maximize your financial recovery in a premises accident case is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you at every stage of the proceedings.
Your lawyer can evaluate your claim and help you determine which of these damages you may receive, depending upon your accident circumstances and the medical treatment you underwent. Your lawyer can then help you develop a plan for recovering those damages through settlement or personal injury litigation.
Call an Experienced Premises Liability Lawyer Near You Today
If you sustained serious personal injuries in a premises accident that was not your fault, time is of the essence. Premises accident victims only have two years from the accident date in which to seek monetary damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
The statute of limitations time period starts to run on the accident date and ends exactly two years later. If you try to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has already run, the court will prevent you from collecting monetary damages of any kind in your case.
Given the relatively short statutory timeline, you should have legal counsel representing you in your case as quickly as possible. While every premises accident case is different, your lawyer can help you maximize the overall monetary compensation you recover in your case. Your personal injury lawyer can help you in all these ways while focusing on recovering from your injuries.