What is Premises Liability, and What Does it Mean for Your Slip and Fall?

Premise liability is a term you’ve probably heard tossed around if you have ever been involved in a slip and fall accident. It’s a legal phrase that refers to the property owner’s responsibility to ensure their property is reasonably safe and free from hazards that could harm a visitor. When that premise liability is neglected and someone on the property gets injured, the injured party has the right to file a claim for damages against the property owner.

Often referred to as “slip and falls,” a premise liability case in California contains four specific aspects: the defendant is the property owner, lessee, occupier, or controller of the area in question, they were negligent in keeping their duty of care, the plaintiff was injured, and the injury was caused by the defendant’s negligence.

When all of these factors fall into place and you have a knowledgeable attorney, like Hershey Law, you have the makings of a strong slip and fall lawsuit. What does that mean for you? Keep reading to find out!

Slip and Fall Awards Making Headlines

While most slip and fall injuries don’t warrant a front-page headline, or make the news at all, some of these premise liability cases enter the spotlight. These generally are instances in which the premise was a big name and the injuries were substantial. Some impressive examples include such scenarios as:

  • The Vegas hotel chain, the Bellagio, was stuck paying $1.3 million to a comedian after the hotel’s onstage wiring tripped him, leaving him with permanent tendon damage that made it difficult for him to walk.
  • Watermelons and Walmart don’t go together if the fruit isn’t stored correctly. A man in Alabama was awarded $7.5 million when a pallet stored incorrectly underneath a display of watermelons caused him to fall, shattering his hip and causing permanent damage.
  • Schools aren’t off the hook, either. When a student fell through an open skylight on the fourth floor of her campus building and was paralyzed, the building’s owners had to pay over $11.6 million in an out-of-court settlement.
  • A literal fall as you are going about your business can be a dangerous thing, too. When a man was walking on a level sidewalk and fell down a step that was not marked, he hit his left eye, blinding it. Unfortunately, he was already almost blind in his right eye, so this accident was more severe than it would have otherwise been, and he was awarded $4 million by a jury.

The common denominators in all of these accidents were that each happened due to someone else’s negligence, and each resulted in significant injury. 

Types of Premise Liability Cases

You often hear the term “slip and fall” as a general umbrella of personal injury cases that resulted from premise negligence, but there are multiple types of accidents that fall under premise liability, including:

  • Slip and falls – These types of accidents happen when a person slips on something while on someone else’s property and suffers an injury.
  • Trip and falls – Almost identical to a slip and fall, this happens when a person trips over a hazard while on someone else’s premises and becomes injured as a result.
  • Inadequate lighting – When someone trips, slips, or even walks into something due to inadequate lighting, even if there was no hazard on the floor, and is injured, that is called an “inadequate lighting” lawsuit.
  • Elevator and escalator accidents – Even though these are thought to be modern conveniences to simplify our way of life, they can malfunction and cause injuries. When this happens, the injured party has a right to seek compensation from the property owner, elevator or escalator manufacturer, maintenance contractor, or whomever the premise liability defaults to.
  • Dog bites – Dogs are often called man’s best friend, but if they don’t like you, they can be more like your worst enemy. If you are bitten, scratched, or otherwise injured by someone else’s dog on their premises, they can be held liable for your injuries, depending on the circumstances. By filing a lawsuit against the dog’s owner, you can receive compensation for damages.

Premise liability lawsuits encompass a wide variety of circumstances. If you feel like your injury was due to the negligence of a property owner who had a duty to have taken better care of their property, speak to an attorney today to see how you can receive compensation for your medical care, pain and suffering, and more.

The Terms You Need to Know

Entering into a personal liability case can be hard enough, but when your attorney starts using terms and words you don’t understand it becomes even more confusing. Here are a few common terms specific to personal injury lawsuits in general and premise liability cases in particular.

  • Duty of care – Used in personal injury cases, this term refers to when the defendant had a responsibility to perform a reasonable action to keep others safe. For instance, a driver has a duty of care to drive responsibly so as not to injure other people on the road. In premise liability cases, this means that the property owner or controller has a duty of care to keep their property safe for anyone who enters it.
  • Invitees – Someone who is on the property for a business purpose is called an “invitee.” If they are shopping, a patient at a doctor’s office, or visiting for any retail purpose, the property owner is inviting you to their premises.
  • Licensees – This term refers to someone who is invited on the premises for something other than a business purpose, such as a friend or family member visiting.
  • Trespassers – Anyone entering the premises without an invitation is consider a trespasser, in which case the property owner does not have a duty of care to them. There are caveats to this rule, however, mostly involving children who may be tempted to trespass to access hazards like trampolines or swimming pools.

The Basic Timeline of a Premise Liability Case

While every case is different, there are basic steps that you can expect once you file a premise liability lawsuit with your attorney. You can expect your timeline to look similar to this:

  1. A complaint or summons is filed. Your attorney will prepare a document explaining your claim. It will include a general summary of the parties involved, the event in question, the accusation of who is responsible, and a request for damages. This takes around 20 days.
  1. The defendant responds. Known as “the answer,” this is the document that the defendant will file to respond to your complaint in which they will admit or deny the allegation in question. This also takes around 20 days.
  1. The discovery takes place. In “discovery,” both parties’s attorneys will try to explore the case as much as possible. They will ask questions of witnesses, request documents and evidence, and in general find out everything they can regarding the event and the parties involved. This can take anywhere from months to years.
  1. Pre-trial motions are filed. Pre-trial motions are used to attempt to resolve issues. These often include a Motion to Dismiss, in which the defendant tries to end the lawsuit on a legal technicality. A Motion to Compel is used to attempt to get an order for the other party to do something they don’t want to do, such as attend a deposition. A third common motion is a Motion for Summary Judgment, in which either party can request a final judgment if they believe there are no substantial facts that support the claim.
  1. Mediation occurs. It’s common for both parties to attempt to settle a lawsuit with a trial through mediation or settlement conferences. This usually occurs after the discovery phase.
  1. The trial happens. If mediation or settlement conferences don’t come to a satisfactory conclusion for both parties, your case will end up placed on a trial docket. Your trial will then be scheduled to last somewhere between two to five days, depending on how complicated it is.
  1. The verdict and judgment are set. Once your trial concludes, there will be a judgment. If you are the winner, you will be awarded monetary compensation for your damages. The defendant will then be given a time period in which they must produce the judgment amount, usually between 30 and 60 days. 

These timelines are tentative, but as a general rule, a premise liability case and most personal injury cases follow this format.

Need Help With Your Slip and Fall?

Whether your injury was due to a slip and fall or any other premise liability incident, you deserve compensation for your damages and help with your medical bills. Turn to the knowledgeable attorneys who see you as more than just a number. 

We at Hershey Law want to help you get the compensation that you deserve and move forward with your healing after your accident. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.