Whenever you are not at home, or on public property, chances are you are on someone else's property. You may be shopping in a grocery store, going to retrieve your dog that got off the leash, or showing up to a friend's Super Bowl party. Once you step onto someone else's property, they may owe you a certain duty of care to make sure you are not seriously injured. The property owner should be familiar with any potential hazards, and take steps to fix them, or at least to warn you about them.
If you are injured on someone else's property, you may be unsure of what you should do next. Is the property owner at fault, or are you at fault? The facts of your situation may determine who has to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This can involve complex legal issues. You should consider speaking with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling these types of cases, so you can get the compensation you deserve.
Injured on Someone Else's Property
Injuries on someone else's property usually falls under the legal doctrine of ‘premises liability.' The duty of care the property owner owes to guests and visitors will depend on the type of property, and the relationship between the owner and the guest. These cases generally fall into three categories, involving an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
An invitee is generally someone who is invited onto the property by the owner for the purpose of business dealings. This could include any type of business dealings, including going to a restaurant, going shopping at the mall, or going to see a concert at World Cafe Live.
The property owner has to keep the property maintained for invitees, including making reasonable inspections of the premises to make sure there are no hidden dangers. The property owner also has a duty to warn an invitee of any hazardous conditions.
Perhaps one of the most common examples of an invitee being injured would be a slip and fall on a wet floor. We've all been to grocery stores or restaurants where there has been a spill, or an employee has just mopped the floor. If the floor is wet, and an individual slips and falls, resulting in injury, the property owner may be liable. This is because the property owner has a duty to warn patrons of the hazardous situation, most commonly with a “wet floor” sign. However, if the property owner put up a “wet floor” sign and an individual ignores the warning, slipping on the wet floor, then the property owner may be able to avoid liability for any injuries caused.
A licensee, also known as a social guest, is generally given license to enter the property by the owner for some intended purpose. This is different than an invitee because the property owner is not opening up access for the public at large, but instead, for specific people.
A common example of a social guest would be a neighbor you invite over for coffee, or having people over to watch an Eagles game. Licensees are not coming for a business purpose, and the general public may not be welcome. However, even if the property owner is friends with the social guest, they still owe the licensee a duty of care to make sure their property is safe.
The property owner owes a social guest the duty to make sure the condition of the property does not pose an unreasonable risk of harm, and to warn them of any known hazards or dangerous conditions.
For example, if you are invited over to a co-worker's house for a weekend barbecue, you would be considered a licensee. The property owner must warn you of any known hazards, such as a broken step. If they do not warn you, and you slip and fall on the broken step, then the property owner may be liable for your injuries.
A trespasser is generally not invited onto the property, or even expressly told to stay off the property. The property owner still has a duty to trespassers to refrain from intentionally causing harm.
However, under the theory of ‘attractive nuisance,' a property owner may owe potential trespassers some duty of care. If a property owner has something on the property that may attract children, such as a swimming pool, they may be required to take extra steps to keep unauthorized trespassers out, such as fencing off the area, or keeping gates locked.
After the Injury
The first thing you should do if you are injured as a guest is to seek medical treatment. After medical treatment, you may want to write down what happened, and if possible, take pictures or a video of your injuries, the property involved, and the hazardous condition that led to your injury. You may also want to get contact information for other people who were around at the time, including any witnesses who may have seen the injury take place.
The next step is to contact a personal injury attorney to make sure your medical bills will be covered, and you will be compensated for any lost wages. Premises liability cases can be complex, involving multiple parties and insurance companies. Before you seek to recover for your damages, you should consider talking to an attorney, so they can deal with the insurance company, file the necessary legal documents, and negotiate the best settlement for you.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers
While some people may not be sure whether to file a lawsuit after they are injured while a guest, it can be critical to maintaining your financial stability. Whether you lost a few days of work, or are no longer able to work again, you deserve compensation for your injuries. The property owner responsible for your injuries should be held accountable to pay for the cost of your injuries. Experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys will be able to guide you through the process and advise you of each step to take along the way. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to someone's negligence, please do not hesitate to call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.