During a typical week, we spend a lot of time on the property of other parties. Many of us work 40 or more hours in week, and outside of work, we go shopping, go out with friends, take vacations, or just go for a walk in the park. And during the holidays, this type of outside activity increases significantly.
So, what happens if we get hurt on someone else's property? If you were injured on the property of another party, it may be possible to hold the owner or caretaker liable for damages under the legal theory known as “premises liability”. There are several types of incidents that may fall under this theory, such as:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Escalator and elevator accidents
- Fires and explosions
- Being exposed to a toxic substance
- Injuries resulting from negligent security
Although you may be able to sue if you get hurt on someone else's property, whether or not you will be successful with your claim depends on a number of different factors; and no matter what the circumstances, these types of cases can be complicated and challenging to pursue.
Property owners and caretakers are likely to forcefully defend against your claim in order to avoid paying out damages. And for this reason, it is always best to have your case thoroughly reviewed by an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, so you can be advised of your legal rights and options and make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
Important Considerations with Premises Liability Cases
If you suffered a slip and fall injury or another type of injury on someone else's property, you must prove several elements in order to recover damages:
- The defendant owed you a duty of reasonable care;
- The defendant breached their duty;
- This breach was the proximate cause of your injuries;
- Your injuries resulted in compensable losses.
In order to determine if these elements can be proven, there are several questions that need to be answered. Here are some of the most important:
Did you have a right to be on the property?
Owners and caretakers do not owe the same duty of care to every person who enters their property. This will depend on what type of visitor you were, and this will fall into one of three categories:
- Invitees: An invitee is someone who has explicit or implied permission to enter a property, usually for the financial benefit of the owner or proprietor, and the highest duty of care is owed to this type of visitor. Examples of invitees include customers of restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and retail establishments, hotel and resort guests, tenants or lessees of residential or commercial property, and any other area that is open to the general public.
- Licensees: A licensee is someone who still has explicit or implied permission to enter a property, but they generally do so for their own benefit. Examples of licensees include delivery carriers, neighbors, and social guests. A slightly lower duty of care is owed to licensees; owners or caretakers are required to take reasonable steps to protect these types of visitors from known dangers, but they are not necessarily required to inspect the property regularly to uncover an unknown danger.
- Trespassers: Trespassers have no legal right to be on the property. As such, owners and caretakers owe the lowest duty of care to visitors in this category. Their only obligation with regards to adult trespassers is to refrain from purposeful or malicious conduct or entrapment that may harm them.
Was there a failure to remedy a known dangerous condition?
One of the arguments that the other side is likely to make is that they were not aware of the hazardous condition that caused your injury. So then the question becomes, did the defendant know, or should they have known, about the hazard?
For example, if you suffered a slip and fall injury because of a sticky substance that spilled on the floor of a grocery store by another shopper a couple minutes earlier, then the store may argue that they did not have time to clean it up. However, if the spill occurred an hour or two earlier, then it would be reasonable to expect that their employees would have noticed the spill, cleaned it up, or at the very least put signs or cones around it to warn other shoppers. Which leads into our next question…
Should you have known about the dangerous condition?
Another argument an owner or caretaker might make is that the hazard was clearly marked with a cone, sign, or something similar, or that the hazard was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person. If the property owner or caretaker can show that they took reasonable steps to warn visitors of the hazard, then pursuing a premises liability claim will be an uphill battle.
Were you partially at fault for your injuries?
One way the other side will argue that you were at fault is by claiming that the hazard was clearly visible. They may also argue that the injury was partially your fault for other reasons, such as not watching where you were going (e.g., looking down at your phone while you were walking) or being in an area of the property that is restricted or where visitors do not normally go.
If they can show that you are partially at fault, this could prevent you from recovering damages in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, you must prove that the other side was 100% at fault for your injuries in order to obtain compensation. And this brings us to our final question…
What kind of proof do you have to substantiate your claim?
If you get hurt on someone else's property, it is very important to obtain extensive documentation in order to successfully file a claim. Right after the accident, you should take multiple photos of the scene from various angles, which will show the hazard and how you got injured. If you are physically unable to take photos, have someone else do that for you. You should also obtain statements and contact information from any individuals who witnessed the event, and seek immediate medical attention, so you can receive proper treatment and the extent of your injuries can be fully documented. Finally, obtain strong legal counsel as early as possible in the process, so your right to recover compensation can be preserved.
Contact a Skilled Premises Liability Lawyer in Alabama
If you or someone close to you suffered injury on the property of another party in Alabama, call the Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers – Birmingham, for a free consultation and case assessment. We will meet with you to thoroughly evaluate your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. If we determine that you do have a case, we will fight hard for the full and fair compensation you deserve.
Call our office today at 205-666-6000 or message us through our online contact form to schedule your complimentary consultation. You may also visit our office in person at your convenience.