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Determining Accountability in Premises Liability: All You Need to Know

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When you go out to shop, eat or drink, or meet someone, you have a reasonable expectation of not being injured in any way. Nonetheless, accidents do happen – and, when it’s something as minor as a trip, you may not even think of blaming someone else for your fall.

That being said, some accidents can cause grave injuries, too, which is why the right thing to do in such situations is to approach a lawyer and file a case for compensation against the property owner for your injuries. While determining owner accountability and claiming compensation aren’t guaranteed in all cases, knowing about the different situations and factors related to premises liability can help you greatly.

Here are certain things that are taken into consideration while determining accountability in a premises liability case.

Legal Status of the Visitor

Some states focus on the status of the visitor to determine liability. There are generally four labels that apply:

  • Invitees are people invited to the property of another
  • Social guests are welcome visitors to the property of another
  • Licensees enter other property for their own purpose at the consent of the owner
  • Trespassers enter the property of another without any right to do so

According to Tampa premises liability lawyers, property owners or occupants must ensure that their premises are in reasonably safe condition so as to protect invitees from harm. The same applies to social guests, and to a degree, licensees. However, property owners or occupants need not do anything extra to promote the safety of trespassers.

Condition of the Property

A premise may be found to be dangerous if certain conditions expose an individual on the property to harm, or if the owner has no reason to believe that the person visiting the property will realize the risk of harm. Owners aren’t insurers of a visitor’s safety, but they do have to take reasonable care of their premises in order to avoid harm. Also, owners satisfy their duty toward visitors by repairing defects or giving adequate warning about potential dangers.

Common Types of Dangerous Conditions

Any aspect of a building, including ] outdoors, can be dangerous under certain circumstances. Detailed here are a few common types of hazards to look out for:

  • Floors in private residential buildings – as well as in commercial complexes like department stores, grocery stores, and offices – should be free of foreign substances like rain water or oil. Waxing floors incorrectly, especially where there’s a slight incline, can also create a dangerous situation. Moreover, unsafe floor mats and tears and holes in carpets can increase the risk of slips and falls.
  • Just as with floors, stairs should be free of foreign objects, debris, and slippery substances like water and oil. Additionally, stairs should be sturdy and constructed while keeping building codes in mind – narrow and steep steps can contribute to accidents. Note that steps in the same color as the adjacent floor can create an illusion and cause a person to fall!
  • Handrails should be present on stairs to prevent accidents. Unstable handrails and those that terminate before the staircase can pose a risk to visitors.
  • Poor lighting, particularly in staircases and places with obstacles on the ground, can be the reason for accidents.
  • Not taking adequate safety measures to keep third persons out of the property and from harming visitors can make owners liable.
  • Property owners can also be held liable if visitors are attacked or bitten by pet or guard dogs.

Owner’s Negligence

If an individual is injured on someone else’s  property, four elements are taken into consideration to determine the owner’s liability.

  • Duty: As mentioned, property owners need to take significant care of their premises. They also need to routinely inspect their property for hazards, put up warning signs to prevent accidents, and carry out required repairs as soon as possible.
  • Breach of Duty: A breach of duty occurs when a property owner fails to live up to the standard of duty of care toward visitors. A property owner can be deemed negligent if they did not foresee the risk of harm, or if they foresaw risk but didn’t take the right steps to prevent an accident.
  • Causation: Under premises liability, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate a connection between the property owner’s breach of duty and the harm caused. In other words, to determine liability, the owner’s breach of duty must have been a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff.
  • Actual Damages: Simply failing to exercise reasonable care is not enough to determine owner liability; the plaintiff must have suffered actual damages to be able to file a claim.

Actions of the Visitor

A plaintiff can be found to be comparatively negligent if the conduct falls below the standard to which they should have confirmed for their protection. For example, if the injured individual had prior knowledge of the potential danger and failed to exercise reasonable caution, he or she may be held partially or totally responsible for the accident. Common situations could be not holding the handrail while taking the stairs, or running around the edges of the pool.

Trips and falls on another’s property may not seem to be significant, but serious accidents can lead to grave injuries, permanent or temporary disabilities, lifelong medical bills, loss of wages, and even death.

 

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