I was Hurt on Someone Else’s Property, what are My Options?
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common accidents that happen to individuals. These types of accidents can happen just about anywhere, and oftentimes they occur when you are visiting a friend or neighbor, or when you are at a public establishment such as a restaurant or retail store. Most slip and fall accidents result in minor injuries, perhaps just some nicks, scrapes, or bruises. But there are times when these accidents can be far more than a minor inconvenience. Some result in injuries that require medical treatment, several days, weeks, or even months off from work, and an extensive period of rehabilitation before you are fully recovered.
Many individuals wonder what legal options they have if they get hurt on someone else’s property. Is the other party responsible to compensate them for their injuries? In some cases, the answer is “yes”. This type of case would be pursued under the legal theory known as “premises liability.”
Under premises liability, property owners and caretakers can be held liable for injuries that occur on their premises that result from their negligence or willful conduct. This can apply to both public and private property. In addition to slips and falls, liability can extend to numerous other incidents that may cause someone to get hurt on the property; such as animal attacks, fires and explosions, swimming pool accidents, negligent security (resulting in assault and/or robbery), and exposure to toxic substances.
What was your purpose for being on the property?
The extent of a property owner or caretaker’s liability for injuries to visitors who enter their premises depends largely on the status of the property visitor. So, to determine if you might have a case for premises liability, you must first determine what type of visitor you were when you got hurt on the property.
There are three general types of property visitors:
- Invitees: An invitee is someone who has explicit or implied permission to enter the property. In general, invitees who enter private property offer some type of potential financial benefit for the property owner, lessee, or caretaker. Examples may include customers and patrons of restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, and retail establishments. Those who rent or lease an apartment may also fall into this category. An invitee may also be someone who enters property that that is open to the general public, such as a public park. The highest duty of care is owed to invitees, and those in charge of the property must take steps to keep it free of dangers and hazardous conditions, or to adequately warn guests when these conditions are present.
- Licensees: A licensee also has express or implied permission to enter a property, but they generally do so for their own purpose. Examples of licensees may include neighbors, social guests, mail and delivery carriers, and door-to-door sales people. Licensees are owed a slightly lower duty of care than invitees. In general, an owner or caretaker must take reasonable measures to safeguard licensees from known hazards and/or provide adequate warnings of their existence.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who has no legal right to be on the property. As such, the lowest duty of care is owed to this category of visitor. The only obligation owners and caretakers generally have with regards to trespassers is to refrain from willful and wanton conduct that may cause them harm.
Invitees have the best chance of being successful with a premises liability claim. If you were a licensee, you may still have a case depending on the specific circumstances that resulted in your injury, but your case may be more difficult to prove. If you were a trespasser, you would be facing an uphill battle if you decided to bring any type of legal action against the property owner for your injury.
Common defenses a property owner may use to avoid premises liability
Establishing that you had a legal right to be on the property and that you were owed a duty of reasonable care is only half the battle. You must also be prepared to rebut the claim that you were at least partially responsible for the underlying incident that resulted in your injury.
There are several assertions that a defendant might make to blame the plaintiff for their injury. Some of the most common may include:
- The defendant was not aware of the hazard that resulted in the injury;
- The defendant took reasonable steps (such as putting up signs or cones) to make visitors aware of the hazard;
- The danger or hazard (that caused the injury) was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person;
- The plaintiff was not paying adequate attention to what they were doing when they were injured (e.g., they were texting someone on their phone rather than watching what was in front of them);
- The plaintiff was in an area of the property where visitors are not allowed and/or expected to enter;
- The plaintiff was not wearing the appropriate footwear to be in the area of the property where they were walking.
Because your claim is certain to be forcefully challenged by the defendant, it is important to take several steps to preserve your legal rights:
- Take multiple photographs of the accident scene showing the hazardous condition and how you got hurt. If you were unable to do this, have someone who is with you take the pictures;
- Obtain the contact information of any individuals who may have witnessed the event and can testify on your behalf;
- Write down, in as much detail as possible, what happened and the circumstances that led to your injury while it is fresh in your mind;
- Get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case.
Injured on Someone Else’s Property in Kentucky? Contact John H. Ruby & Associates for Legal Help
If you were injured on the property of another party in Kentucky, speak with the skilled attorneys at the law offices of John H. Ruby & Associates to fully assess your case and review your legal rights and options. Call our office today at 502-895-2626 to schedule a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Louisville office at your convenience.