When you are injured on someone else's property, you may be confused and unsure what happens next. With medical bills piling up, and constant trips to the doctor to speed your recovery along, you may not even have time to think: why was I injured? Many times, owners haven't taken the proper care of their property to ensure the safety and security of their guests. So what can you do? Shouldn't you be compensated for your injuries suffered as a result of the condition of their property?
Such injuries fall under a doctrine known as premises liability. This area of the law operates on the notion that property owners should take a reasonable degree of care in their property so that no one on the property will be injured.
Premises liability does not necessarily mean that any property owner can be held liable at all times for any injury sustained by any visitor to his or her property. A visitor to someone's property, or an "entrant", will typically be broken down into three distinct categories: invitee, licensee, or trespasser. The manner in which a potential plaintiff is classified can affect his or her overall ability to recover compensation.
- Invitee: In general, invitees can be considered persons that are invited onto the property by public invitation, such as customers in a store or persons at a public event, such as a concert. The owner of the property must take the greatest degree of care to protect any invitees, taking care to remove all hazards, hidden or otherwise, from the property. Property owners owe their invitees the highest duty of all.
- Licensee: A licensee is considered to be a guest on a property. A property owner must still take a reasonable degree of care when a licensee enters a property, and must warn the licensee of any known hazards or dangerous conditions that exist on the property. A licensee can be thought of as a friend coming over for dinner.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is someone who is not invited onto the property or someone who unlawfully enters the property. A property owner does not owe a duty to keep his or her property in any type of a condition in order to prevent harm to trespassers; he or she must simply refrain from harming the trespasser.
There is one exception to trespassers being unable to recover damages: the doctrine of having an "attractive nuisance" on one's property. In essence, an attractive nuisance is something that can attract trespassers, particularly younger trespassers. Attractive nuisances can come in the form of a swimming pool, or a pile of sand. These are things that a child would be inclined to interact with, that may result in their injury. If a child trespasses onto property in order to access such a nuisance, the property owner may be liable if certain precautionary measures are not taken (such as fixing a broken fence that surrounds a swimming pool).
What You Can Do
When you or a loved one is injured on someone else's property, there are a few things you can do following the injury to help you get an edge on your case:
- Obtain the contact information for any witnesses. If the injury happened in a public space, there is the potential chance that others witnessed the injury. If you are able to obtain contact information for these individuals, it can be of great assistance to your attorney.
- Try to get any pictures or footage of the area as soon as possible after the incident. If you are able, pictures or footage of the area or space that caused your accident will be of tremendous assistance. This can prove especially helpful if property owners later make changes to the area where you were injured.
- Seek legal help right away. If you are pursuing a claim stemming from an injury on another's property, you will want to get started early. Security footage, pictures, and witness accounts can seemingly disappear overnight when you open up a premises liability case against a large corporate entity. On top of this, property owners will work quickly to eliminate any evidence of a prior hazard. Help from an attorney early can help you secure the evidence you need for a successful case ahead of time.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a property owner's failure to take reasonable care of their premises, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Gilman & Bedigian today.