Limitations to Premises Liability Cases

Whether you’re visiting the home of a friend or relative, a business, a public park, or virtually any other property other than your own, you should not have to worry about being injured in an accident that could have been prevented.

There are instances when accidents occur due to factors outside of anyone’s control. However, property owners and managers do have a legal responsibility to maintain safe properties, monitor their properties for hazards, and address hazards whenever they discover them. If a hazard cannot be addressed or removed because it is a natural or inherent component of the property (such as the presence of harmful chemicals at a chemical plant) the property owner or manager must at least ensure that anyone with a legal right to be on the property is sufficiently alerted to the hazard.

People can be injured when property owners neglect this duty. While this will hopefully never happen to you, if it does, you should at least understand your legal options.

Being injured on someone else’s property can leave you facing medical bills, lost wages, and other such losses. You may be eligible to recover compensation for such losses by filing a claim to collect from the insurance of the property owner or manager. If they do not have insurance or if their insurer will not offer you a fair settlement, you can potentially recover damages in court.

This does not mean you always have a right to compensation simply because you were injured on someone else’s property. There are certain limitations to premises liability cases. Factors that may influence whether you can or cannot recover compensation after being involved in an accident on a property other than your own include the following:

Whether you were trespassing

This is a fairly basic point. Although premises liability laws do vary to some extent from one state to another, in general, such laws only apply when someone is injured on property they had a legal right to be on. Someone who was injured while trespassing can almost never recover compensation.

That said, when children are injured while trespassing, their parents or guardians may file a claim or lawsuit on their behalf. This is because young children typically don’t understand whether they do or do not have a legal right to be on a property.

Whether a hazard could have been reasonably eliminated

Premises liability laws do not require property owners and managers to be omnipresent. While a property’s owner does need to actively monitor it for hazards, they are still only human.

For example, perhaps you’re at the supermarket and a bottle of soda falls to the floor and opens, resulting in a spill. Maybe you are injured when you slip over the spill.

Are you eligible to recover compensation in the circumstances? That depends. You might not be able to recover compensation if you slipped over the spill just a few seconds after the item fell to the floor. Although you might be eligible to recover compensation if you can show that the item fell to the floor because the shelf upon which it sat was damaged, if the item was simply knocked to the floor and you slipped over the resulting spill before an employee could have reasonably noticed it and cleaned it up, your odds of securing compensation may be minimal.

Whether you paid attention to warnings

Again, there are some properties with hazards that cannot be simply eliminated. Once again, a basic example would be that of a chemical plant.

It is not the duty of a property owner or manager to remove such hazards. It is only their duty to take reasonable steps to ensure those on their property are aware of these hazards so that they may avoid them.

A property owner or manager cannot force someone to pay attention to verbal and posted warnings regarding hazards on the premises. If you were injured because you ignored warnings, you likely will not win your premises liability case.

This is not meant to discourage anyone from filing a claim or a lawsuit if they believe they have valid reason to do so after being injured on someone else’s property. It is instead meant to highlight the value of reviewing a case with a qualified lawyer. At Dan Doyle Law Group, a Philadelphia premises liability attorney will let you know whether you have grounds to seek compensation after an accident. Learn more about how we can help by contacting us online or calling us at 215-987-3730 to schedule a consultation.