Some people live their entire lives without ever knowing or understanding the term “Premises Liability.” For most, there’s never a situation that makes it important enough for them to learn about it. For some, failing to understand the term might mean a missed opportunity.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a type of personal injury that occurs when a person gets hurt on someone else’s property at no fault of their own. In other words, the owner of the premises where they got hurt is liable, or responsible, for the person’s injuries. An injury happens due to the condition of the property.
When you go shopping or visit your neighbor’s home, you expect their property to be safe. When the condition of that property results in an accident and injury, it is a breach of duty.
There are numerous types of personal injury cases, most of which involve the issue of premises liability at some point. Most cases involve negligence, although intentionally hurting someone can also result in a personal injury. Some states, including Maryland, have contributory negligence laws. That means if you contributed to your injury in any way, you can’t collect damages for your injury. Insurance companies use this law as an argument to keep from paying money. That’s why you need an experienced personal injury attorney to negotiate your personal injury settlement. If your claim is denied or it goes to court, your attorney can fight for your rights, too.
Some of the most common types of personal injury that include premises liability include:
- Slip & Falls – Slip & fall accidents can happen at work, in a public place, retail store, or on another person’s sidewalk. Slip and fall accidents cause a large number of serious injuries each year. Spills, dirt and moisture that are tracked inside, failure to use safety mats, or failing to put up signs in freshly mopped areas are some ways that slip & fall accidents occur. Other conditions like poor lighting and icy entryways can also contribute to slip & falls.
- Dog Bites – Sometimes dogs bite people due to their training, out of fear, or for some unknown reason. Dog bite laws differ from one state to the next. There are also some cases where the property owner and the dog owner aren’t the same person. If a landlord allows a tenant to keep a dog that is known to be vicious, they may be liable for your dog bite even though they aren’t the owner.
- Brain Injuries – Brain injuries tend to be severe and often cause complications for the rest of the person’s life. If you fall due to a hole in someone’s walkway or a broken step in their stairway, it puts you at risk of getting a serious brain injury. A brain injury can result from a number of different types of personal injury accidents. They are often severe and require extensive medical treatment.
- Lack of Security – Property owners must provide guests with security. If that security is lacking, inadequate, improper, or negligent, the property owner is responsible for your injuries. If you are harmed or sexually assaulted on the property, you might receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain & suffering, and emotional trauma.
- Fires– Careless practices, faulty wiring or outlets, gas leaks, or electrical appliances that aren’t functioning normally are some of the ways property owners cause fires to happen.
- Asbestos Exposure – It’s difficult not to know the harm that asbestos exposure has on your health. There are commercials on TV advertising this dangerous material every day. Although the material is no longer allowed for use in building materials, it still exists in many older homes. Landlords are legally required to disclose this information when there is a potential danger from asbestos to their tenants. If you become ill due to asbestos in your home and you weren’t told about the risk, you have a case for premises liability. The same is true for anyone who works on the property such as a contractor. Failing to notify tenants or workers of the asbestos risk is an act of negligence by the property owner.
Although these are the most common types of personal injuries that involve premises liability, there are many potential scenarios. The job of the injured victim and their attorney is to prove that the premises owner was negligent with regard to their ownership or maintenance of the property. If your injury occurs on someone’s property, it doesn’t always mean it was the property owners fault. This is true even if the property wasn’t in a safe condition. Proving the property owner knew about the condition and failed to take steps to fix it can be challenging.
What to Do if You Are Injured on Someone Else’s Property
Being injured is a frightening experience. Your injuries might turn out to be more serious than you initially believed. Knowing what to do will help protect you in case you need to make a claim. Don’t try to evaluate whether it is a case of negligence at the time. Follow these steps and collect information that your lawyer will need if you file a claim later.
- Report the Incident and Your Injuries – If your injuries occur on another person’s property, you might try to minimize your injuries because of your relationship to the property owner. Most dog bites occur with an animal the person knows. But you need medical treatment and that person is liable for your injuries. Take comfort in knowing that most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites. Then take the steps you need to gather the information you need.
If your injury occurs on commercial property, contact the management immediately. Insist on them filing an accident report and include your injuries. Also, ask anyone nearby what they saw or heard. Gather contact information from any potential witnesses who know what happened.
- Take Pictures – Immediately after the incident occurs is the only time you can get accurate pictures. If you slipped on a puddle of water, make sure your pictures depict the water and everything around it. If a broken stair or sidewalk caused your injury, get pictures of that. Don’t wait until the business owner has time to fix the problem to try and gather evidence.
- Get Medical Treatment – Even if you think you’re just bruised, get checked out. You could end up having fractures or other serious injuries. Pain doesn’t always surface until hours or even days later. Failing to get immediate medical care will make it even more challenging to prove that your injuries are as serious as you claim. The insurance adjuster will use this information to argue against your injuries as being legitimate. It’s difficult enough to get insurance companies to pay legitimate claims. If you give them a way out, they’re going to take it.
If you don’t have a regular doctor, go to the emergency room or to an urgent treatment center. Timely medical treatment is not only important for your case; but also for your well-being. Be sure to monitor your medical records and follow-up with the doctor’s advice.
- Find a Personal Injury Attorney – Personal injury cases are rarely black and white. Any time there are two sides to any issue, disagreements arise. Personal injury law is complex. There are rules and exceptions to the rules. What you don’t know about premises liability could cause you to lose your case. It might even prevent you from filing a claim.
Take all of the information that you have with you when you talk to a personal injury attorney. This includes photos, a copy of the accident report, your medical record, and any witness information you gathered. Never speak with the insurance company or the insurance adjuster directly. They may contact you early to make an offer. If you haven’t had time to get an attorney, they know this is the best time to offer you a settlement. The problem is that the initial offers made by insurance companies are almost always lower than their real value.
The Difference Between Invited Guests and Trespassers
The liability of a property owner in Maryland depends on the legal status of the visitor. If you are on a property as a trespasser, your right to collect compensation for your injury differs than if you are considered a visitor. For example, if a hotel has a swimming pool for their guests and you get injured at the pool while staying there, they are liable for your injuries. If you decide to climb over the fence and enter the swimming pool as a trespasser, the hotel has no liability for your injuries.
Any commercial business operates with the expectation that people who come onto their property are invited guests. For example, if you go to the grocery store, you are an invited guest. The act of doing business with the public makes the business liable for everyone who shops with them.
This distinction can also occur on private property. If a person owns a barn and horses for their personal use and recreation, someone riding their own horse onto the person’s property is a trespasser. If they board horses or offer horseback riding to the public, then someone riding onto their property would be an invited guest.
The same accident and resulting injuries are treated much differently in these cases. But there are also other laws and exceptions that make it difficult to draw a line between them. One example is the “Attractive Nuisance” law. This law refers to land that has something on it that attracts children to it. States that observe this law turn children from trespassers into invitees. While Maryland doesn’t recognize the Attractive Nuisance law, most other states do. That means that in Maryland, the law considers a child who goes onto private property to see something of interest the same as an adult.
Warning: Danger Ahead!
Premise liability occurs when the property owner is negligent. But what happens if they put up a warning sign instead of fixing the problem? Legally, a property owner must maintain safe conditions on all of their property. They must meet the “standard of care.” Again, identifying a breach in the standard of care is not always easy.
In most cases, if a sign is present that warns of a condition of the land and an accident occurs anyway, the injured person has “assumed the risk.” The property owner met their standard of care by warning of the danger and usually isn’t considered liable.
What You Need to Win Your Premises Liability Case
Premises liability cases can be very challenging to prove. As the injured party, you have the responsibility to prove the property owner’s guilt and the validity of your injuries. Acting fast to gather evidence is one of the most important things you will do. This is before you get an attorney to guide you on the best practices. It’s also right after the injury and often while you are still dealing with the pain and surprise of what happened to you. You need to take a proactive approach to collecting evidence that won’t be available to you once some time has passed.
Proving your case also depends on what you don’t do. People love to share everything on social media, from what they had for dinner to their political opinion. The problem is that the insurance company knows it too. Never assume that only your contacts will see your posts. The insurance company won’t waste any time looking to see what you share with your friends.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney specializes in the area of law related to premises liability. He knows the laws in-depth and how they apply to your case. Don’t wait to find an attorney. The statute of limitations gives you an exact timeline for filing a personal injury claim. Once that time passes, you will lose your right to file for compensation.
If you were injured on someone else’s property, contact us to schedule a free evaluation. We’re here to help.