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When it comes to a serious injury, your entire life can change in an instant. Suddenly you’re facing physical difficulties and medical bills. Perhaps you’ve even lost the ability to do your job and earn a paycheck. These unexpected injuries can make the future feel uncertain, especially if you anticipate additional surgeries or procedures. After working with countless personal injury clients, we understand what you’re going through. There is help. If you’ve been hurt on someone else’s property, and you believe they are to blame, you may have a premises liability case.
Property owners are responsible for minimizing risks as much as possible on their property. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, our premises liability attorneys can help you secure the compensation you need to cover long-term costs and lost wages. We’re dedicated to helping our clients recover from traumatic injuries and ensuring they understand the full scope of their rights. If you believe you have a premises liability case, this is what you need to know about the process.
What Is Premises Liability Law?
When a personal injury is caused by defective or unsafe conditions on someone else’s property, premises liability comes into play. A property owner is responsible for using reasonable care when it comes to maintenance. There should be no unreasonable risk of harm when you’re on someone else’s property, whether it is a home or a business.
For example, if a restaurant owner fails to repair a broken step that results in a visitor’s injury, they may be liable. They may be required to cover medical expenses, or any lost wages.
Like most areas of the law, issues of premises liability are not black and white. In many states, the law favors the one who is injured. Other states are set up to favor the premises owner over the victim. These states often limit the property owner’s duties depending on their relationship to the visitor, which could have an impact on your case.
In general, these are divided into three separate categories:
- Invitee: A person who has the property owner’s stated or implied permission to enter, such as family members, friends, and neighbors. A duty of reasonable care is traditionally owed to these invited individuals.
- Licensee: A salesman or other individual coming onto the property for his or her own purposes. The property owner owes the licensee a warning about any unreasonable risk of harm if the licensee is unlikely to discover it.
- Trespasser: Someone who is not authorized to be on property and is not owed any duty of care. Exceptions are made for children, especially when it comes to certain conditions like swimming pools.
These laws and definitions differ from state to state. An experienced premises liability attorney can help determine the potential merit of your case, based on its unique circumstances.
Who’s Liable After An Injury?
Property owners are responsible for maintaining a safe property. When they fail to do so, and someone is hurt as a result of their negligence, there may be cause for a premises liability lawsuit. This is especially true for commercial spaces or multi-family housing units like apartments. Because these areas are open to the general public, there is an additional responsibility for property owners to maintain a safe space.
Although premises liability cases can be difficult, and while each case is unique, a thorough investigation can help prove owner negligence and responsibility. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we investigate potential cases. The most important factors we examine are whether the property owner knew of the problem and had time to correct it.
Additionally, we look for issues like lack of maintenance or negligent security. We use expert witnesses, such as engineers, architects, maintenance experts, and others, to help us understand how an accident occurred and whether the owner could have prevented it.
What Are The Most Common Premise Liability Cases?
There are several different incidents that are classified as premises liability cases. These are some of the more common reasons people seek the help of a premises liability lawyer.
Slips and falls
If you slip and fall on someone else’s property, the resulting injuries can be life changing. These cases are difficult because a judge must decide if your own carelessness was a contributing factor. However, there are many issues that can come down to negligence on the property owner’s part. These may include:
- Poor lighting
- Flooring issues
- Something that didn’t belong in the middle of a pathway
- Stairs or walkways in disrepair
When it comes to issues of ice and other weather conditions, these cases become tricky. Some states have a "natural accumulation" rule, which relieves a property owner of liability in connection with the natural accumulation of snow and ice. This will largely depend on where you live and if it was reasonable for you to assume that you would encounter these conditions.
In general, inadequate security cases are most common in apartment or office buildings. Owners of these buildings have a responsibility to maintain safety measures that will protect lessees and visitors from criminal activity. If you are suing for negligent security, your team will need to show that the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to discover similar prior criminal activities or failed to give adequate warnings so visitors could avoid injury.
What counts as adequate security? Each case will be different, but lighting, security cameras, security patrols, and hardware such as locks are most common.
Swimming pool accidents
Most premises liability cases involving swimming pools come down to children and unsupervised or unsecured pools.
To protect children safety, most states and local governing bodies have laws and ordinances requiring pool gates that lock. With this in mind, those who leave their pools open and unattended may be liable for drowning accidents.
Animal and dog bites
Pet owners have a responsibility to contain their pets with fencing or keep them on a leash, especially if they’re known to be aggressive.
However, states can differ when it comes to these laws. In Texas, for example, the “one bite rule” relieves the owner of responsibility if they had no way of telling the dog would bite someone. Owners may be held liable if they had knowledge of their dog's aggression ahead of time. In these cases, you must prove that the animal had a history of bites and dangerous behavior before the attack, or the owner otherwise was negligent in their care.
Premises liability cases come in many forms. Routine safety inspections are essential for property owners to protect tenants and visitors. When we talk about inadequate maintenance, examples may include checking for outdated smoke alarms or expired safety inspections on an elevator.
Neglecting to keep up with these types of safety measures can result in dangerous incidents.
Am I Eligible For Compensation?
If you are trying to determine whether you have a strong premises liability case, there are several things to consider. While all cases vary, the elements that typically must be present in order to receive compensation include:
- Duty of care: It must be proven that the defendant owned, leased, or occupied the property, making them responsible for maintaining a safe environment for visitors.
- Breach of duty: After “duty of care” is established, you must be able to prove that the defendant had an opportunity to discover the hazard and correct it.
- Causation of the injury: From there, your team must prove that your injury was directly caused by the breach of duty. This usually comes down to photographic or video evidence, eyewitness testimony, and medical records.
- Damages: Any damages must be documented, like medical bills and records of lost wages. Pain and suffering can also occur from the emotional stress caused by the injury. This may include temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression, and other issues.
While these are important factors, every situation is unique. A premises liability attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to build a strong case.
Our Approach at Huber, Thomas & Marcelle
At Huber Thomas and Marcelle, we take a collaborative approach to every premises liability case. The lawyer on your case will work closely with other attorneys in our firm in order to give you the edge you need. In the end, you will always benefit from multiple viewpoints and areas of expertise.
In reality, 95% of cases settle outside of court. Because it is expensive and time-consuming for both parties, this is the best way to receive a timely settlement. However, we still prepare for every single case as if it's going to trial. This involves extensive research, including witnesses and medical records. We will also comb through incident reports, police reports, and even weather records (if relevant). Our team completes this research in order to build a solid case with accurate information.
We know this approach gives us more knowledge and power at the negotiating table. If the other party knows that your team is willing and ready to take a case to court, they'll be more likely to propose a fair settlement. Plus, if your case does go to court, you're working with an attorney who already has the confidence and knowledge that is necessary during a trial.
Our Courtroom Successes
We're proud to say that we've helped our clients recover millions of dollars after life-changing injuries or events. We go to great lengths to prepare for every case as if it's going to trial by working with the nation’s leading expert witnesses. If you would like to learn more about how we can help, we encourage you to read through our extensive list of previous case victories.
- $1.2 million secured for a child injured by a defective Wal-Mart product
- Settlement of $26 million for a Louisiana building owner’s property damage
- $2.2 million settlement obtained for an injured electrical subcontractor
If you’re searching for a Texas or Louisiana premises liability lawyer, Huber Thomas & Marcelle can help. You should never face your case alone.
We’re Here To Help
Injuries can change your entire life in an instant. Between mounting medical bills and lost wages, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. The experienced lawyers at Huber Thomas & Marcelle can walk with you through each critical step of the process.
If you’d like to discuss the details of your premises liability case, please contact us today.