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What is a premises liability claim?

Premises liability law determines legal responsibility for an accident that occurs on someone’s property. Learn how owner liability works, what to do if you're injured on someone else's property, common types of cases, and what the cost of a claim is.

What is premises liability?

Property owners and operators are generally required to maintain reasonably safe conditions on their public or private land. If they fail to do so, they may find themselves the defendant in a lawsuit over personal injuries suffered on their property.

Premises liability law affects each type of visitor differently.

  • Invitees: Invitees enter property as customers of the defendant or as members of the public. Property owners and operators are obligated to keep their premises safe for invitees.

  • Licensees: Licensees enter property for social events or with implied permission. Property owners and operators are obligated to make licensees aware of known dangers on the property.

  • Trespassers: Trespassers enter property unlawfully or stay after being asked to leave. Property owners and operators don't have an obligation to keep their property safe for trespassers.

What to do if you're injured on someone else's property

If you're injured on someone's property, it's in your best interest to gather evidence of your injury. Although you might be in pain or otherwise distracted, you'll want to keep your options open for pursing a claim in the future. Take the following steps to prove liability, if necessary:

  • Seek medical attention. Whether you're seriously injured or you feel fine, seek immediate medical attention. If you let excessive time pass before seeing a doctor to discuss any lingering issues, you may not be able to link injuries to the accident itself.

  • Take photos. Neglected property, broken elements, and defective surfaces are common causes of falls and other injuries. Taking photos and notes will preserve evidence of the property in its current state.

  • Find witnesses. If anyone saw the accident take place, be sure to get their name and contact information so you can get in touch with them later.

Types of premises liability cases

Nearly as many types of premises liability injuries exist as the number of properties available. The following section outlines some of the most common kinds of cases, along with their typical outcome.

Slip and fall

Slip-and-fall cases are some of the most frequent and straightforward premises liability cases. They happen when you injure yourself by falling on another person's property.

A fall can result from several different issues, including wet floors, icy or snowy grounds, broken stairs, loose sidewalks, unsecured carpets, or dangerous extension cords.

Keep in mind that not every slip-and-fall situation is a clear premises liability case. In order for property owners to be liable for sustained injury, they must have done one of the following:

  • Caused the situation to happen
  • Neglected to mitigate a known danger
  • Failed to fix a problem that any reasonable person would have noticed

Playgrounds and pools

In contrast to most personal injury cases, playground and pool issues primarily involve children. Pools and playgrounds can be rife with risks and potential injuries.

These areas typically need to have signs detailing unsafe activities, or fences to keep younger children out of the area. In general, property owners must also provide safety equipment for when emergencies occur.

The status of the injured person also factors into a playground or pool case. If the person was an invitee or a social guest, pool owners are generally responsible for keeping the pool safe for general use. But if the person entered the pool or playground after hours or entered a locked area, the owner may not be responsible for the trespasser's safety.

Elevators and escalators

Malfunctioning escalators can cause falls and other injuries by stopping short or lurching. Broken elevators can cause serious injuries by closing abruptly, shifting floors, or losing power.

If you're involved in a potential premises liability case with an elevator or escalator owner, be sure to take careful notes. Specific injuries must occur in these cases, and the potential for an injury or other issue isn't enough to make a case.

How premises liability damages are calculated

When adding up the damages related to a premises liability case, make sure to have all relevant bills and information on hand. In general, you can recover the following damage:

  • Medical costs. These costs can include doctor and hospital bills, ambulance fees, costs for getting to medical appointments, prescription charges, and costs for medical supplies.

  • Lost income. This area can include the total wages lost due to injury, along with anticipated future income losses and even the potential inability to earn at a higher income level or receive a promotion.

  • Pain and suffering. These costs must have a basis in something, such as the loss of companionship or relationships,or the loss of the ability to enjoy a prior lifestyle.

  • Punitive damages. These costs are a factor if the property owner is judged to have committed a crime related to the premises liability case.

Whether you're a defendant or a potential victim, careful documentation is the key to the personal injury process. Don't hesitate to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and the possible outcomes.

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