When Should I Consider a Claim for Premises Liability?

When someone gets injured on the property of another, the property or premises owner may be exposed to liability for failing to upkeep his property or warn others of dangerous conditions which exist on his property. This is particularly true in the setting where the property owner "invites" guests to his property for business gain as in the case of a retail store.

When patrons of a business visit the business to shop, that business may be liable for unreasonably dangerous conditions posed by the property. Slip and fall cases illustrate this point. If a piece of sidewalk is broken, but not noticeable to the average person, it could pose a serious risk of injury.

Amusement park injuries are often caused by the failure to properly maintain the ride or premises which give rise to a cause of action against the owners or managers of the property. Elevator accidents and electrocution accidents are two more examples where people may get injured due to the negligence of the premises owner or manager in failing to properly maintain the property.

Hotels and motels also may be liable to their invited guests for injuries that occur on their premises as a result of poor maintenance or negligence. Water damage can cause ceilings to cave in or walls to collapse. Faulty fire alarms, fire extinguishers or negligence in failing to properly notify guests are also potential areas of exposure for a hotel and motel.

Stairways and staircases frequently form the basis of litigation. The lack of handrails or uniformity in design or building of the risers are potential bases of liability.

Usually, one of the most important factors to consider in bringing premises liability cases is the knowledge of the property owner regarding the condition. If it can be proven that the property owner knew about the dangerous condition of his property and failed to act to fix it, then liability can usually be imposed.

Another factor to consider is the potential recovery from an insurance company. If a negligent property owner knows of a defective condition that causes injury to another, but has not insured himself against that risk, then a case may not be worth pursuing if the property owner does not have substantial assets. Many businesses have broad policies that cover their potential risks in many areas. However, certain intentional conduct or conduct which may be expensive to insure (environmental damages) may not be contained in their policies.

Premises cases are generally difficult cases which require the testimony of experts to prove. Expert testimony can be costly and thus, the damages suffered by the victim must make the case worth pursuing economically. Experience handling these cases is also a must. Your attorney should have experience with the insurance agreements that cover these risks as well as experience in handling these types of cases.

In deciding whether or not to bring a case for premises liability make sure that the defective condition of the property was known by the landowner or was so obvious that it should have been known by him. This is the biggest hurdle to overcome in evaluating these cases.