Premises liability can be a difficult topic to fully grasp. On the one hand, it is pretty easy to understand that premises liability deals with personal injuries and their relationship to the location, or premise, whereupon they occured.
But premises liability is far more complicated than simply identifying the premises where the injury occured. In order to win a premises liability case there are hoops that need to be jumped through and fault that needs to be addressed and, as it turns out, proving fault in a premises liability case isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Why is it So Difficult to Prove Fault for Premises Liability?
Premises liability is difficult to prove because it doesn’t simply require that you be injured on another person’s premises. You do have to be able to prove that you were injured, yes, and that’s honestly the easiest part of the ordeal. But you also need to show that you were hurt due to a hazard of some kind on the premises that is there due to the negligence of the owner of the property.
Other circumstances that are extremely important to a premises liability is what the property is used for, or intended to be used for at least, how the accident that injured you happened, how you happened to be on the premises and if the accident could have been seen ahead of time. These are just a few of the elements that go into a premises liability case but there are many more that are relevant depending on the specifics of the premise itself. For example, an office building and a construction site will each be handled slightly differently from one another.
What Has to be Proven to Win a Premises Liability Case?
Proving fault in a premises liability case lawsuit might be difficult but it is far from impossible.
There are three key elements which need to be proved:
- The Duty of Care: You have to show that the defendant had a duty to care for the property in question. This care covers the basic minimum requirements necessary to prevent any possible dangers that could lead to harm. The defendant has to be shown to be the individual in charge of this. This could be shown in a multitude of ways but it must be shown. If you were injured in a slip and fall in a supermarket’s parking lot then you wouldn’t go after the baker. The defendant must be the one that had the duty to care for the premises.
- That the Duty was Breached: Once you have proven that the defendant did indeed have a duty of care then you must also prove that they breached that duty in their actions. This could be due to carelessness or negligence. Carelessness is when the defendant’s actions created a dangerous situation such as forgetting to put out a wet floor sign after washing. Negligence is when the defendant knew about a dangerous situation on the premises but didn’t do anything about it. Negligence is generally much worse than carelessness because carelessness tends to be short-term while negligence happens over a long period.
- That the Breach Caused Your Injury: Finally, you need to prove that it was just this situation that the defendant allowed for that caused your injury. The defense will want to convince the court that your personal injury was unrelated to the breach of duty. You need to be able to prove that it is if you want to win.
Also important is the status you had while on the premises. This will directly affect your case and can be divided into:
- Invitee: These are people who are invited either by a business or in a public manner to be on the premises. Going out to get groceries is one example of how you could be an invitee to a premise. Places which are open to the public have a high standard of reasonable care for the people on the premises.
- Licensee: These are people who are friends or family members of the property owner who have been given permission to be on the premises. While friends and family members seem like they wouldn’t be an issue to have over, it is still the owner of the premises job to warn them about any possible dangers. If they haven’t warned a licensee then they have breached their duty of care.
- Trespasser: If you are trespassing on a piece of property then the owner of the property owes you nothing. If you are trespassing on the property in question then you may as well not bother trying to win a premises liability case because it is very difficult. But even so, there is a chance because a property owner should still have signs up about potential danger, especially if they are aware that the property is trespassed on regularly. If the trespasser is a child then attractive nuisances come into play, such as if the property had a slide on it that was unguard or not secured. This is attractive to a child and if they then hurt themselves on the slide they may have a case even though trespassing was involved.
What’s the Best Evidence for a Premises Liability Case?
Gathering evidence is an important part of proving your premises liability case.
Evidence that can be quite useful is:
- Pictures: Pictures of the hazard can help to prove that the conditions were unsafe. The closer to the accident the pictures are taken the better.
- Accident Reports: In the case that you made a report about the injury with the police, or even to the property owner, that report can be great evidence about the event.
- Lease Agreements: Lease agreements are useful to show who owned the property and thus who had a duty to uphold in its care.
- Insurance Policies: It is useful to have the insurance policy of the property in question and can give a sense of how much coverage it provides.
- Medical Records/Bills: Medical bills are important for showing the amount of compensation you’re looking for. Medical records are useful for proving your injury.
- Pay Stubs: If you are no longer able to work because of your injury then you’ll want previous pay stubs to show how much money you’re losing due to the injury.
- Witnesses: Witnesses help to give a sense of the conditions of the premise at the time and the sequence of events.
- Experts: Experts can help to prove that the situation was dangerous or to help confirm that your injuries are consistent with the trauma you are claiming.
I Think I Have a Case, What Should I Do?
If you think that you have a case for a premises liability suit then you’re going to need a good attorney. Why not get one of the best? Give us a call at (210) 307-4457 to see how we can help you with your premises liability case claim.