“Premises liability” refers to the legal responsibility of a property owner – and potentially the occupiers of that property – to keep the premises reasonably safe and free of hazards and also warn guests of any such hazards. Common examples of unsafe property conditions include crumbling curbs, uneven pavement, wet floors, standing water, un-cleared snow, insufficient lighting, and inadequate security, and premises liability may apply either inside or outside of any commercial or residential building or property. If you’ve been injured by a safety hazard on a property due to the property owner’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact Agruss Law Firm, LLC today for a free consultation.
Common Premises Liability Accidents
Common examples of accidents which may be the fault of the property owner include:
- Biohazards – Property owners must regularly inspect their properties for gas leaks and the presence of biohazards such as lead, mold, or carbon monoxide – and even excessive chlorine in pools – and promptly address these problems so they do not pose safety risks to guests on the property.
- Drowning – A property owner may be legally liable for a drowning accident if it directly resulted from his/her failure to properly secure a pool area when supervision was unavailable.
- Inadequate maintenance – This may include inadequate security (guards, fencing, cameras, etc.), inadequate lighting, exposed electrical wiring, faulty appliances, failure to remove ice or snow from a sidewalk, failure to repair a cracked sidewalk or loose door-hinge, or failure to warn of hidden defects on the property.
- Slip-and-falls – These are among the most common sources of injury in the U.S. and can occur in a variety of ways, including wet/slippery floors, un-cleared snow on sidewalks, and improperly-maintained stairways and walkways.
- Structural defects – These may include caving walls, improperly-maintained stairways, and poorly-designed balconies, to name a few.
If your child has been injured at school or during a school-related activity on the premises, it is recommended to ensure the successful completion of medical treatment for his/her injuries before filing a negligence claim in order to obtain all relevant medical bills, reports, and other paperwork, as they are essential for demonstrating the nature and extent of your child’s injuries as well as necessary compensation for pain and suffering, which is beyond general medical costs.
Though they are infrequent, exceptions to governmental immunity on behalf of public schools do exist and may be applied to claims in which negligence – a breached duty of care – can be proven. There are two primary factors, and the first is the general cause of the injury: if the injury resulted from inadequate supervision on behalf of teachers or other school employees, the school may be held liable for their negligence. The second is the nature of the injury and whether it was “foreseeable” and, therefore, preventable. Examples of foreseeable incidents among students include falling from playground equipment, unsanitary conditions, bullying, and tripping/slip-and-falls. Such cases are unique and may depend on particular aspects of the injury and circumstances under which the accident occurred.
Do You Have a Case?
To be compensated for your injuries and losses, it must be established that the property owner was negligent and that his/her negligence directly resulted in the accident and your injuries. Like personal injury claims, premises liability claims typically require four steps:
- “Duty of Care” – The property owner owed you a “duty of care,” meaning a legal obligation to ensure that you were protected from unreasonable risks and safety hazards while on his/her property.
- “Breach” – You must establish that the property owner violated or failed to uphold his/her legal duty of care to you, such as by failing to warn you of a safety hazard on the property or failing to place a necessary warning sign, such as a “wet floor” sign.
- “Causation” – It must be established that the property owner’s breached duty of care was the direct result of your accident and injuries. “Actual cause” applies when the victim would not have been injured if not for the breach, while “proximate cause” refers to the official legal cause of the accident.
- “Damages” – You must have suffered legitimate injuries and losses for which you may be entitled to compensation from the property owner’s insurance company.
- Premises owners must exercise reasonable care to protect their invitees from harm caused by apparent risks of injury, and an important part of their duty of care is “foreseeability.” The legal sense of foreseeability is defined as “proving that the proprietor knew or should have known of the dangerous propensities of a particular patron…or by proving that a proprietor knew or should have known of a dangerous condition of his premises that was likely to cause harm to a patron.”
While this care is usually limited to areas to which guests are invited or may be reasonably expected to venture, owners may not have the same liability for what is unforeseeable. For example, an owner does not have a duty to protect an individual on the premises from an attack by an individual over whom the owner has no control, unless the attack was “reasonably foreseeable.” It’s important to remember, also, that foreseeability alone is insufficient to hold a property owner legally liable for an attack by a third party on his/her premises, as the injured victim may also need to prove that the crime could have been prevented had the owner exercised “reasonable caution.”
There are three general classifications of plaintiffs in premises liability claims, two of which are common:
- Business Invitees – Individuals on a property for business purposes, such as at a grocery store to buy food or gas station to fill a vehicle. For business invitees, property owners must keep their property relatively safe, repair or provide notice of potential dangers, and perform regular inspections for these dangers, and they may be held liable for injuries caused by dangers of which they should have been aware.
- Licensees – These are individuals such as friends and relatives who are on a property for various social reasons, and unexpected/uninvited guests may also qualify as licensees depending on the situation. For licensees, property owners should keep the premises relatively safe, repair dangerous conditions, and provide adequate warning of existing dangerous conditions.
- Trespassers – Trespassers are still owed a duty of care despite not having permission to be on the premises, though it extends only to preventing intentional or reckless injury. When a property owner becomes aware that a trespasser is on the property, he/she is obligated to warn the trespasser of any dangers which are detectable with “ordinary observation.”
There is some debate over whether a property owner should be “reasonably aware” of a particular danger, but this is usually on a case-by-case basis, and property owners usually cannot be held liable if they were “reasonably unaware” of the danger. Furthermore, individuals entering another person’s property must still show reasonable care for themselves, and a common defense against them (as plaintiffs) is that they were at least partially at-fault for their own injuries. Illinois, like many states, maintains a “modified comparative negligence” system in which a plaintiff’s recovered compensation may be reduced in proportion to his/her own fault for the injuries sustained. It should be noted, however, that there is a “threshold of fault” which may automatically produce a not-guilty verdict: cases in which the plaintiff is found to have been more than 51% responsible for his/her accident are settled in the defense’s favor.
While hotels and resorts can be held liable for accidents resulting from negligence and/or inadequately maintaining the premises, they may also be liable for a person’s intentional criminal act against another on the property, such as assault or theft, if the incident occurred amid “negligent security.” For example, if a hotel guest returns late at night, parks in a parking lot with burned-out lights, and is then attacked by a perpetrator in the darkness, the hotel may be partially liable for the victim’s injuries. In cases involving negligent security, we may examine the quality of a variety of security precautions at the date, time, and place of the incident, including: security measures in place; quality of security equipment used; training, experience, and qualifications of security personnel; the property owner’s extent of involvement in implementing and maintaining comprehensive security programs; and whether the establishment’s security plan was managed competently and efficiently.
No Fee Unless We Win
If a property owner was legally responsible for an accident in which you were injured, you deserve full compensation for your injuries and losses, and negotiating alone with the insurance company incurs a very real risk of being under-compensated or even being denied a settlement entirely. We believe that no victim of negligence should have to carry the financial burdens of their injuries in addition to their pain and suffering, and we will protect your rights and ensure that your settlement fully compensates you for your losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
We gather a variety of important materials and documents to prepare for your negotiations and a potential case. These include:
- Deeds and related documents regarding the plaintiff’s property ownership
- Medical bills and records
- Narrative reports from physicians regarding your injuries
- Photographs of the scene of the accident
- Wage-loss verification from your employer
- Witness statements
You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses, including:
- Medical expenses for the injuries you sustained on the property;
- Lost wages for the work you missed while recovering from your injuries;
- And pain and suffering for significant physical or psychological trauma you’ve endured.
Get a Free Review
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to a property owner’s negligence, contact Agruss Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based law firm representing individuals (and their families) who have been injured in an accident. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Lastly, we are not paid attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.
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