The hottest area of personal liability law is the area of PREMISES LIABILITY. By the time you get done reading this chapter, your blood should be running COLD through your veins! Read the following FAQ which I borrowed from a plaintiff lawyer’s brochure:
“If you have been injured on someone else’s property, whether at a residential home during a social event, or while visiting a commercial establishment, you may be uncertain about your rights and responsibilities, and how to take the right steps to protect your interests. This page answers basic questions about premises liability, so that you can work effectively with you lawyer to get full and fair compensation for your injuries.
At XYZ Legal Group, we have over 32 years of experience focusing exclusively on the rights of personal injury victims, including people with premises liability claims. We offer skill, experience and knowledge, combined with meticulous preparation, carefully investigating every aspect of your claim. Our attorneys often settle premises liability claims at or above insurance policy limits and we have secured many verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million.
For a free case evaluation, contact XYZ Legal Group by e-mail or call our office at 404-555-1212 (toll-free at 800-123-4567) to set up an appointment.
WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT PREMISES LIABILITY
What is premises liability?
The owner of residential or commercial property has a duty to maintain the premises in a condition that reasonably avoids the risk of injury to visitors. In the alternative, the owner must provide adequate warning of any dangers that are known or should reasonably be known. This includes defects or conditions that could result in a slip and fall, such as slippery surfaces or broken steps, stairways, pavement or asphalt. The owner may also be responsible for malfunctioning elevators or building / deck collapse, as well as injuries suffered as a result of inadequate lighting or security.
What damages can I recover for a premises liability claim?
You may recover for all financial damages, including lost wages and income, as well as unreimbursed medical expenses or costs of treatment, including physical therapy or rehabilitation. You may also be able to get compensation for physical pain and suffering, as well as loss of companionship or consortium.
What do I need to prove to recover damages?
A premises liability action is based a theory of negligence. To prove negligence, you must first show that the wrongdoer breached the commonly accepted duty to exercise due care. Based on the facts you present, the jury will determine if such a breach occurred. You must also show that the breach caused your injury and that you suffered damages as a result.
How soon do I have to file a claim for damages?
The statute of limitation, the time in which you must file a lawsuit for damages, is set by state law. In California, Nevada and Arizona, it is 2 years. Nonetheless, you want to contact an attorney as soon as possible, so that you can preserve the evidence to support your claim.
Georgia Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury: Most actions for injuries to the person must be brought within two years after the right of action accrues. Injuries to the person involving loss of consortium (the ability to engage in sexual relations) must be brought within four years after the right of action accrues. Actions for damages to personal property must be brought within four years.
How much will it cost me?
Premises liability claims are generally handled on a contingency basis. Your attorney will only charge legal fees if you recover compensation for your losses.
Who can I sue for damages?
Any party whose actions are said to be a proximate cause of your injury can be liable for damages. To establish proximate cause, you must show that the injuries you sustained were reasonably foreseeable from the acts of the wrongdoer.
The owners of a residential rental property have a duty to maintain the physical property and common areas to reasonably avoid safety risks to residents and their guests. If you have been injured in a fall caused by a broken step or stairway, or slippery floors in a hallway or community room, you want an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you get full and fair compensation for all your losses, including wages and income, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
While residential landlords may have no control over conditions inside your rental home, they are responsible for any safety threats that exist in common areas inside the building or in parking lots, on sidewalks and at other outside areas. Landlords must either repair any known hazards or provide reasonable notice of any known dangers.
Poor or negligent maintenance of residential rental property can lead to premises liability actions, including cases involving
* slips and falls. Cases involving slippery floors in halls, laundry rooms, storage areas, community rooms, workout rooms or other common areas in a residential rental facility. Also, injury claims involving broken or defective steps or stairways, as well as torn or damaged carpet or other flooring.
* inadequate security. If you have been injured in a hallway, corridor, elevator, parking lot or other common area, in an attack that could have been avoided with appropriate security, we will help you seek full and fair compensation for your injuries.
* broken elevators or escalators. We represent people who have been injured by defective, broken or malfunctioning elevators or escalators at residential complexes.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall or other premises liability accident, we will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for your injuries.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: You will notice in the killer lease we ask the tenant to state that he has inspected the interior and the exterior of the premises and found it to be reasonably safe and secure, and further agrees to notify the landlord immediately if he finds anything that might represent a threat to his security or safety. In addition, adding an INTERIOR & EXTERIOR SECURITY CHECK to your annual safety inspection is a smart idea.
Demonstrating fault in premises liability cases relies on proving the presence of three distinct factors:
a. Duty of Care
The first vital component to demonstrating liability in your personal injury case is establishing that the defendant had a legal responsibility to maintain the property in a safe fashion, take basic precautions to minimize dangers to others when performing any actions which could foreseeably result in harm, or otherwise provide a standard of reasonable care. Your premises liability case will not be able to go forward if you cannot prove that the defendant was the party (or among the parties) responsible for ensuring safe conditions at the time and place in which your injury occurred. Establishing this duty of care can be accomplished through statute, contract, the common law standards of the jurisdiction, or by an expert rendering an opinion.
Example: A landlord has a responsibility to provide the renters, guests and their invitees to the premises a living environment reasonably free of hazards.
b. Breach of Duty
After having established that the defendant had a responsibility to provide a safe environment and minimize hazards, the plaintiff in a premises liability case must demonstrate that the party in question failed in that duty, either through negligence or through careless action. A negligent breach of responsibility occurs when the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to discover and rectify a hazardous situation on their property not caused through their direct actions, but failed to do so. A careless breach results from specific actions taken by the defendant that created a dangerous situation.
Example: If a roof begins to leak in a rental property, and the landlord is notified yet fails to take prompt action to fix the leak and remove the slipping hazard it represents, the landlord may be demonstrated to have committed a negligent breach of responsibility.
Example: You hire a handyman who is engaged in repairing a broken light fixture. He leaves their ladder and tools out while taking a lunch break. You and he may have committed a careless breach of responsibility, as these items present a hazard to residents or their guests who may trip over them.
Causation of the Injury
The final element required to demonstrate premises liability in a personal injury case is the ability to prove that the breach of duty previously established was the cause of the injury. The plaintiff must be able to show the court that the dangerous situation caused by the negligent or careless actions of the defendant in breach of their responsibility to take reasonable safety precautions directly resulted in the harm the plaintiff sustained. The defense lawyers will try to argue that the injury may have had some other cause, so plaintiff must be able to draw a direct line between the hazardous situation and the injuries sustained, using expert and lay witness testimony and physical evidence.
Example: In the case of the previously mentioned roof leak, the defendant uses the testimony of other residents (and maybe even neighbors) to show the court that the fall that caused his injuries happened when he slipped in the rain water on the floor. An expert (like the treating doctor) is called to testify that the injuries the doctor treated are causally related to the accident.
Certain factors can complicate your premises liability case. Some issues may negate or reduce the defendant’s legal liability. For instance, if the defense counsel can prove that you were in an area that was off-limits (such as entering a non resident storage area of a property when you were harmed) or in which you had a reasonable expectation of a hazardous environment when the injury took place, that fact can damage your claim of liability. Similarly, the defense may attempt to prove comparative negligence – the idea that some negligent action on the plaintiff’s part caused or contributed to the accident.
Alternately, you may find that additional parties are liable as defendants in your injury claim, such as the manager himself, the management company, and the property owner of the premises where your injury took place. Often, the plaintiff’s attorney sues everyone in sight, hoping that someone will come forward and offer to settle.
The bottom line here is that you can not stop someone from suing you. But you CAN and SHOULD take every reasonable step to minimize your potential liability.