Premises liability accidents encompass a broad range of circumstances. The common characteristic is that they all involve someone getting hurt due to unsafe property conditions. In such cases, the injured party may claim damages against the property's owner, tenant, or legal occupier.
This overview of the general principles of premises law will discuss the types of premises liability accidents that commonly occur and the role a Murrells Inlet personal injury lawyer plays in securing compensation for victims of accidents due to hazardous property conditions.
Premises Liability Law
Premises liability law refers to the legal principles that hold landowners, tenants, or legal occupiers responsible when someone enters their property and gets hurt due to a dangerous condition.
Owners must take reasonable steps to maintain a safe environment for visitors to their property based on certain conditions, including the status of the visiting person.
Under premises liability law, there are four generally four types of status: invitee, licensee, trespasser, and child.
The property owner or occupier's duty of care toward a visitor varies depending on their category.
- Invitees include customers at stores and restaurants, postal workers delivering mail to private residences, and visitors to a municipal park. Property owners owe invitees the highest duty of care. They must ensure the premises are reasonably safe for invitees to enter and remain on.
- Licensees come onto a property with the owner's express or implied consent, but more for their own benefit than the owner's. A social guest, for example, is a licensee—even if you send them a party invitation. A property owner or occupier owes a lesser duty of care to a licensee than an invitee. They must warn a licensee of known, nonobvious hazards on a property and not to engage in harmful actions, but they don't have to ensure the safety of the premises for licensee visitors at all times.
- Trespassers enter a property without legal right or occupant's consent. The owner or occupier owes a minimal duty of care to a trespasser, often only requiring them to refrain from causing intentional harm. In some states, laws permit property owners to intentionally harm trespassers in certain circumstances.
- Children, regardless of their legal status, receive a heightened duty of care under premises liability law. In addition to any duties property owners or occupiers owe them, they must also safeguard features of their properties that might attract a child, such as a swimming pool or trampoline.
The steps that property owners, tenants, or occupiers must take to meet their legal duties can vary. It may entail fixing dangerous conditions, performing routine maintenance and periodic inspections, barring access to potentially dangerous areas, installing security systems or hiring security personnel, or warning visitors about known hazards.
Failing to fulfill those duties can make the owner, occupier, or tenant liable for any resulting harm to a visitor.
Common Types of Premises Liability Accidents
Premises liability encompasses an array of accidents, each with unique circumstances and challenges. Some of the most common types of incidents that can lead to premises liability claims include:
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents are perhaps the most frequent premises liability claims. They occur when a visitor to a property falls and gets hurt due to a dangerous condition, such as a customer slipping on a spilled beverage in a grocery store aisle that staff have failed to clean up promptly or a mail carrier tripping over a cracked sidewalk while delivering the post.
Inadequate maintenance accidents can happen when a property owner or tenant fails to maintain the premises reasonably and safely, and a visitor gets hurt. This could involve hazards such as faulty wiring, unstable structures, or overgrown vegetation.
Defective conditions refer to design flaws or manufacturing defects in the premises or a piece of equipment on the property that lead to an injury-causing accident.
Such incidents include a faulty balcony railing giving way, causing an individual to fall, or a poorly constructed staircase collapsing, leading to severe injuries.
Inadequate Security Leading to Injury or Assault
These accidents can occur when a lack of appropriate security measures at a premises contributes to the assault or injury of a visitor. Examples include a faulty hotel room door lock or inadequate lighting in a parking garage that facilitates an attack.
Elevator and Escalator Accidents
Elevator and escalator accidents can happen when these people movers malfunction. Examples include an escalator that stops suddenly or vibrates uncontrollably or elevator doors that fail to open or open into an empty shaft.
Swimming Pool Accidents
Swimming pool accidents occur in public and private settings. Common causes include slippery surfaces, inadequate supervision, poor pool maintenance, lack of proper warning signs or barriers, and defective pool equipment. Many tragic pool accidents involve child victims who drown or nearly drown in unattended or unsafe swimming areas.
Amusement Park Accidents
Amusement park accidents can result from malfunctioning rides, inadequate maintenance, operator errors, inadequate safety instructions, or lack of supervision.
A visitor at a theme park, for instance, may suffer whiplash after a sudden stop on a roller coaster, or a child may fall from a carousel horse due to a poorly maintained safety harness.
Fire incidents leading to premises liability claims can be due to many causes, including faulty electrical wiring, improperly stored flammable materials, or the absence of fire safety measures, such as extinguishers, alarms, or sprinkler systems.
A tenant, for instance, may experience smoke inhalation in an apartment fire caused by malfunctioning smoke alarms, or a hotel guest might suffer severe injuries due to a lack of fire exit signs during a blaze.
Hot Steam, Water Leaks, or Flooding
Accidents involving hot steam, water leaks, or flooding typically arise from defective plumbing systems, neglected maintenance, poor construction, or natural disasters where owners haven't implemented appropriate preventive measures.
Examples might include a hotel guest suffering burns from excessively hot shower water or a visitor slipping and falling due to unattended water leakage in a commercial building.
Environmental Hazards and Toxins
Injuries due to environmental hazards and toxins can arise from exposure to materials such as asbestos, lead paint, mold, or harmful chemicals. Long-term residential tenants, for example, might develop respiratory illnesses from ongoing exposure to mold spores, or workers at an industrial site may get severely sick due to exposure to hazardous chemical leaks.
Frequently Asked Questions About Premises Liability Accidents
Premises liability cases can be complex and involve many legal intricacies, leaving victims and their families with numerous questions. We address some of the most frequently asked queries about premises liability cases below.
Are the Property Owner, Tenant, or Occupier the Only Parties I Can Sue in a Premises Liability Case?
Not necessarily. While the property owner or occupier is usually the primary defendant in a premises liability case, others could share responsibility. If a contractor, for example, created an unreasonably dangerous, temporary condition on a property that contributed to your accident, you might also have a claim against them.
If a product or piece of equipment on the premises was defective and led to your injury, you could potentially sue its manufacturer for damages. Any party whose dangerous behavior contributed to your injuries may owe you compensation.
Talk to an experienced lawyer today to learn who might owe you damages for your losses after a premises liability incident. It may surprise you to discover how many individuals, businesses, or entities may be accountable.
Can I Sue My Landlord for Damages if I get Hurt in My Apartment?
It's possible. If the dangerous condition at your apartment was your landlord's responsibility to fix or warn you about, you could have a claim under premises liability law.
If your landlord repeatedly ignored your requests to fix scalding hot water coming from your taps or failed to remediate or warn you about lead paint in your apartment and you suffered harm, you could have the right to sue for damages.
A landlord will often try to blame a tenant for their injuries. To protect your rights, contact an experienced premises liability lawyer immediately.
Does Accepting a Free Meal, Complimentary Hotel Stay, or Other Perks Jeopardize My Rights To Sue for Premises Liability?
It depends. If the premises owner or occupier offered you those perks as compensation for injuries, accepting them could interfere with your rights to sue. Beware of accepting anything of significant value, and never sign anything the owner presents.
Some businesses might require customers to sign liability waivers as a condition of receiving perks after an incident. If you're unsure about the implications of such agreements, talk to a lawyer immediately.
Should I Accept a Settlement Offer From a Property Owner's Insurance Company?
Before accepting any settlement, talk to an experienced premises liability attorney. Insurers often try to settle claims for less than they're worth, and early offers they make directly to injured victims usually don't fully compensate for their claim's true value.
A skilled attorney can assess the offer, advise you on its suitability, and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Contact an Experienced Premises Liability Lawyer Today
If you or someone you love have suffered harm due to a dangerous condition or incident on someone else's property premises, liability law may entitle you to seek compensation from the owner, tenant, or legal occupier. Obtaining payment for your losses, however, is neither easy nor automatic.
To maximize your chance of full compensation, contact an experienced premises liability lawyer today for a free case evaluation.