Can you really sue if you are injured on someone else’s property? Yes and no. The legal doctrine of premises liability makes property owners responsible under certain circumstances.
If you were trespassing or caused your own injury, you would be out of luck. But if the property created or ignored a safety hazard, you may be able to bring a claim for damages.
The basics of premises liability
Any owner of property (premises) has a certain legal responsibility (liability) for the safety of visitors. This applies to commercial entities, landlords, homeowners and governmental entities, including property managers.
But there are certain elements that must be proved to bring a premises liability claim:
- Injury/damages – Let’s say you fell, or a box fell on you. If you suffered no serious or lasting injury, there is no claim. For a lasting disability or disfigurement, you can be compensated for future medical care and lost earnings, as well as pain and suffering.
- Negligence – There must be an inherently unsafe property condition or hidden danger, such as a floor spill, a tripping hazard or broken lights in a stairwell. If you simply fell from your own clumsiness, the property owner is not responsible.
- Ample notice – You need to show that the owner created the hazard, had knowledge of the danger (actual notice) or should have known (constructive notice), and had reasonable opportunity to correct it or warn people.
Slip-and-fall injuries are one of the most prevalent kinds of premises liability claims. The negligence comes into play due to the conditions that led to the fall. The icy winter season is a common culprit. People can fall in shopping center parking lots, where the business owner is responsible for keeping the premises safe for shoppers.
Another type of premises liability claim arises when a person is injured in an elevator or on an escalator. Elevators and escalators are ubiquitous in shopping malls and office buildings, and one malfunction can cause serious injuries. Common accidents include elevators falling multiple stories, falling into an elevator shaft, getting clothing caught in an escalator tread or elevator doors that malfunction.
Any type of personal injury due to unsafe property conditions should be examined by an attorney with experience working in premises liability cases. A qualified attorney knows how to determine negligence in these cases and help plan a strategy to pursue compensation for injuries. Slip-and-falls can result in high medical bills and lost wages due to inability to work, so it is important to be compensated as fully as possible.