Am I Responsible If Someone Falls On My Property?
The safety experts, from just about any industry, will tell you that there is no such thing as an accident. Everything is preventable. Despite this optimistic view on safety, the fact of the matter is that accidents do happen and the owner of the property, where an accident occurs, may be responsible for injuries.
Employers typically take the responsibility for injuries on the job with workers compensation claims, but when it’s a private residence, homeowners and business owners need to understand their own responsibility and how to protect their assets.
Keep in mind that when someone comes to your property, they come with an implied reasonable expectation of not getting injured during the visit.
How Responsibility Is Determined
Slips, trips and falls lead to thousands of injuries each year. And they can take place just about anywhere there’s a hazard such as icy sidewalks, spills on floors, loose steps or an uneven surface. The causes are endless and if the property owner knew about the hazard prior to the accident and did nothing to stop it, then there’s a good chance they are liable.
To make the actual legal determination of liability and hold a property owner legally responsible for injuries and move forward with any action, one of the following factors must be judged as true.
- The owner was aware of the dangerous condition and did nothing to correct the problem prior to the visitor entering the property.
- The property owner was unaware of the dangerous situation, but should have known in the eyes of a “reasonable person.”
- The owner of the property knowingly created an unsafe condition that led to the injury.
Decisions on legal liability come from common sense, even if it takes a lengthy process to reach the end result. When it comes down to a judge or jury making a ruling, they look for information that leads them to believe that the owner of a property took adequate steps to keep their property safe. The law focuses on whether or not an owner made a consistent effort to maintain a safe property, clean and in compliance with the proper codes.
More factors for determining liability could include the following:
- What is the length of time a potentially dangerous situation existed and was there enough time for the owner to become aware and then repair the condition?
- Did the owner make the attempt to correct the condition and were those actions adequate?
- If the victims actions could be deemed careless, did they contribute to the cause of the accident?
The last bullet mentions what’s known as “comparative negligence”, which allows for the injured person to be held responsible for their own injury in cases where they ignored posted warnings or simply acted careless prior to the accident taking place.
Comparative negligence laws vary from state to state, and they are used to figure out who receives compensation and how much. Often comparative negligence doesn’t completely eliminate liability on the part of the property owner, but these laws if applied, can adjust the amount of compensation a victim receives. It essentially allows for shared responsibility in response to an accident.
How Much Compensation Is Appropriate?
Finding the appropriate amount of compensation comes from the real amount of damages incurred, which can include medical costs and income lost due to time off work. Those pieces can be easily determined. Where it becomes more difficult is figuring out the compensation for pain and suffering as a result of the accident. No law exists to clearly outline how much should be paid to an individual for specific injuries. It’s not always that simple.
Some formulas, generated by previous judgments handed down, can be used as a starting point, but every settlement is typically done by negotiation. These types of cases can be settled out of court when both sides agree on a figure that will encompass the hard costs, such as medical bills, and what is needed to compensate for the pain and suffering endured.
When a victim and a property owner fail to reach a settlement and the case goes all the way to a trial, juries will assign the final payment by adding in funds for pain and suffering. If the victim is unsuccessful at the trial, of course, there could be no compensation.
As you might assume, the impact on the victim’s life or the severity of the injuries directly affects the amount of compensation for pain and suffering.
Who Is Visiting Your Property?
Broadly speaking, visitors to a property fit within four designations — invitee, social guest, licensee or trespasser.
- The invitee has simply been invited onto the property. This includes customers in a store or other place of business. The invitation in that case is implied.
- A licensee is present at the consent of the property owner. This could be a contractor in the home or business there to perform a task such as making repairs or cleaning.
- A social guest is a welcome, if uninvited, guest. This accounts for friends or known individuals who are welcome to just “stop by.”
- The trespasser has no right whatsoever to enter a property and therefore has no implied promise that the property has been made reasonably safe.
The type of person visiting makes a big difference in the viability of a potential lawsuit or it can even make a case disappear quickly. Knowing this information and proving it will help any property owner understand what they may be facing in an injury case.
Speaking with an experienced attorney will help a property owner clearly understand their liability in cases where an injury has occurred. Make sure to protect your legal rights when it comes to visitors at your home or business. The knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at Rosenbaum & Associates can provide the experience you need to ensure that claims are valid and your rights are protected. The first step to take is a free consultation. Call us today to learn more at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7.