I was Hurt on Someone Else’s Property: What Options Do I Have?
Injuries happen all the time. Most of them are minor and can be treated with home remedies that help them go away within a short period time. This is especially common with slips and falls, which may result in minor scrapes, cuts, bruises, and similar mishaps. That said, falls result in far more moderate to severe injuries than most people believe.
Each year, millions of people in the U.S. are hospitalized or visit the emergency room after a fall, and tens of thousands of these incidents result in fatalities. Elderly individuals are particularly susceptible to serious injuries after a fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than three million seniors visit the emergency room each year for a fall, and over 800,000 of them are hospitalized.
Sometimes, slips and falls or other types of accidents may occur when you are on someone else’s property. For example, you may be out shopping at the grocery store when you slip and fall on some type of slippery or sticky substance in one of the aisles. Or you may slip and fall and get hurt as an invited guest at a friend’s party.
When an injury happens while on the property of another party, many people wonder what options they have to obtain compensation. Can I sue the owner or caretaker of the property? Can I file a claim with their insurance company to pay for my medical bills, lost wages, and inconvenience?
It may be possible to receive compensation for your losses from the property owner or their insurer if you can show that they are liable. This type of case would be brought under the legal theory known as “premises liability.” Under premises liability, an owner may be held responsible for injuries sustained by property visitors due to incidents such as:
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Animal attacks;
- Swimming pool accidents;
- Fires and explosions;
- Assault or robbery due to negligent security;
- Exposure to toxic substances.
Owners and caretakers owe a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that their property is safe and free of dangerous conditions, and to adequately warn visitors of any existing hazards.
Did you Have a Right to be on the Property?
When determining whether or not you have a viable premises liability case, the first thing to look at is what your visitor status was when you were hurt on the property. Property visitors can be grouped into three general categories:
- Invitees: The highest duty of care is owed to visitors in this category. Invitees are those who have implied or explicit permission to enter the property, usually for the potential financial benefit of the owner or caretaker. Examples of invitees may include customers of retail stores, bars and restaurants, hotels, resorts, etc., individuals who rent or lease an apartment, home, or commercial property, and those who enter a property that is open to the general public, such as a public park.
- Licensees: A slightly lower duty of care is owed to licensees. Individuals in this category also have permission to enter the property, but they generally do so for their own benefit. Examples of licensees may include social guests, neighbors, mail carriers, and unsolicited sales people.
- Trespassers: A very low duty of care is owed to those who have no right to be on the property, commonly known as trespassers. The only obligation that is owed to trespassers is not to engage in any wanton or willful actions that may cause them harm.
Invitees are the most likely to be successful with a premises liability claim. Licensees may also have a viable case, but they will have a higher burden of proof if they decide to take legal action. If you were a trespasser, however, unfortunately your legal options are very limited.
Pursuing a Premises Liability Claim
To win a premises liability action, there are several elements you must prove:
- A dangerous condition existed on the property;
- The property owner or caretaker knew (or should have known) about the condition;
- The property owner or caretaker failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the condition or adequately warn invited visitors that it existed;
- The dangerous condition was the proximate cause of your injury;
- Your injury resulted in quantifiable losses.
Establishing these elements can be challenging in a lot of cases. Even if you have shown that you had a right to be on the property, the defendant is likely to argue forcefully that you were at fault for the injury. Some possible arguments that may be made include:
- The defendant did not know about the existence of the dangerous condition;
- The danger or hazard was clearly marked;
- The dangerous condition was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person;
- You were not paying adequate attention to where you were walking;
- You were in an area of the property that is restricted or where visitors are not expected to enter.
To help preserve your legal rights, it is important retain as much documentation as possible about the incident that led to your injury. Take multiple photographs of the scene, clearly showing the hazard that caused your injury. In addition, obtain the statements of witnesses who may have seen what happened. Oftentimes, a witness may allow you to record a video statement with your smart phone. Seek immediate medical help, so your injuries are properly treated and well-documented, and so they don’t get any worse. Finally, contact a seasoned premises liability lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.
Call the Gardner Law Firm Today for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one was hurt on someone else’s property in Mississippi, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Gardner law firm today for a free, no obligation case assessment. Call our office today at (228) 900-9618 or send us a message through our web contact form.