Premises liability falls under personal injury cases, but instead of somebody causing an injury through their own active actions, the liability is triggered even if an injury is caused on someone’s property due to unsafe conditions. As with other personal injury cases, there is a requirement to prove negligence in premises liability cases, with the injured person having to prove that the property’s owner or controller (explained further below) was negligent in regards to the management of his property and that negligence contributed to the injury.
This is where it starts to get tricky though. Just because you were injured on someone’s property does not mean that you would be entitled to compensation. Similarly, just because any given property happens to be unsafe and you get injured on it, that does not mean the property owner was negligent and you would be entitled to compensation. If a court of law is going to hold anyone legally and financially accountable for your injuries, then it’s only natural that you would need to prove your claims to a certain legal standard.
Today we’ll simplify this legal standard and give you an understanding of premises liability so that you, as someone who could potentially be injured on someone’s property, could be well informed before making any decisions. So without further ado, let’s go.
Lawyers Know Best
Before we start, you should know that the advice given here is not meant to be a replacement for a professional opinion. If you live in Lutz and you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’re in need of a lawyer for a premises liability case, then you should speak to an experienced lawyer. Similarly, if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident because of someone else’s negligence, then consult with a professional Lutz motorcycle accident lawyer.
The advice given under this article is merely to give you a general understanding of the concept of premises liability as it’s given under the law. It will equip you to walk into a lawyer’s office with a basic understanding of the concept, letting you understand more easily the advice your lawyer would give you.
Due to the vast range of accidents falling under the domain of personal injuries, these lawsuits contribute significantly towards the overall number of civil litigation cases. However, as per the U.S. Department of Justice, only a handful of these (approximately 4% – 16,397 cases) are put through trial as out-of-court settlements tend to be more common. More than half of these, roughly 52%, pertain to motorcycle accidents.
More than half of these, roughly 52%, pertain to motorcycle accidents while the rest may pertain to premises liability and product liability. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reported that close to 4 billion dollars are annually paid out to compensate premises liability injury victims. These premises liability cases primarily comprise slip-and-fall accidents which may result in minor injuries such as bruises or sprains to even major ones such as brain or back injuries and in some cases death. In a 2015 report, it was noted that more than 30,000 individuals died in slip and fall accidents. The overall number of incidents reported is close to 250,000 each year. However, this is just an estimate as the actual number would vary greatly from those that are reported.
What Falls Under Premises Liability
There is no setlist of what would comprise premises liability. It has more to do with the situation that one is in and where they find themselves in that situation. Slip and fall cases in a grocery store can give rise to a premises liability case, especially if the floors are being mopped and there are no signs informing customers of wet floors. Snow and ice accidents, inadequate maintenance, and defective conditions of premises compromised building security that led to an injury or threat to a person, elevator accidents, dog bites, amusement park accidents, all can give rise to premises liability if all the conditions given under law are met.
Under Florida law, in order to prove that any person is liable for premises liability, you must first show that the person “controlled” the property. This could mean an owner, the person leasing or occupying the property, or the person having control over the property and responsible for its management. The person controlling the property must know or must have had at least reasonable time to have known that there is a present danger on his property and no actions were taken to address such present danger. In other words, the person was negligent.
You then need to prove that such negligence is what caused the injuries that you’ve suffered and that those injuries caused you to incur damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, etc. Last but not least, you must prove that the property controller owed you a duty of care and this is where it starts to get tricky again. Just because you’re on someone’s property does not mean the property controller owed you a duty of care.
If you are an invitee to someone’s house, you have the homeowner’s permission to enter the property. Moreover, if you’ve been invited then the homeowner has a duty of care to ensure you are safe and that the property is reasonably safe enough so as you do not get injured. If you are a licensee, a person who has permission to enter any given property but for your own purposes then the duty of care diminishes slightly. The owner would then only be liable if there are any dangerous conditions on the property, the owner knows about it, and the licensee would not be likely able to discover on their own.
Finally, a trespasser would be owed no duty of care until and unless it is in the strictest of circumstances. The point is that one needs to assess the situation carefully and then make a decision as to whether any given claim would have a chance. Speaking to professionals like Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC would shed further light and would offer an expert perspective on whether your specific situation would give rise to a duty of care and if your claim would therefore be successful.
You also need to note any action, or omission, that may have occurred on your part in this scenario. If you contributed to the injury yourself, then your claim could either be significantly affected or altogether rejected by the court. So ensure that you are also taking care anywhere you go.
If you’ve successfully proven that a property owner owed a duty of care to you, was negligent in fulfilling that duty, and that negligence led to your injuries, then you would be entitled to compensation. You would be compensated for damages that you’ve incurred because of the injury and will continue to suffer as a result. This would include hospital bills, doctor’s visits and rehab therapy (including any future visits and therapy), lost wages and future lost wages, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
Florida law also provides for punitive damages to be awarded to individuals. However, this is only in cases where the property owner’s negligence was incredibly severe or even intentional. In such cases, the law looks to punish the perpetrator in addition to getting equitable relief for the injured. Depending on the severity of your injuries, the number of punitive damages can sometimes be quite significant.
Benefits of Using a Lawyer for Your Lawsuit
As we’ve mentioned above, a lawyer can assess your claim and give you expert advice based on their knowledge and experience. Additionally, lawyers are equipped to handle your claim from start to finish and have experience in handling such claims. While some premises liability cases can yield adequate compensation through negotiation with insurance companies, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Insurance companies aren’t just waiting around to give money to people and sometimes tough negotiations might be necessary.
Sometimes, the compensation offered by insurance companies just isn’t enough and a lawsuit just becomes necessary. This is where the courts get involved and you need to go through proving all the conditions we mentioned above. While it might look cool in the movies, representing yourself in a court of law can be a very stressful and often disastrous experience. Making one wrong admission in court or missing out on one procedural formality could end in a failed lawsuit and you having wasted time and effort.
Lawyers on the other hand are equipped to perform in a courtroom and are familiar with the specifics of procedural formality. Moreover, an experienced lawyer would have an existing rapport with court offices and insurance companies, which would significantly expedite any trivial red tape matters and move things along. Also, lawyers are privy to legal tactics and would be able to argue your case much more effectively, whether it’s before a judge or against another lawyer.
One of the biggest reasons for people not hiring lawyers is the cost that goes with it. Luckily, when it comes to civil lawsuits, many lawyers would consider working on a contingency basis, which means their payment for services rendered, would be a percentage of you being awarded any damages.
What To Do If You’ve Been Injured
In the unfortunate event of an injury on someone else’s property, it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to preserve your ability to seek compensation. The first step in doing so is, of course, immediately seeking medical attention as your health takes precedence over everything else. Moreover, this would not only ensure that your health is in order and that you recover speedily, but it would also mean that your injuries are officially documented across all the stages of recovery right from the time of the accident. Medical reports might also be necessary for the insurance claim and as part of evidence if the matter goes to court.
In addition to the above, in the case of an accident, it is of utmost importance that the scene is preserved. You must capture photographic evidence to secure the accident scene. Either do this yourself or seek someone’s assistance in it if your injuries are preventing you from doing so. For example, if a slip-and-fall accident inside a grocery store occurred due to a slippery floor or spillage of any liquid, you must take multiple photographs of the scene from various angles to ensure that it communicates the complete picture of the situation.
In addition, it is critical to time-stamp any photographs that you take for them to serve as legitimate evidence in an insurance claim or court of law. Moreover, any item of clothing or accessory that was worn at the time of the accident which has traces of the liquid and may support in testifying must also be preserved. It’ll be for your lawyer to decide how he will use these pieces of evidence in both your claim and your court case if the matter requires a lawsuit to settle.
As you can see from the above, premises liability isn’t as simple as just getting injured in a store or on someone’s property and then casually waiting for the money. You need to assess the entire situation in great detail and see whether the conditions prescribed under the law have been satisfied. Then you need to be prepared to deal with the insurance companies and, failing that, be ready to go to the courts.
It can be a time-consuming process if the details are a bit complicated, but having an experienced lawyer on board can go a long way in ensuring that the timelines are shortened and whatever time has been invested turns out to be fruitful. Make sure you discuss the matter in detail with your lawyer, not only so your lawyer is fully aware of the situation, but also so you can have a complete understanding of the matter as well.