30 Nov

What Is Premises Liability?

Personal Injury

premises liability

Premises liability is a legal concept that describes a property owner’s legal responsibility for any injuries that were caused by some unsafe condition as a result of their negligence. To put it simply, both public and private property owners have a legal responsibility to keep their property safe for visitors. When they do not, either intentionally or unintentionally, that is known (legally) as negligence. If someone is injured on their property because of their negligence, they can be held accountable for the costs associated with that person’s injuries.

Premises liability often comes into play in personal injury cases and can take on a variety of different forms. Slip and fall incidents might be what most people think of when they think of premises liability; someone falls in a grocery store due to a wet spot that was improperly marked, for example. But premises liability covers more than just slip and fall accidents. Dog bites, swimming pool accidents, elevator and escalator accidents, amusement park accidents, fires, flooding, toxic fumes or chemicals, assaults, and more can also be considered grounds for a premises liability claim.

It is important to note that not all injuries caused by accidents on someone else’s private or public property indicate that the property owner was negligent, however. In order for an owner to be considered negligent, five facts (generally – court laws and precedents vary from state to state) must be established.

The defendant owned, occupied, or was leasing the property.

If the ownership of the property is in question, proving negligence will not work; it needs to be clear who owned the property, since they will be the one who owed a duty of care and is considered liable. In some cases, there may be multiple defendants who are responsible.

The plaintiff (injured victim) was a lawful visitor, and thus the defendant owed them a duty of care.

In many states, visitors to a property are divided into invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Invitees and licensees are considered lawful visitors. An invitee has the owner’s express or implied permission to enter the property (think neighbors, grocery shoppers, etc.). A licensee is someone who also has the owner’s express or implied permission to enter the property but is there for their own purposes, such as to sell something. To both invitees and licensees, property owners have a legal duty to keep their property reasonably safe. However, visitors who are not authorized to be on the property – trespassers – are not owed a duty of care by the property owners. There are a few exceptions to this rule, as children are not always considered trespassers.

The defendant did not uphold their duty of care, and thus is negligent.

If the property owner knew about, or should have known about, a potential hazard, and they failed to address the hazard or warn lawful visitors about it, then they breached their legal duty of care. We mentioned earlier in this blog post that not every accident is grounds for a premises liability case, and it is mostly for this reason. For example, if a grocery shopper spills water on the floor, and another grocery shopper walks by seconds later (before anyone has had a chance to notice the spill) and falls, injuring themselves, the property owner did not know about the hazard and had no reasonable time to address the hazard, so it is not likely that a settlement will be recovered. But if a city knows that a certain neighborhood’s sidewalks become dangerously icy every winter, and fails to put signs up or salt the sidewalks, and someone slips and is injured, then that person is legally entitled to seek a settlement, and may very well be successful.

The plaintiff was injured.

If there were no injuries that occurred as a result of the accident, a claim is baseless and will likely be rejected. Insurance companies and courts do not award monetary damages for hypothetical situations, so in order to recover damages, the plaintiff must prove that there were injuries. This can be proven using medical bills, medical professional testimony, plaintiff’s testimony, medical reports, and more.

The defendant’s negligence substantially caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

The final connection to be proved is between the defendant’s breach in their duty of care (their premises liability) and the plaintiff’s injuries. In order to make a solid claim for compensation, the harm that the plaintiff suffered must have reasonably occurred as a result of the injury on the property. It does not need to be the sole cause. For example, if a plaintiff slipped and fell in a grocery store, they may have a concussion and a broken ankle. Those injuries were pretty obviously caused by the fall. However, if the plaintiff finds out during their medical examination that they have lung cancer, any costs associated with that treatment cannot be sought in a settlement, since it is not reasonable that their fall had anything to do with their diagnosis.

If these five things can be established, a solid claim for maximum monetary compensation on behalf of the plaintiff can be made. How much the injured accident victim stands to recover depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident, the insurance company’s willingness to pay out a fair settlement, and the state where the claim is being made.

The Florida Law Group has recovered over a billion dollars for our clients. We have been advocating for the legal rights of injured premises liability accident victims in Florida since 1984, and we never let our clients settle for less than the full and just amount they deserve. We proudly offer all of our services on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you do not have to pay us anything unless and until we win your case! If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, and you believe you may have a premises liability claim, call us to schedule a free consultation with one of our highly skilled personal injury attorneys.