Premises Liability Lawyer
Premises liability refers to a body of personal injury law that holds property owners responsible for injuries that occur on their property under certain circumstances. Premises liability cases can present complicated issues. For instance, the type of property–residential, commercial or recreational–determines the particular responsibilities imposed on the landowner and the evidence needed to support liability.
Further, the landowner faces different duties of care based on the status of the injured person on the property:
Business Invitees and Licensees
Retail stores and other businesses invite customers called business invitees onto their property to buy products or services. In contrast, a licensee is someone who is invited to your home for personal or other business. Massachusetts has abandoned the distinction between business invitees and licensees in determining the liability of a landowner. Instead, the owner or occupier of land has a duty of reasonable care to all lawful entrants.
Examples of premises liability claims in a business invitee context are injuries sustained by a person who was assaulted in a dimly lit parking lot lacking security personnel, or in a nightclub or restaurant by an obviously intoxicated or violent patron where security should have restrained or removed the assailant from the premises before the attack. Other common scenarios are slipping on an icy or wet surface, or defective step, that has been present for an unreasonably long time.
Licensees are impliedly invited to the property, such as a meter reader or mail carrier who comes onto your property for a certain purpose. A typical premises liability claim is a dog attack on a licensee or a slip and fall on a defective step that was known to the owner.
Notice is usually an issue in these cases. Actual notice is given to the owner if an agent of the owner sees the condition or someone informs the agent of the danger. Constructive notice is deemed if the dangerous condition existed for a long enough time where the owner should have been aware of the hazard and no action was taken to warn or to remove the danger.
Trespassers are those individuals who are on property unlawfully or who are there intending to break the law. You can legitimately be on someone’s property but become a trespasser when you enter a part of the property where you are not invited or authorized to be. Landowners do not have a duty of care towards trespassers unless the hazard is unusually dangerous. If there is such a hazard, the landowner must post conspicuous warnings that a reasonable person would notice. An exception is if the trespasser is a young child who cannot appreciate the danger and who wanders onto your property and is injured or killed. A common tragedy is a young child who drowns in an unfenced swimming pool.
Landlords have contractual duties to tenants to provide a safe place to live among other obligations. They can be held liable for breach of warranty of habitability if their property violates a building or housing code.
In most of these cases, there are issues of notice. A landowner who knew or should have known of a hazardous condition and failed to act may be liable. Notice may be actual or constructive. Actual notice is someone who brings the hazardous condition to the attention of the landowner or landlord such as a slippery floor or defective step. If the condition existed long enough so that the landowner should have known of its existence, then constructive notice is implied.
Common Causes of Premises Liability Injuries
All the issues stated above express why you need an experienced premises liability lawyer to advise and represent you when you are injured on someone else’s property because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of the landowner. Common examples of premises liability cases include:
- Slip and falls on foreign substances or uneven surfaces
- Dog bite and animal attacks
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Drownings in home or motel swimming pools
- Inadequate fencing or gating around deep holes or swimming pools
- Negligent security in parking lots resulting in an assault or robbery
- Poor lighting
- Falls from failure to remove snow and ice
- Collapse of porches or stairs
- Balcony and deck failure to hold certain numbers of people
- Defective steps
- Building and housing code violations
- Exposure to toxic fumes
How is Liability Proved?
Evidence in premises liability cases can be easily obscured or removed. Not only must your lawyer be familiar with the various legal issues pertaining to your premises liability case, he or she must know how to secure the evidence but establish that the owner had sufficient notice of the condition and had time to warn or to remove the hazard.
A premises liability lawyer can take these steps to support your injury case:
- Send letters to stop the destruction of video evidence, if available;
- Obtain incident reports, investigative materials, police reports and photographs, government reports and other relevant documents to establish the property’s condition and how long the condition had existed;
- Investigate and photograph the scene to preserve evidence before repairs are done; and
- Take negligent property owners to trial.
A successful premises liability attorney knows how to deal with property owners and insurance companies so that your claim is handled in a timely and efficient manner. If you are involved in a premises liability accident, seek prompt medical attention as necessary. If you are able to do at the accident scene, secure the names and addresses of witnesses and of property or business owner personnel who were present. Do not talk to or give any recorded or written statements to anyone, including insurance agents or adjusters, until you secure legal representation from an experienced premises liability lawyer.