If you or a member of your family was injured while on another person’s property, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim. Property owners—and sometimes their tenants—have a duty to maintain their premises to a reasonable standard for both invitees and licensees. Even trespassers who suffer injuries may have grounds for a claim depending on the circumstances.
Property owners and possessors who allow invitees onto their premises have a duty to conduct periodic inspections for dangerous conditions. They must remedy such conditions within a reasonable timeframe or post warnings about them. If a licensee is allowed onto the premises, the property owner does not have a duty to perform inspections, but the licensee must be warned about any known dangerous conditions. If the property owner breaches this duty of care, the victim has the right to pursue damages by filing a premises liability claim.
Circumstances That May Warrant a Premises Liability Claim
There are countless circumstances that may provide grounds for a premises liability claim; however, some scenarios are far more common than others. Below are a few examples of accidents that might warrant such a claim:
- Slipping and falling on a wet floor;
- Tripping over an unmarked threshold;
- Falling up or down uneven stairs;
- Tripping over a pothole in the parking lot;
- Getting into a motor-vehicle collision because of a poorly designed parking lot;
- Falling because of loose handrails;
- Getting bitten by a dog; and
- Getting assaulted because of poor lighting and/or inadequate security.
What Is the Difference Between Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers?
The duty of care owed to a person who is on someone else’s property depends on his or her visitor status—i.e. whether that person is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. The owner or possessor of a property owes the highest duty of care to invitees, which are people who are invited onto the premises for business purposes. Examples include customers at grocery stores and patrons at restaurants.
Property owners must take reasonable steps to maintain their premises for invitees. As previously mentioned, this involves performing regular inspections and fixing hazards within a reasonable timeframe or posting warnings about such hazards.
Licensees are social guests who are invited onto the premises but not for the economic benefit of the property owner or possessor. Examples include friends and family members who stopped by to chat, or party guests who were welcomed onto the property to celebrate a specific occasion. Property owners have a duty to warn licensees about known hazards or to fix such hazards before allowing licensees onto the premises.
Finally, trespassers are those who were not invited onto the premises and have no lawful reason to be there. Under most circumstances, trespassers cannot bring a premises liability claim for injuries they sustain while on someone else’s property; however, there is one major exception. If there happens to be an attractive nuisance on the premises and the owner fails to take reasonable steps to protect children from injuries, he or she may be liable if a child suffers harm. An attractive nuisance is a manmade feature that’s likely to draw children onto the property such as a trampoline, swimming pool, koi pond, junk car, or farm equipment.
Do Warning Signs, Cones, or Tape Protect Property Owners from Liability?
In some cases, posting signs or putting up cones and tape may protect a property owner from liability in the event of an accident; however, even if clearly visible disclaimers were posted, injury victims may still be able to pursue damages. Warning signs will only affect the imposition of liability if:
- They were clearly visible;
- They were not blocked by plants, shutters, curtains, or some other obstruction;
- They were not unreadable due to dim lighting or small print; and
- They were written in a language that most visitors were likely to understand.
In certain scenarios, there are additional requirements that posted warning signs must meet. For example, local and state ordinances mandate that some signs have letters of a specific size. If the property owner fails to take meet these requirements, the signs may not protect him or her from liability.
What Should I Do Following a Slip and Fall?
If you slip and fall on someone else’s property, what you do in the immediate aftermath and over the days and weeks that follow could have a major impact on the strength of your claim. Some of the most important steps to take right after the accident include:
- Alerting the owner or manager on duty and asking for an incident report;
- Taking note of any surveillance cameras that might have captured the incident;
- Getting the names and phone numbers of eyewitnesses;
- Photographing the hazard responsible for the accident; and
- Seeking prompt medical care.
After your first doctor’s visit, you should call a premises liability attorney right away. Your lawyer can interview eyewitnesses, gather evidence of negligence and liability, and approximate a fair settlement amount. Your legal team can also handle correspondence with the opposing party so you don’t provide statements that harm your case.
It’s wise to start a personal injury journal, as well. Your daily entries should describe how the injuries are affecting your life. You should also discuss any medication side effects; the symptoms you are experiencing; and the severity, frequency, and duration of such symptoms.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Premises Liability Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or a member of your family was hurt on someone else’s property, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. A top-rated trial lawyer, Michael D. Waks has been representing the injured and their families for more than three decades.
Our team is available 24/7 to take your call. You won’t have to pay anything upfront to hire our law firm for representation, and no attorney’s fees will be charged unless your case results in a settlement or trial verdict. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a premises liability lawyer in Long Beach.
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