Premises liability claims often represent a difficult area of personal injury law and litigation, mainly due to the fact that the person who is hurt is often alone and seemingly at fault. When someone trips or slips, the typical assumption is that they were not being careful or not paying attention to their surroundings. This creates an uphill legal battle for people injured while on someone else’s property.
In order to win a claim, it is important to consider two basic rules of premises liability:
- Owner’s responsibility to visitors: Anyone who owns or controls a piece of property – offices, homes, retail stores, etc. – have a duty to visitors – tenants, shoppers, welcomed guests, friends, etc. – to protect them from any unreasonable harm caused by the condition of the property. The duty falls on the property controller simply because they have the ability to identify safety issues and correct them, whereas a visitor does not. For example: If loose carpeting in the lobby of an office building causes someone to trip and hurt themselves, the office manager may ultimately be responsible.
- Using property as expected: Visitors do not have an open invitation to behave however they please without worrying about the consequences. If it is concluded that a visitor was using the property abnormally or in a way that was clearly dangerous, the property controller’s duty to protect them is dismissed. For example: If a welcome guest at a house party tries to run across the dining table for sport, tumbles, and gets hurt, the homeowner would not be responsible.
Illegality May Void a Claim
Fault in a premises liability claim can be ignored in cases where the injured visitor was actually there without permission. If someone trespasses onto property and is subsequently injured by a hazard, they might not have a strong claim. It is not guaranteed that they will not have a claim, however, as some hazards may be egregiously dangerous or unreasonable.
For example: Someone intends to trespass on their neighbor’s property in the middle of the night. Upon touching the fence, they are electrocuted and seriously injured. There are no warning signs posted that the fence has been electrified for security. In this scenario, the trespasser may only be found partially liable as it is unreasonable to give nowarning about the dangerous fencing.
Collect Evidence & File a Claim
As with most lawsuits, the hard evidence pertaining to a premises liability claim can make or break the case. Injured parties should rely on photographs, eyewitness testimonies, and security camera footage – not uncommon in retail outlets and offices – to prove that they had been behaving normally on the property and was hurt by an unreasonable hazard. Medical records following the incident can also embolden the legitimacy of the claim.
In addition to collecting evidence, retaining a personal injury attorney is often the right decision. Your Advocates at Pwell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A. can provide the professional guidance and representation you need for your claim. Call our highly-experienced Fort Myers premises liability lawyers at 239.970.6844 today to schedule a free case evaluation.