Property owners and/or business owners have the responsibility to maintain their property in a safe and orderly condition for both those conducting business on their premises and social guests. They carry the additional responsibility of warning patrons about any potential hazards that may exist. Ever wonder why those “wet floor” signs are so big and bright yellow? One of the most common causes of slip and fall injuries is spills on the floor. When a spill ends up causing another person to fall and injure themselves, property owners could be held liable for damages.
Nearly one out of every 10 lawsuits filed in the United States are related to premises liability. Premises liability victims receive an average of $4 billion in damages yearly, however, only around 6% of cases include punitive damages.
Punitive damages are considered penalties and are typically granted at the Court’s discretion when the Defendant’s actions (or failures to take action) are found to be especially harmful. Punitive damages are capable of greatly increasing the value of a premises liability case. In order for an injured party to present a strong premises liability claim, it must first be demonstrated that the property owner was knowledgeable of the issue, and was negligent in failing to resolve it, resulting in injury.
What Exactly is “Premises Liability?”
Generally speaking, premises liability is a type of personal injury claim that is spurred as a result of an unsafe or defective condition in someone’s property. Some typical defects that may make premises dangerous or unsafe and arise to a premises liability claim include:
Spills on the Floor
Spills can take place anywhere. Supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants are all especially vulnerable to spills. Spills are some of the most common ways that ordinarily safe premises are made dangerous. When a spill ends up affecting another person by a slip or other accident, property owners can be liable for damages.
The source, type, and danger of a spill can vary greatly, from a faulty roof or wall leaking water, to soft drinks, chemicals, or other substances that end up endangering the premises and the people around it.
Unsafe Construction Zones
Construction zones can be extremely hazardous without proper signage, visibility, and safety practices. Unsafe conditions in construction zones can affect construction workers, drivers, and people who happen to be nearby.
Defective Buildings or Sidewalks
Uneven walkways, damaged or cracked concrete, and even potholes in the road can cause serious injury if left in disrepair. Failure by a property owner to properly maintain the structural integrity of their buildings, walkways, and other items in a way that maintains a safe and functional environment may open up the property owner to a premises liability claim, should an injury occur.
Inadequate Building Security
A major component of maintaining safe and orderly premises is ensuring that the property is adequately secure. This may include taking steps such as installing a security system, ensuring that doors are locked, and any areas for personal storage are secure. Failing to provide adequate security for your premises can result in liability for theft or other types of damages that may occur.
Toxic Fumes or Chemicals
Failing to adequately protect against harmful chemicals like Carbon Monoxide can leave property owners liable for any related injuries or health consequences that patrons may sustain. Property owners can mitigate these types of issues by installing detection systems and ensuring that hazardous chemicals are properly secured in appropriate containers.
How Can I Make a Premises Liability Claim?
Making a premises liability claim on the assertion that premises were dangerous or unsafe relies on demonstrating the negligence of the other party in maintaining their personal or business property and determining whether the owner has a duty of care to prevent injury to the other party. Generally speaking, negligence is when a person lacks care or acts with out it which results in another person suffering damages. A party found guilty of negligence may be required to compensate the person who was injured as a result of their negligent act/omission to act.
In order for an injured party to present an effective premises liability case based on negligence, four elements must be present:
- Duty of Care: The Defendant must owe a duty of care to the person who sustained the injury. The “duty of care” is the responsibility placed on people to act towards other in a certain way, in accordance with standards that would not cause harm to the other party. In a premises liability claim, the owner of the property in question may have a duty to his or her patrons to maintain their premises in a way that keeps it free and safe from any dangers.
- Breach of Duty: The Defendant must participate in some negligent act or omission that results in their established duty of care being breached. For example, a supermarket must maintain their premises in a safe and orderly manner and employees must ensure that this duty is met. If an employee drops something on the floor and fails to clean it up, and someone is later injured as a result, the supermarket may be liable for damages under a premises liability claim.
- Causation: The negligent act or omission of the Defendant must cause an injury to another party. If the supermarket worker doesn’t clean up his spill, but no one falls and is injured by the spill, the act does not have a causal connection.
- Damages: Individuals who are injured due to the negligence of others must be able to demonstrate economic or non-economic damages. Damages can be quantified through medical bills, funeral costs, loss of prospective income, and more.
Does it Matter What I was Doing on the Property?
Premises Liability can be incredibly circumstantial. A person attempting to file a premises liability claim must have had permission to be on the premises for the property owner to have the responsibility of keeping the premises safe. There are normally four different labels that may apply to persons on a particular property: invitee, social guest, licensee, or trespasser.
- An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property of another, such as a customer at a restaurant, store, or bar. This invitation should imply that the property owner/possessor has taken reasonable steps to assure the safety of the premises.
- A licensee enters a property for his own purpose, or as a guest with the consent of the owner.
- A social guest is a welcome visitor to the property.
- A trespasser enters a property without any legal right or reason to do so.
In the case of licensees and trespassers, there is no implied promise that reasonable care has been made to assure the safety of the property.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Premises Liability Claim?
In the state of Illinois, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim provides two years from the date of the injury on the premises. It is important to file a premises liability claim to receive proper compensation for all associated medical bills and expenses that were necessary because of the injury.
Need a Hand?
Personal injury claims arising from premises liability can be complicated and intricate processes. To support their claim, the injured party must prove that a premise demonstrates an unreasonable danger that the property owner failed to rectify, which can be complicated. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the process of filing a premises liability claim specific to your circumstances. Contact Trent Law Firm today to discuss your case with our team of experienced and dedicated personal injury attorneys and find out how they may be able to help you receive the compensation you deserve for your injury. Call (866) 599-8601 or fill out our online form today for a free and confidential consultation.