If you are thinking of filing a lawsuit after being injured on someone else’s property, you are no doubt curious as to what sort of damages, or compensation, you can expect to recover should you win your case. There are several premises liability damages you may be able to pursue, but you will need the help of an experienced attorney to have the best chances of success.
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Damages Due to Injuries
Whenever someone is hurt on another person’s property, he or she may be able to sue to recover premises liability damages. The law states that property owners or residents must take reasonable care to make their property as safe as possible. Those who fail to do so could be held liable should an accident occur that results in someone being injured.
One of the most common types of premises liability damages is medical expenses. Serious injuries such as broken bones, spinal cord or brain injuries and others can be extremely expensive to treat. If you or a loved one has suffered this type of injury, you may be able to recover compensation to pay for expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, ambulance transport, prescription costs and more. If the accident resulted in a death, the deceased family members could sue for damages such as funeral expenses. If you are hurt so badly that you cannot work, you could sue for lost income as well as lost future income.
How Does Premises Liability Work?
Premises liability cases can sometimes be very hard to prove, and you can expect a defendant to fight back hard. If you have been injured in an accident on someone else’s property, you should contact a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in premises liability cases as soon as possible.
Premises liability cases often depend on what “class” a visitor you were on the property when you were injured. In other words, what was your status when you entered the property? Normally, this status is defined in one of three ways.
An invitee is an individual who enters the premises in a way that financially benefits the property owner, or it is a person who enters an open or commercial space that is available to the public at large. When you go to a store, a mall or some other place of business, you are an invitee. This “invitation” means that the property owner has the duty of responsible care — they must maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner so that invitees are not injured.
Normally, high standards of reasonable care are required for invitees. This means, for instance, that when a store builds a display, it has to do so in a safe manner so that the structure will not fall on you when you walk by. It also means that a shopping mall has to make sure all of its parking lots and sidewalks are safely salted in the winter.
Public and commercial spaces include:
- Amusement parks
- Motels and hotels
- Shopping malls
- Stadiums used for sports or other events
- Ramps and parking lots
- Apartment buildings
These places are all locations that “invite” the public, normally to have people spend money. Therefore, all invitees have a reasonable expectation that they will not be injured when they are on these properties.
2. Licensees (Social Guests)
Licensees are individuals like friends and family who have implied access to the property or to whom you have granted specific access. Guests at a party fall into this category. Remember, however, that if you ask a guest to leave the party and they refuse to do so, they become a trespasser, explained in the third category.
The owner of the property is required to warn a licensee of any dangerous obstacles or conditions that could create a risk of harm if the property owner already knew about the condition and their family members or guests did not. For instance, if the property owner knew about a loose stone on the pathway into the house, and they invited you for a party, it is their responsibility to warn you in advance so that you can be careful and not slip and fall.
A trespasser is someone who does not have the property owner’s permission to be on their land or on the premises. In many cases, a property owner owes no duty of care to a trespasser. They are not, however, allowed to deliberately hurt or harm a trespasser.
There are exceptions, however. For instance, if a property owner knows that it is likely that trespassers will enter their property, they may need to give a reasonable warning to be careful so that no one is injured. This need is particularly the case when the owner of the property has some kind of “artificial condition” on the property. This artificial condition can be something like old cars, farm equipment or anything else that is manufactured and could possibly hurt someone.
It is also a different matter when it comes to children who trespass, especially with swimming pools, which are known as “attractive nuisances.” It is assumed that the property owner knows that a swimming pool will be an attractive object to a child, which is why property owners are required to put up fences and gates as well as warnings around swimming pools.
The Different Types of Liability Cases
Liability cases normally fall under the category of personal injury cases, which include:
- Accidents involving snow and/or ice
- Cases where people slip and fall, for example on wet floors or in icy parking lots — slip and fall cases are by far the most common premises liability cases
- Property owners failing to provide adequate maintenance on the premises
- A lack of sufficient building security that causes someone to be injured or even killed
- Accidents in elevators and on escalators
- Dog bites
- Accidents at amusement parks
- Accidents in or around swimming pools
- Chemical spills and toxic fumes
- Flooding and water leaks that lead to injuries for an invitee or a licensee
What Do I Need to Prove in a Premises Liability Case?
Accidents that happen in premises liability cases can often have catastrophic effects. If you wish to recover the compensation that is required to deal with resulting injuries, you must show certain criteria in order to prove your case, including the following.
1. The Defendant Is the Legal Owner of the Property
You have to know that someone legally owns a property where you were injured before you can win a case against them. Otherwise, they cannot be held liable.
2. The Defendant Did Not Meet Their Duty of Responsible Care and Were Negligent in Their Maintenance of the Property
Once you have shown that the defendant was the legal owner of the property, you need to be able to show that they failed to warn you of any dangerous risks on their property when you were injured. You also need to be able to show that the property owner would have known about these risks had they been vigilant in maintaining the property.
3. You Suffered an Injury as a Result of This Negligence
You will need to show a court or a jury that you were injured because of this negligence by the defendant. The best way to prove it is with medical records that demonstrate the extent of your injuries and the treatment you have received, as well as testimony from your doctor and other expert witnesses who can talk about your need for ongoing treatment and how it will impact your life.
4. Your State at the Time of the Accident
Were you an invitee, licensee or trespasser when you were injured? A defendant in a premises liability case owes the greatest standard of care to invitees.
5. Whether You Had Expectations That the Property Might Be Dangerous When You Entered
Did you know, for instance, about the wobbly stone on the pathway to your friend’ s house?
As we noted above, defendants and their attorneys will argue that they are not responsible. Some of the arguments that you may hear include the following:
- You were injured on a part of the property that normally is not open to visitors or customers, so the defendant did not have a reasonable duty of care.
- You were not paying attention when you were injured — you were on your cell phone, reading a book or talking to a friend, for instance.
- You did not have the right kind of footwear for the circumstances.
- The defendant had cordoned off the high-risk area of the property by using cones or signage, thus exercising reasonable care.
- The risk should have been obvious to you.
This list is why, when you have been injured in a premises liability case, you need to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who is familiar with the tactics deployed by defendants in order to avoid paying damages.
Landlords and Tenants
Landlords cannot normally be held responsible if you are injured while visiting a leased property because it is assumed that after the landlord leases it, they are unaware of the conditions on the property. If you visit your friend’s rented home and you are injured in a slip and fall accident, it is your friend who is responsible and not the landlord.
The exception to this rule is if you or the tenant can prove the property existed in a neglected state for a long period of time and that the landlord was aware of these potential hazards and did nothing to remedy the situation.
Statute of Limitations in Premises Liability Cases
In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date that you were injured to file a premises liability lawsuit. If you wait longer than two years, the defendants and their attorneys will no doubt bring it to the attention of the judge, who will in all likelihood dismiss your case. This situation is another reason that it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as you have been injured or become aware that you have been injured on someone else’s property.
Pennsylvania’s Comparative Fault System
Pennsylvania, like many other states, uses a comparative fault system when determining damages in a personal injury case like a premises liability lawsuit. The damages recovered by the plaintiff will be reduced according to the percentage equivalent to their responsibility for the accident. If the plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, they cannot sue.
It works in the following way. Let us say that you tripped and fell on a large crack in a sidewalk in front of a residential building. You decide to sue the owner of the building for failing to maintain the property in a reasonable way. You are able to show that the crack has existed in the sidewalk for two to three years and that the property owner is aware of the crack. So far so good.
The defendant, however, shows that you knew about the crack — you live in the neighborhood, so you should have been aware of the danger. The defendant can also show that you pass over this crack three to four times a day on your way to work or to the store. As a result, the judge or jury decides that you are at least 30 percent responsible for the accident. If you recovered an award of $100,000, that means it would be reduced by 30 percent, and you would recover $70,000.
How to Strengthen Your Premises Liability Case
If you want to win your premises liability case and be awarded damages to help with your medical expenses and potential lost wages, there are some things you can do to help yourself.
1. Collect Evidence
It is your responsibility to prove that the property owner was negligent. Every bit of evidence that you can gather works in your favor, including photographs of the location where you were injured, photographs of your own injuries and statements from people who may have been in the area and witnessed your accident or who had perhaps barely escaped being hurt in the same location.
2. Learn What You Can About the Premises Liability Standards
You should know about the state statute of limitations and the evidence needed to win your case.
3. Tell the Truth About What Happened
If you were trespassing when you were injured, do not lie about it in your testimony. If you are caught in a lie, it will almost certainly end any hope you have of recovering damages. Honesty is always the best policy in front of a judge or jury.
4. Talk to a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer With Experience in Premises Liability Cases
It is hard to collect the evidence and prepare a case in a premises liability lawsuit on your own. If you have been injured and are dealing with the consequences of that injury emotionally, physically or financially, it is almost impossible to make sure that you meet all the deadlines and file all the correct papers on time. You are also vulnerable to insurance adjusters for the defendant, who will try to convince you to settle early for a reduced amount.
When you work with a qualified attorney, they will help collect the evidence you need, contact the expert witnesses, ensure that all the paperwork is filed on time and make sure the defendant insurance company is not able to take advantage of you.
Talk to a Lawyer At KBG Injury Law About Premises Liability Damages
These just scratch the surface of the many types of premises liability damages you might be able to pursue through a lawsuit. Please talk to a professional with KBG Injury Law to learn more about your potential options.
We offer a free consultation. You can reach us at 1-800-509-1011 or visit our contact page, where you can leave us your contact information and some details on your situation. A member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.