Posts

What Should I Know about Premises Liability?

We all spend a fair amount of time during the week out and about. We go to work, we go shopping, we go out to eat, visit friends and neighbors, go for a walk in the park, and engage in many other activities. Sometimes, accidents occur when we are on the property of another party. Many of these accidents are minor mishaps. Sometimes, however, they can result in moderate to severe injuries.

When someone suffers injury while on someone else’s property, they may be eligible for compensation under the legal theory known as “premises liability”.  There are a number of incidents wherein a substantial injury may occur that could be covered by premises liability. These include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Escalator and elevator accidents
  • Dog bites and other animal attacks
  • Fires and explosions
  • Exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals
  • Injury or assault due to negligent security

Simply being injured on the property of another party does not necessarily mean you will be able to recover compensation through a premises liability action. You must prove that the property owner or caretaker was negligent with regards to keeping their property safe and free of hazards, and that their negligence was the cause of your injury. 

More specifically, you will need to show the following:

  • The defendant (property owner or caretaker) owed you a duty of reasonable care;
  • The defendant breached this duty in some way;
  • This breach contributed to your injuries;
  • Your injuries resulted in compensable losses (e.g., medical bills, time missed from work, pain and suffering, etc.)

The extent of the duty an owner or caretaker owes to a property visitor depends largely on the visitor’s status when they are on the premises. There are three general categories of property visitors:

  • Invitees: This is someone who has explicit or implied permission to be on the property, generally for the benefit of the property owner or caretaker. Examples may include customers and patrons at grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments; hotel and resort guest; and tenants who are renting an apartment or a commercial unit. The highest duty of care is owed to invitees, and those in charge of the property must take reasonable steps to keep the premises free of hazardous conditions that may cause them harm, and to adequately warn them if any such hazards exist.
  • Licensees: These are individuals who also have permission (explicit or implied) to be on the property, but it is usually for their own purposes. Examples of licensees may include package delivery carriers, unsolicited salespersons, neighbors coming over for a visit, and social guests. Owners and caretakers owe a slightly lower duty of care to licensees. They are still required to take reasonable steps to protect licensees from hazardous conditions on the property and adequately warn them when they exist, but they are not necessarily required to inspect the property to discover unknown hazards.
  • Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who has no legal right to be on the property.  As such, a very low duty of care is owed to visitors in this category. Property owners and caretakers have no legal obligation to protect trespassers from hazardous conditions. Their only obligation is to refrain from willful and wanton conduct or entrapment that may cause them harm.

How Property Owners Defend against Premises Liability Claims

Property visitors who fall into the category of invitee have the best chance of succeeding with a premises liability claim (if they are hurt on someone else’s property).  Licensees may also be able to recover compensation under certain circumstances, but they will have a higher burden of proof. Trespassers have very limited legal options when they are injured on a property they were not supposed to be on in the first place.

Even if you are an invitee or licensee, however, this still does not mean you will be able to easily recover compensation if you are injured. Property owners and their insurance companies are well aware of the possibility of frivolous premises liability claims, and they are likely to aggressively defend themselves against the claim.

Some possible defenses a property owner may use include:

  • The hazardous condition that caused your injury was clearly marked (e.g., with the cone, sign, or something similar);
  • The hazard was “open and obvious” and easily recognizable to a reasonable person;
  • You were not watching where you were going (e.g., you were sending a text or taking a selfie) when the injury occurred;
  • You were in an area of the property that is restricted or where visitors are not normally allowed to go.

If you are substantially injured on the property of another party, it is important to understand that you will run into resistance if you try to recover compensation.  For this reason, you need to take proactive steps to help preserve your legal rights:

  • Take multiple photographs of the accident scene from different angles to show how you got hurt and to show the lack of an adequate warning;
  • Obtain statements and contact information from any individuals nearby who witnessed the event;
  • Get immediate medical attention for your injuries;
  • Contact an experienced premises liability lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.

If you or someone close to you was injured on someone else’s property in Connecticut, you may have the right to compensation. Call the Apex Law Firm today at (860) 893-0558 for a free consultation and case assessment. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Hartford County office in person at your convenience.