If a grocery store fails to post a sign alerting customers to wet floors, or a property owner does not provide adequate security for patrons in a known high-crime area, or if an elevator or escalator malfunctions and causes injury.
These are all potentially grounds for premises liability claims, a wide-ranging legal concept, that describes accidents that occur on other people’s property due to the owner’s negligence.
What Constitutes a Premises Liability Claim?
All homeowners and business owners have an obligation to their visitors to maintain a safe and secure environment — or promptly post warnings about potential hazards if this is not the case. A premises liability claim seeks to prove that the owner did not use reasonable care in regard to his or her property, and that negligence resulted in injury or harm to a visitor.
An injury on someone else’s property does not automatically prove negligence on behalf of the owner, however. It must be successfully argued that the owner knew (or reasonably should have known) that the environment was unsafe, and he or she did nothing to rectify the problem.
What Are Common Types of Premises Liability Cases?
Personal injuries classified as premises liability cases also commonly include: amusement-park accidents; elevator and escalator accidents; slip-and-fall cases; swimming-pool accidents; dog bites; and robbery or assault due to negligent security.
Are Slips and Falls Always the Property Owner’s Fault?
Slip-and-fall cases are the among the most common premises liability cases, mainly because they can occur almost anywhere as a result of a broken sidewalk, slick floors, inadequate lighting, or poorly constructed stairs.
However, even if someone is injured, he or she might still bear some responsibility: Did they trip over something that they should have seen or avoided altogether? If the reasonable answer is yes, then it’s unlikely the owner will be held responsible for that person’s injuries.
On the other hand, if the property owners reasonably should have known about the potential hazard, caused the hazard themselves, did not warn others about the hazard, or was aware but did nothing to fix the hazard, then the owners might well be held liable.
What Steps Can I Take to Reduce the Risk of Premises Liability Claims?
The single most important step to avoid premises liability claims — as a property owner or as a visitor to someone else’s property — is to be aware of your surroundings. Owners should perform regular maintenance checks on their property and on structures therein, and then address unsafe conditions in a timely manner. Securing swimming pools, trimming tree branches, and removing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways are all good examples of preventative measures.
As a customer or guest in or around someone’s home or business, be aware of your surroundings when you’re walking, and steer clear of potentially hazardous situations. Trust your instincts, too: If an elevator or amusement-park ride looks unsafe, skip it.
What Factors Determine Negligent Security?
If a third party attacks a person on property owned by someone else — such as an apartment, parking lot, college campus, or hotel room — the owner may be held liable if he or she failed to take proper steps to adequately secure the area. If the property is located in a place that’s historically high in crime, owners are required by law to ensure its safety and security. This might include employing doormen or guards, ensuring that locks are functioning, or having security cameras in good working order.
In determining if negligent security has occurred, it must be proven that the person responsible for maintaining the property should have foreseen the potential for criminal activity, and did not take steps to prevent it from happening. When owners fail to adequately secure their premises, the crimes can be devastating: robbery, assault, rape, homicide.
New Frontiers in Negligent Security
As technology becomes an increasingly indispensable part of everyday life, negligent security has extended well beyond physical boundaries. Lack of security can also include crimes such as cyberattacks, identity theft, or even terrorism. And unfortunately, hackers are getting faster and better at finding new ways to break into databases filled with sensitive information.
In September 2015, the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics released a study revealing that more than 17 million Americans aged 16 and older were the victims of identity theft in 2014. That number is on the rise. If proprietors fail to warn or secure Internet connections for their customers — or leave them vulnerable to data breaches — they too could be held responsible for negligent security.
How Can the Dysart Law Firm Help in Cases of Premises Liability?
Premises liability claims happen every day and can occur in just about any location. And because determining fault can come down to interpretations of what exactly constitutes an unsafe condition, “reasonable care,” and who ultimately bears the responsibility for the injury, it is always advisable to ask an attorney to look at the specifics of your case. Further complicating matters is the classification of visitors, such as:
Invitees: Family, friends, or neighbors who have the owner’s permission to be on their property
Licensees: People such as salesmen who enter the property for their own purposes
Trespassers: People who do not have the owner’s permission to be on their property
The property owner has different obligations to invitees, licensees and even trespassers — but those conditions also vary from state to state. Dysart Law Firm’s attorneys can interpret how the law specifically relates to your state and your case.
Those in Missouri or Illinois who feel their loved ones have experienced pain and suffering as a result of premises liability or negligent security have a right to seek financial restitution in a civil lawsuit. The Dysart Law Firm, P.C., offers free, no-obligation consultations to victims and their families who wish to learn more about their rights under the law.
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