What is Premises Liability?
In the past, you’ve likely seen stories on the news of people in public slipping on ice or falling down a few steps and injuring themselves, only to blame their mistake on the owners of the property and sue them for any damages. Or perhaps you’ve seen these stories on social media in the form of polls asking whether or not the victim is overreacting and lashing out after feeling embarrassed and publicly humiliated. The truth is that, in most cases, these victims are entirely within their right to sue, and are, in fact, encouraged to do so. You see, the reason for this is that property owners have a legal responsibility to protect the safety of any and every individual who steps foot onto their property, and can be held liable if they fail to do so. This responsibility is more commonly known, in legal terms, as premises liability.
Tumbling Head-First into Misfortune
Slipping and falling accidents are the most common root on which the majority of premises liability cases are built. Property owners are required to follow safety regulations to prevent these types of cases, such as marking hazards with the proper signage to draw attention to them so that guests know to stay away. This practice is recognizably implemented through the use of signs posted on roads and walkways that warn of areas that are prone to heavy icing or the use of wet floor signs to warn against a temporary spill. Caution tape and reflective hazard tape and paint can also be used to warn against steep drop-offs or cracks or otherwise uneven levels on the floor.
Stairs tend to be one of the leading causes of slip and fall incidents. Property owners have to ensure that their staircases meet certain safety expectations, being well-lit, well-signed, and having a slope within the legal range. If property owners fail to do any of this and it causes their guests to suffer from a slip and fall accident, they could be held liable and be forced to provide financial compensation to the victim as a result of their negligence.
Encountering Unexpected Danger
When you step foot on another person’s property, whether it be that of a business or an acquaintance, you expect that every interaction you have while there will be amicable. This, unfortunately, is not always the case though. An alarming number of premises liability cases start with a property owner’s negligence in hiring or in their failure to warn guests of potentially dangerous animals or persons on the premises. To guarantee that guests are interacting with individuals who won’t harm them, commercial property owners need to be sure that the proper background checks have been conducted on any employees who work on the premises. Commercial property owners should also have an adequate amount of security for the services that they provide. In Rockford, IL, this would mean that the local bars would require a more present security force than, say, the Anderson Japanese Gardens, given their more rowdy nature.
Property owners have a responsibility to warn you of any dangers you face when you come onto their premises, this extends to private property owners as well, especially in the case of a vicious family pet. If your neighbor has a dog with a history of attacking visitors but neglects to tell you and you end up sustaining serious injuries, you would have cause to pursue a premises liability case.
Improperly Contained Hazards
It’s a terrible thing, to hear of a child drowning, but the fact is that it is alarmingly common despite how preventable it is. It’s so common, even, that it tops the list of causes of death for children ages 1-4. You might wonder why this is such a prevalent issue, and the answer is negligence. While laws vary on the subject, most home insurance companies will refuse coverage unless a property owner has a fence around their pool, since it could be seen as an “attractive nuisance,” meaning it could tempt children to trespass and could cause them harm if they choose to do so.
Fences should also be used to keep trespassers away from any hazardous construction projects, such as property remodels. Putting up a fence can also help property owners keep hazards contained on their properties, lowering the risk of injury to others.
If you suffered injuries while on another person’s property and you suspect that the incident would have been avoided were it not for the negligence of the property owner, then you are highly encouraged to pursue a premises liability lawsuit. The first step in doing so is finding a skilled premises lawyer who can guide you through the process and keep fighting for you every step of the way.