What Are Premises Liability Claims?
America’s #1 accident lawyers explain how you can win your premises liability lawsuit
Accidents often happen when we least expect them. They often occur in the places that feel the most comfortable and mundane. People suffer injuries at the grocery store or a close friend’s home. As the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) reports, the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States is slip and fall accidents. In fact, 8 million Americans (21.3%) seek emergency treatment for a fall each year. As such, the most common accidents are slip and fall accidents. However, they are not the only accidents that occur outside of the home. Accident victims who suffer injuries at a business or property may be able to file premises liability claims to recover their losses.
Premises liability law can be tricky. As such, the nation’s best personal injury lawyers from Munley Law are here to help. If you’re ready to discuss the details of your accident and the millions we’ve won for our premises liability clients, call, text, chat, or email us. Today and every day, the consultation with an award-winning Munley Law accident lawyer is 100% free.
Defining premises liability lawsuits
In order to win your premises liability case, you must understand what constitutes a premises liability lawsuit. Like many other personal injury claims, premises liability cases are based on negligence. However, there is no one specific type of accident or harm that premises liability victims suffer. Instead, what these claims all have in common is that some feature of another’s property or a business caused the victim’s harm.
Common examples of premises liability cases include:
- Slip and fall
- Swimming pool accidents and drownings
- Dog bite
- Elevator accidents
- Defective property conditions
- Snow or ice accidents
- Asbestos exposure
- Chemical burns, fumes, and toxic spills
- Inadequate security or safety features such as lighting
What must you prove to win your premises liability case?
Because premises liability claims are a type of negligence, you will need to prove the four elements of negligence in order to win.
Firstly, you will need to prove that the person or business that you are suing–the “defendant”–owed a “duty of care to you.” In essence, a duty is a person or company’s legal obligation to take certain measures to protect someone who enters onto their property. In many negligence cases, the defendant’s duty is a fairly straight-forward analysis. However, in premises liability lawsuits, analyzing duty is more complex. Here, the duty the defendant owed the victim depends on why the victim was on the premises and how the victim behaved. In other words, the law recognizes different categories of visitors and imposes different rules accordingly. While each state makes its own legal distinctions, Pennsylvania law recognizes three different categories of guests: trespassers, licensees, and invitees.
When someone enters onto another’s property without permission, then they are a “trespasser” under Pennsylvania law. In short, land and business owners owe trespassers essentially zero duty of care. As a result, when trespassers suffer injuries on someone else’s property, they almost never win their premises liability claims.
Unlike trespassers, licensees have permission to be on a premises and thus, defendants owe them a duty of care. Licensees enter onto property for social reasons. For example, if you host a birthday party or a holiday dinner at your house, your guests are licensees under Pennsylvania law. With respect to licensees, property and business owners have a duty to warn about any known hazards. Thus, if you know that your basement is leaking toxic fumes and you do not tell a friend who comes to visit you at your home, you violated your duty. However, in Pennsylvania, a landowner’s duty does not extend beyond the duty to warn about known dangerous conditions. Thus, you would not be held liable for dangers that you did not know about. Likewise, for licensees, there is no duty to inspect for or repair hazardous conditions.
Finally, invitees make up the last category of guests for the purposes of Pennsylvania premises liability cases. Invitees enter a premises for a business reason or to confer an economic benefit on another. For example, restaurant patrons, overnight hotel guests, and retail customers are all invitees. Business and landowners owe invitees the highest duty of care. Specifically, they must keep any part of their premises where invitees could be reasonably safe. In contrast to trespassers and licensees, property owners must affirmatively fix or warn about dangerous property conditions that are known or “reasonably knowable.” In other words, they must regularly inspect their premises and correct or alert invitees about any potential hazards.
After establishing this first element, premises liability plaintiffs must prove that the defendant breached or violated his, her, or its duty of care.
Thirdly, you must establish causation in order to win your premises liability claims. In other words, you must show that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the harm you suffered.
For example, consider the following supermarket slip and fall accident: a customer decided not against purchasing the 5-lb bag of ice in his shopping cart. Instead of putting the ice bag in the freezer, he simply placed it on the bottom shelf in an aisle. The ice melted onto the floor. 5 hours later, a victim slipped on the puddle, fell, and sustained permanent brain injuries.
Here, the victim is an invitee because she entered onto the premises with permission (the store was open and allowed customers in) in order to confer an economic benefit on the supermarket (purchasing groceries). Thus, the supermarket had a duty to reasonably inspect and correct or warn about the puddle because customers could slip and get hurt. The grocery store breached that duty when, 5 hours after the spill, it still had not cleaned up or warned about the dangerous condition. To prove causation, the victim would have to show that the grocery store’s breach caused her injuries.
Finally, premises liability plaintiffs must show damages. In order words, they must show that they actually suffered harm.
Hire a premises liability lawyer who will win your lawsuit
Who you choose to represent you in your premises liability case matters. All lawyers and all law firms are not the same. At Munley Law, we let our results do the talking for us. To learn more about the millions we win for accident victims, what our clients say about us, and how we can win your case, schedule your free consultation right away.
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