Accidents can and often do happen. However, if you’re on another person’s property when an accident occurs and it is a result of negligence on the part of the property owner, then you’re entitled to compensation for the injuries sustained in that accident.
Such a claim is referred to as a premises liability case. When bringing such a case before a judge or jury, it is important that you have all of your facts and information lined up and all your “ducks in a row” (http://www.law360.com/articles/753960/how-to-prepare-a-premises-liability-case). Even one element can tip the scales against you. That’s why you should check out these tips for an effective premises liability case so you can be prepared when you go to court (http://baltimore.legalexaminer.com/property-owners-liability-slip-fall/premises-safety-stairs-and-stairwells/).
First, you must have sustained an actual injury that has been documented. If you are injured on someone else’s property, it’s important to see a physician even if you feel fine because there may be an underlying issue that is not immediately noticeable, such as a back or neck injury. This will have to be corroborated by a doctor or medical expert. If the case does go court, the party that you’re suing may request that their experts examine you.
The next step in the process is to determine if the property owner owes you a duty or responsibility to ensure your safety. Let’s clarify a few terms commonly used in premises liability cases. If the owner invites you onto the property in a social context, then you are considered a social invitee. If you enter the property to conduct business, such as entering a store to make a purchase, you are considered a business invitee. In both cases, the property owner could possibly be held liable if you are injured during your time on the property. This is because the owner is said to have a duty to ensure your safety. However, if you’re trespassing, you’re called a “bare licensee” and the owner has no expectation of owing anything to you, even if you are injured due to their negligence.
#3 Prior Knowledge
Just having an accident on another person’s property is not enough grounds to bring a premises liability case. For instance, if you slip on a puddle of spilled water and fall in a grocery store, you will only be able to claim negligence if the business owner (or store employees) knew about the spill and did nothing. If, however, the spill occurs and no one is aware of the situation, then a jury may rule that they’re not at fault. This is because they have to have prior knowledge. Stairway safety is a particularly common problem. It can include such things as loose or fragile stair railings, flooring materials that are not stationary like stair runners that aren’t affixed properly, or lack of proper lighting. Another common type of accident would involve businesses not posting a “Wet Floor” sign after a spill or mopping. In areas with significant snow, failure to remove the snow by shoveling the sidewalk may also result in a “slip and fall” case.
#4 Time to Correct
The fourth piece to the puzzle involves time to correct the problem. Even if a property owner knows about a problem, you must also prove that they must have had time to correct the problem. For instance, let’s assume that you fell down a stairway because of a broken hand railing. If the railing literally broke right before you used it and it had shown no signs of being flimsy, then the owner may not be liable because they did not have time to rectify the problem. However, if the railing broke a month ago and was never repaired, then the owner had sufficient time to fix the railing and could be considered negligent for not having done so.
If you’re injured, then you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and possibly even pain and suffering. However, this will again have to be corroborated and verified. It will be up to the jury or judge to determine the exact amount of the award.
In order to meet the requirements for an effective premises liability case, you must meet all five of these points in preparing your case. However, it’s sometimes hard to tell how such a case will play out in front of a jury. Therefore, it is important to remember that even if you meet all five requirements, you may not be able to recoup compensation. That’s why it’s important to have a qualified and experienced attorney representing you. The attorneys at Wolf & Pravato are available to help apprise you of your rights in such a case.