Businesses and homeowners carry unique responsibilities to their visitors. When an accident occurs on the premises and personal injury results, accident victims often have to determine whether or not to pursue civil litigation in an attempt to recover compensation for their injuries.
If you are a victim who was injured on another person's property, compensation can come to you in many forms, including full financial reimbursement for medical bills, lost wages due to time away from work to heal from injuries, and costs involved in managing “pain and suffering” caused by the accident. In cases of “gross negligence,” where reckless disregard for the safety of others can be proven, punitive damages may be possible, as well.
When deciding whether or not to pursue litigation, getting legal advice from an experienced premises liability attorney is always the preferred course of action. A personal injury lawyer can help an injured person review a number of factors in their case to determine if litigation makes sense in their unique situation.
Among the most salient factors at play in any premises liability case are the duty of care of the property owner and the level of negligence exercised by each party involved in the incident. By better understanding the duty that residential and commercial property owners owe to visitors on the property as well as the role of negligence in the final determination of compensation amounts by the courts, accident victims will be better prepared to determine if litigation is appropriate for their case.
Read on for what accident victims should know if they have been injured on someone else’s property.
Premises Liability Law: The Basics
Premises liability is a term used by the courts to frame personal injury cases where the plaintiff suffered injuries due to the unsafe or defective condition on another's property. Premises liability applies to both commercial and residential property types.
Premises liability cases can take many different forms. Some of the most common types of cases brought before the courts include:
Slip and fall accidents
Accidents due to excessive snow and ice
Insufficient maintenance of the property
A lack of building security enforcement on the premises that leads to injury or assault
Injuries resulting from elevator or escalator malfunction
Injuries resulting from dog bite attacks on the property
Swimming pool accidents resulting in personal injury
Personal injury incurred while visiting an amusement park
Excessive water leaks or flooding and subsequent unsafe structural damage or mold exposure
Health hazards resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals and/or fumes.
As you can see, premises liability claims encompass a wide array of scenarios. Many different entities can be determined liable for personal injury incurred on a property, including business owners, property owners, landlords, and operators of government property. In some cases, managers who do not actually own the property in question may be held liable.
All of these entities have one thing in common: A duty of care with regards to limiting the risk of personal injury to individuals who set foot on the property. In the next section, this duty of care is examined in greater detail.
A Residential Property Owner’s Duty of Care
Guests and visitors of a property should be able to enjoy their experience without fear of injury from improperly maintained environments. These individuals are entitled to a warning if hazards or threats to safety are present on the premises.
According to the Illinois Premises Liability Act, property owners and operators have a duty to maintain the premises and keep it in a reasonably safe condition.
A Business’s Duty of Care
Businesses typically have an obligation to ensure their property is maintained in a reasonably safe manner in order to limit the risk of personal injury to customers and any other individuals who enter onto the premises. To accomplish this duty, commercial property owners are typically required to conduct routine inspections of the property to ensure it is in safe operating condition. These routine inspections are required so that in the event of an accident that causes personal injury on the premises, business owners cannot attest that they were not aware of the unsafe conditions. If the plaintiff can show that a reasonably regular inspection could have uncovered the unsafe condition or property defect, the business may be liable for compensating the victim for damages incurred.
Most of the time, a business is not inherently responsible for the actions of third parties on the property. For example, if two guests at a hotel get into a fight, the hotel is often not responsible for any injuries incurred by the fighters. However, if the actions of a third party were foreseeable, then a business owner may be deemed to have a responsibility to prevent the actions from occurring. For example, if that same hotel is prone to fights and assaults due to a lack of security personnel or inadequate lighting in the parking garage, then a victim of such an attack may be able to pursue litigation against the business.
The Importance of Negligence
Ultimately, whether or not a residential or commercial landowner is deemed liable for damages incurred by a plaintiff is determined by the negligence of the property owner. Courts will look at the negligence of all parties involved, which includes both the plaintiff (i.e. the injured party) and the defendant (i.e. the owner of the property). When the court determines that the plaintiff’s own negligent actions contributed to the accident and subsequent personal injury, the total amount of compensation they are ultimately eligible to receive will be reduced to a proportional degree. For example, if a hotel patron was found to be 25% responsible for an injury incurred on the property, their final damage awards will be reduced by 25%.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
When an injury occurs on private property and litigation is imminent, plaintiffs may feel overwhelmed by the process. For years, the experienced attorneys at the law firm of Palermo Law Group have worked with victims in and around the Oak Brook area as they navigate the law and fight for their right to fair compensation for their injuries. Contact Palermo Law Group today for a free consultation and insight into your unique case.