What is premises liability?
Premises liability is a concept in personal injury law in which a plaintiff holds a property owner/operator liable for injuries that could have been prevented. The injured party needs to prove that the defendant—the property owner—neglected their duty to their guest in some way.
They need to prove:
- There was a duty of care that the property owner owed to their guest(s)
- There was a breach of that duty which allowed an accident to occur
- The plaintiff was hurt as a result of the breach of duty
Why do premises liability accidents happen?
Premises liability accidents happen because the property owner failed at their duty of care to clean, maintain, or remove hazards on their property for visiting guests to be kept safe. You can establish this duty of care, as dictated by premises liability law, by citing one of the jurisdiction’s common law standards, providing a copy of the contract or lease that lists the defendant as one of the responsible parties, or by calling upon expert witnesses who can testify to this duty of care.
On an ongoing basis, a property operator must consistently be on the lookout for and promptly fix hazards. And if they are unable to fix them, at least provide sufficient warning of the hazard to the guests. If the owner fails to do any of these things, then accidents may occur for which they can be held liable.
Who can be held liable if I suffered an injury on someone else’s premises?
That would depend on the type of premises and the circumstances surrounding the ownership of the property; however, you can generally hold one person, multiple people, or an entire business liable for your injury.
For example, a property owner may use their property to house a public business that has daily patrons that they must keep safe, even when the property owner is not presently on the property. This duty may also still apply if the owner rents out the space to another business, in which case, both the owner and the separate operator may be held liable for accidents.
By way of example, let’s say a restaurant business rents out a space from a property owner of an up-and-coming building. There is an exposed wire that the restaurant has asked the property owner to fix; however, before this gets fixed, a patron of the restaurant accidently makes contact with the wire and suffers electrical burns because they were not made aware of the danger. Both the owner and the operator may be held liable because (1) the owner failed to take care of the danger in a timely manner and (2) the operator failed to post signs warning guests of the danger.
Finally, a public business is not the only entity that has a standard of care and safety they must upkeep to guests. A private residence owner, such as a neighbor, could invite you onto their property that has a clear and present danger that was not addressed. If you are then injured by this danger, then you may seek fair compensation.
Where can premises liability accidents happen?
As long as you are the guest on someone else’s property, you can suffer a premises liability accident at any location. In some of the most common cases we see, the accidents happen at swimming pools, amusement parks, hotels, restaurants, construction sites, and more.
How bad are premises liability accidents?
Premises liability accidents can range from minor to severe. There is often a stigma against slip and falls and their severity, but we have seen devastating injuries happen to innocent people in these types of cases, including concussions, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, internal organ damage, and even wrongful death.
Just how bad are slip and falls? Take a look at the statistics:
- Falls are one of the leading causes of hospital emergency room visits representing about 21.3% of cases, which is over 8 million a year.
- Fractures occur in 5% of all people who fall.
- Slips and falls are not considered a primary cause of deaths that happen while on the job, but they do represent the primary cause of lost days from work.
- 67% of slip and fall deaths are among people over the age of 75.
- Total injuries due to falls are estimated at $13 to 14 million per year in the United States.
- According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22% of slip and fall accidents resulted in more than 31 days away from work.
- According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), floors and flooring materials directly contribute to over 2 million injuries per year.