A person or business that owns or occupies a piece of property has a responsibility to ensure the area is safe from hazards that could cause serious injuries or even death. This responsibility is called premise liability.
If you sustain an injury as a result of a hazardous condition on someone else’s property, you may be able to file a claim to recover for your injuries and damages. This type of claim includes accidents that occur on any structure or open space of a property. The most common claims for injuries and damages involve falls, faulty equipment, dangerous animals, and injuries caused by inadequate security.
Many people think that if they are injured at a business or on someone’s property, they automatically have the right to collect for their injuries and damages. This is not true. Of course, if injuries and damages are intentionally caused by the owner/occupier, then that is improper and the owner/occupier is responsible for the harm caused. But most injuries are not caused intentionally. In these cases, injured persons have a fairly significant burden they must reach in order to be entitled to recover for their injuries and damages.
In order to recover on a premise liability claim, the injured person must prove several things:
- First – the person(s) and/or business that owned or occupied the property, and/or the person(s) and/or business responsible for inspecting and maintaining the property. Often these are one and the same, but many times there are numerous possible person(s) and/or business(es) responsible for the property.
- Second – the injured person had a legal right to be on the property at the time of the injury, and was there with express or implied permission of the owner/occupier of the property. For injuries that occur at a business, you generally must establish that your presence on the property was allowed and that you were there during business hours, at a place open to the public, and for the benefit of the owner/occupier (i.e., there to shop or purchase goods or services). Under the law, this is called being an “invitee” of the property owner/occupier.
- Third – the owner/occupier of the property was careless in the use or maintenance of the property. If the owner/occupier or one of his employees directly causes the injury through his carelessness, then this requirement is met. Otherwise, you must generally show that there was a defect (spilled water, broken staircase, etc.) on the property, and that the owner/occupier knew or should have known of the defect, and failed to warn people about the danger or defect. In the case of injuries caused by an animal, you must show that the owner/occupier knew the animal was dangerous, or that the animal was allowed to roam free in violation of leash laws or other local laws/ordinances.
- Fourth – if the case is based on a defect, that the injured person themselves did not know about the defect, or otherwise fail to look out for their own safety.