A visit to the grocery store or a movie theater should not involve taking your life in your hands. This is the idea behind premises liability laws. As a shopper, guest, or patron of a business or a visitor to private property, you have the right to an expectation of safety and the property owner has a duty to provide a safe environment. When this duty is breached and you are injured, you may have a claim for compensation from the property owner or tenant. Premises liability claims can be complicated, though, and you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer to help make your case.
Examples of Premises Liability
According to the National Safety Council’s 2017 Injury Facts, falls are a leading cause of accidental death among all adult age groups, particularly people over the age of 64. Many fatal and non-fatal falls are the result of unsafe conditions in public spaces, including slippery surfaces, torn carpeting, broken tiles, stairs, or handrails, and cluttered walkways. Children are commonly injured in animal attacks and unsecured swimming pool accidents. When hazardous conditions like these lead to an injury, the property owner may be required to compensate the victim for his losses under premises liability law. Other causes of premises liability claims include the following:
- Dog bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly five million dog bites occur each year and 800,000 victims require medical treatment. Half of these victims are children. In South Carolina, dog owners are strictly liable for their dog’s behavior, even if the bite is the dog’s first act of aggression. These laws favor dog bite victims, but claims can be difficult to prove without an attorney.
- Negligent or inadequate security. Business owners are required to take reasonable steps to safeguard their visitors against crime. When security measures such as locks, lighting, or security guards fail to protect visitors, victims of an attack may have a claim against the owner.
- Swimming pool injuries. Drownings are a leading cause of accidental death among children. Swimming pool owners are required by law to secure the pool area to prevent children from entering unaccompanied, but they are also expected to keep the pool deck, diving boards, ladders, and other equipment in good condition.
- Inadequate maintenance. Falling debris, broken railings, uneven stairs, unsecured furniture, and other maintenance and repair issues can lead to injuries on private and public property. The property owner is responsible for maintaining all public spaces.
In order for any of these hazards to be actionable, it must be demonstrated that the property owner knew of the condition but took no steps to correct it or warn visitors of the risk. It can also be argued that an owner should have known about a hazard. When you work with a premises liability attorney, he or she will present evidence that the property owner had a duty to provide a safe environment, that he failed in that duty, and that you suffered serious injuries as a direct result. These are not easy claims to prove on your own.
Who Do Property Owners Have to Protect?
Premises liability laws are designed to protect any lawful visitor against injury. As such, any injury that occurs to a trespasser is not likely to result in compensation. For example, if an intruder slips on a wet floor and hurts himself, he will not have a premises liability claim. Of course, the landowner needn’t always formally invite someone onto their property in order for them to have a legal right to be there. Likewise, the landowner isn’t always the one liable for the maintenance of a safe environment. In some circumstances, it is the responsibility of the non-owner tenant. Trespassing restrictions don't generally apply to children. If the owner has an "attractive nuisance" on the property, such as a swimming pool, play equipment, or a dog, he has a duty to prevent children from being able to enter the property. The complexities of your individual situation can be assessed by our attorneys.
How Do I Know If I Have a Claim?
If you were injured in an accident or assault on someone else’s property, it is important that you talk to one of our personal injury lawyer about your legal options. For more than three decades, Hite & Stone has been helping the residents of Abbeville and the surrounding area gain financial recovery after an accident. We would love to meet you for a free consultation.