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Key Takeaways

Negligence occurs when owners fail to address hazards
Property owners may shift blame to accident victims
Evidence and proving negligence are key to settlements
Contributory negligence may disqualify a victim's compensation
Document the scene and gather contact information promptly
Consulting an attorney early is crucial for case strength
Common liability claims arise from slips, falls, and inadequate security
Attorneys play a vital role in managing liability claims

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Navigating Your Way Through a Premises Liability Case: Expert Tips

Key Takeaways

Negligence occurs when owners fail to address hazards
Property owners may shift blame to accident victims
Evidence and proving negligence are key to settlements
Contributory negligence may disqualify a victim's compensation
Document the scene and gather contact information promptly
Consulting an attorney early is crucial for case strength
Common liability claims arise from slips, falls, and inadequate security
Attorneys play a vital role in managing liability claims

Property-related accidents can happen in a flash - a slip on a slick floor, a broken swing on a playground, a loose tile in a hotel lobby. Under premises liability laws, businesses owe customers a duty to maintain safe conditions. If injuries occur due to their negligence, victims have a right to hold owners accountable and recover damages. Unfortunately, the legal and insurance processes that follow a premises liability claim can drag on for weeks or months, and medical bills and lost wages can pile up while you wait for compensation. Worse, the property owner or insurance company, seeking to escape liability, might attempt to pin the blame for the accident on you. 

Successfully navigating a premises liability claim and obtaining a fair settlement is complex, but we’re here to help. This guide will provide critical insights on navigating your premises liability case and avoiding common legal pitfalls. With key strategies for leveraging evidence, proving negligence, understanding settlement factors, and determining liability, you can ensure you receive full compensation for your suffering. Read on for expert tips from our premises liability lawyers.

What is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is the legal concept that property owners have a duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions on their land or in their buildings to avoid preventable injuries to people on the premises. This duty of care requires owners to address any unreasonably dangerous conditions that could foreseeably cause harm to those legally on the property.

If a property owner knows or should have known about an unsafe condition but neglects to fix or warn about it, they can be held liable for any resulting injuries or accidents under premises liability laws.

When Owners Have a Duty of Care

For an owner to be liable, the injured victim must have a lawful right to be on the property. Entrants like tenants, patrons, guests, vendors, contractors, and members of the public typically have this right when on the premises for authorized purposes. If an unauthorized trespasser is injured, the property owner generally does not owe them the same duty of care - but deliberate traps or lures to danger may constitute liability.

By holding property owners accountable for foreseeable hazards through premises liability laws, the legal system creates incentives for proper maintenance and injury precautions.

Common Types of Premises Liability Cases

Some of the most common types of accidents leading to premises liability claims include:

Slip and Falls - wet floors, cluttered walkways, poor lighting, uneven surfaces, lack of railings, and other tripping hazards that cause slips and falls are a frequent source of claims. Failure to promptly clean up spills or fix known dangers is often negligence.

Inadequate Security - If a property owner fails to provide adequate lighting, surveillance, guards, or other protections from foreseeable criminal acts, they may bear liability if an assault or other crime occurs on their premises. High-risk businesses like bars and parking garages tend to have higher security duties.

Swimming Pool Injuries - property owners must properly fence, label, provide life-saving equipment near pools, and adhere to minimum safety standards. Failure to do so resulting in drownings or injuries like dangerous suction from faulty drain covers often leads to liability.

Escalator/Elevator Accidents - improperly maintained equipment, lack of inspections, missing handrails or sudden stops can make elevators and escalators extremely dangerous. Owners must ensure regular maintenance and upgrades to avoid liability when mechanical issues or power failures lead to falls or harm.

Aside from those above, any type of incident stemming from unreasonably dangerous property conditions may qualify as a premises liability claim.

Comparative and Contributory Negligence

State laws handling the victim's own potential negligence also impact premises liability outcomes:

Comparative Negligence - states with this rule will reduce settlements by the claimant's percentage of fault. For example, a $100,000 settlement is reduced to $90,000 if the claimant is found 10% responsible.

Modified Comparative Negligence - some states, such as Tennesee and Florida, use a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This rule completely bars recovery if the claimant's negligence exceeds a certain percentage (usually 50% or 51%).

Contributory Negligence - in contributory negligence states, any fault by the claimant eliminates their right to collect damages fully, even if it is just 1%. This system is far less favorable to injury victims.

An attorney can assess how negligence laws apply in your area and fight to minimize any finding of responsibility on your part.

Taking Prompt Action After a Premises Liability Accident

To build the strongest claim after a premises liability accident, it’s important that you take these steps immediately after the incident:

    Seek medical attention - Even if injuries seem minor initially, get examined and follow all treatment advice.

    Report the incident - Alerting premises management or security before leaving creates a record.

    Document the scene - Take photos/video of the hazardous condition, if possible, once medical needs are addressed.

    Get contact info - Request identifying information and insurance details from the property owner or manager.

    Consult an attorney - Speaking with a skilled lawyer early maximizes success and should occur before contacting insurance adjusters.

    Moving quickly preserves evidence at the scene and captures critical early medical assessments. This sets up your case as favorably as possible.

    Navigating the Premises Liability Settlement Process

    The path to reaching a premises liability settlement typically involves:

    Demand letter - the first step in the premises liability settlement process is to send a demand letter to the property owner or their insurance company. The demand letter should detail the incident, the injury, the damages, and the evidence supporting the claim.

    Negotiation - the property owner or their insurance company will typically respond to the demand letter by making an offer to settle. The plaintiff's attorney will then negotiate with the defendant's attorney to try to reach a settlement agreement.

    Mediation - if the parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement through negotiation, they may choose to participate in mediation. Mediation is a non-binding process in which a neutral third-party mediator helps the parties reach an agreement.

    Trial - if the parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement through negotiation or mediation, the case may go to trial. At trial, a jury will hear evidence from both sides and decide whether the property owner is liable for the plaintiff's injuries. If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff, they will award damages.

    The process of a premises liability case also depends heavily on state laws around comparative, modified comparative, and contributory negligence, damage caps, statutes of limitations, strict liability statutes, and other regulations favoring either plaintiffs or defendants. Because these cases can be incredibly complex, it’s always wise to consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your options. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and can guide you through the settlement process.

    lawyer making handshake contract deal with client

    Why Strong Evidence Matters in Premises Liability Cases

    Premises liability claims often hinge on evidence proving the property owner or manager failed to address known dangers or meet safety obligations. Key evidence that may benefit your premises liability case includes:

    Security camera or cell phone video showing the actual accident and hazardous conditions that caused it. This directly demonstrates both the circumstances and negligence of the property owner.

    Photographs of the dangerous flooring, stairwell, lighting issue, etc. immediately after the incident document the hazardous conditions as they were at the time.

    Statements from eyewitnesses who observed the incident unfold and can describe the property's hazardous conditions.

    Expert opinions from engineers, building code specialists, security experts, etc who can assess property hazards and explain how the owner violated their duty of care to maintain their property.

    The injured victim's complete medical records, documenting the extent, severity and duration of injuries and treatment. More serious injuries typically strengthen the value of the case.

    Past complaints, citations, or evidence of prior accidents related to the same hazards on the property. These demonstrate the owner had notice of dangerous property conditions but neglected to properly fix them.

    Our skilled premises liability lawyers will gather all related evidence on your behalf - and they know how to maximize its impact in negotiations with insurance adjusters and in court.

    Suffered a Premises Liability Accident? Contact Our Lawyers Today.

    If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a property owner, manager or business, our experienced premises liability attorneys can help. We have successfully represented countless victims of unsafe conditions and accidents across the Southeast, and our results show we have what it takes to stand up to uncooperative building owners and insurance companies in order to obtain the maximum compensation you deserve.

    Our attorneys will thoroughly calculate and document every category of economic and non-economic loss you have suffered so that we can relentlessly negotiate for a fair settlement offer. We will conduct thorough investigations to identify the hazardous conditions and code violations that led to your accident, along with any prior safety issues on the property. We will gather crucial evidence and consult specialists to demonstrate how the property lacked reasonable safety precautions. Don't wait any longer to exercise your rights - contact our dedicated premises liability attorneys today at 877-715-9300 for a free consultation and case evaluation. We will discuss your legal options, answer all questions, and help you on the path toward the recovery you deserve. 

    Wettermark Keith, with offices located throughout Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, has an excellent reputation as one of the most accomplished personal injury firms in the country. Our reach is not only regional but includes a diverse range of practice areas, including premises liability law, personal injury cases, auto wrecks, trucking wrecks, nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, on-the-job injuries, social security disability, and veterans’ disability claims, to name just a few. 

    At Wettermark Keith, we believe in taking cases personally. Our purpose is to practice with care and compassion- to tell our clients’ stories and make their voices heard. We do this by building strong relationships based on constant communication and an unwavering dedication to truth and trust. You should never wonder what’s going on with your case. We will keep you in the loop and represent you as if you are family- because to us, you are.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    First, document evidence and seek any necessary medical care after the incident. Save related medical bills and records. Next, consult a premises liability attorney to investigate negligence, determine liability, and negotiate the maximum settlement from the business’ insurance and assets.

    Future medical expenses related to the injury like surgery, therapy, and medication can be part of a premises settlement. For permanent disabilities, lifetime equipment, home healthcare, and ongoing treatment costs may be negotiated.

    Under premises liability laws, property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to keep lawful visitors safe from dangerous conditions. If the owner was negligent in allowing unsafe premises that caused foreseeable injury, they can be held liable. Slip and falls, lack of security, poor maintenance and more scenarios can provide grounds to sue an owner for premises liability.

    Premises liability cases involve complex legal regulations around duty of care, liability, contributory vs. comparative negligence, navigating claims with insurance adjusters, and proving negligence caused your accident. Our experienced lawyers handle these intricacies to build an airtight case and maximize your compensation through settlement or trial.

    States have different rules regarding partial victim fault called contributory vs. comparative (or modified comparative) negligence. In contributory states, being even 1% at fault bars recovery. In comparative states, your damages are reduced by your percentage of fault. In modified comparative states, the claimant’s negligence can bar them from recovery if it exceeds a designated percentage, typically 50% or 51%. Your premises liability attorney will work to minimize any finding of fault on your part.

    Determining liability in slip-and-fall cases on icy surfaces outside of a business can be complex. A business has a legal duty to ensure that its premises, including the parking lots and walkways, are reasonably safe for customers. Generally, if a business fails to uphold this duty, it may be considered negligent. Therefore, if the business was negligent in removing snow/ice buildup or warning of the hazardous area in a reasonable timeframe, they may share liability under premises liability law.

    Most businesses have general liability insurance that covers accidents on their property. An attorney deals directly with their provider to demand compensation from available policy limits. If coverage is insufficient, additional assets may be pursued.

    Slip/trip/falls, lack of security leading to assault or theft, inadequate fencing around pools, elevator/escalator malfunction, objects falling from shelves, broken sidewalks, dog bites, and inadequate lighting creating tripping hazards are some of the most frequent types of premises liability accidents.

    There are no fixed rules on pain and suffering payouts. Factors include injury severity, residual effects, length of suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. Our skilled lawyers account for tangible and intangible non-economic damages during settlement negotiations to maximize compensation.

    Ready to work together? Contact us today for a free consultation.


    If you or a loved one have been injured and think you might have a case, call us now for a free consultation.