When we are out shopping, running errands, traveling, or simply out for leisure, we assume that business and property owners will keep their premises safe. Unfortunately, we hear about accidents and/or crimes at grocery stores, malls, shops, hotels, and other commercial and residential properties all too often. If you or someone you love is hurt on the property of another, you may be entitled to compensation for harm or injuries you sustained while on their property, under a category of law known as premises liability. Under premises liability law, courts will hold a property owner responsible for harm or injuries that occurred on their property if the property owner owed the injured person a duty of care and if it can be shown that the property owner failed to meet that duty of care.
Premises liability cases are often referred to as “slip and fall” cases, but premises liability law governs a wide range of issues, including slip and falls, inadequate security, floods, broken elevators and escalators or other poor maintenance issues, uneven walkways and steps, fires, pet or other animal attacks, and unsecured or falling objects.
A main component of a premises liability case is whether the property owner owed you a duty of care. Generally speaking, if you are on a property owner’s premises with express or implied permission, for commercial or social purposes, then that property owner owes you the highest duty of care and must do more to protect you from harm. If you are on the premises as a trespasser, either with our without criminal intent, it is much harder to hold a property owner responsible for your injuries, as a property owner owes a trespasser a lesser duty of care.
Once you’ve established that a property or business owner owed you a duty of care, you must show that they failed in their duty of care. Typically, the law requires business and property owners to take reasonable measures to protect its customers and guests. They must take care to keep care their premises free of known hazards, to regularly inspect for hazardous conditions and they must warn against risks and dangerous conditions that are outside of their control. They must also follow prescribed maintenance and repair procedures and abide by local building and safety codes. Additionally, they are required to keep public walkways free of snow, debris, and other dangerous conditions that may pose a hazard to those passing by.
Included in a premises owner’s duty of care is a responsibility to keep guests and patrons safe from third party crimes. Property owners can be held accountable for criminal acts that occur on their property, like physical assaults, kidnappings, or sexual assaults, if it can be shown that the property owner was negligent in protecting others. Evidence of negligence may be improper lighting, inadequate security, or failure to have proper locks. If a property owner fails to take the necessary measures to prevent violence and keep customers safe on their premises, they may be liable for the injuries sustained from third party criminal acts.
While it may be tempting to assume that if you are injured while on the premises or property of another that the owner of the premises should be liable, premises liability law is pretty specific and can be quite complex so it is advisable to obtain legal advice from an experienced premises liability lawyer as soon as possible. A knowledgeable and competent attorney can help sift through the evidence, analyze the facts, and help you determine if you have a case. Call one of our Ingerman and Horwitz Baltimore premises liability lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation at 1-800-776-4529.