Premises Liability FAQ

I was injured while on someone else's property. Is there anything I can do?

Property owners are responsible for injuries that occur as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on their property, which the owner either knew about or should have known about. The hazard may be obvious (such as ice on steps) or hidden (such as a hole in a lawn that is partially covered by grass). In some instances, it may not be apparent, as in flooring that appears normal but is slippery. The dangerous condition could be permanent, such as broken concrete with a change in elevation, or temporary, such as a liquid spill in a supermarket aisle.

In general, an owner will be considered to have knowledge of a dangerous or hazardous condition if it is permanent in nature, because the owner knew, or should have known, about the condition before the incident occurs.

In the case of temporary conditions (like a liquid spill), the length of time that the condition existed before the incident occurred has legal significance. If the spill occurred just before the incident, then the property owner may not be liable for injury, because the owner could not have known about the spill (and would not have been able to do anything about it) before the injury occurred. If, however, the spill was present for some period of time before the incident, or occurred in an area subject to liquid spills, or is a recurring event in the area, then the owner may be liable, even if the owner did not know about the spill before it occurred.

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What defenses can I expect will be raised against my claim of injury on someone else's property?

One of the most common defenses is to deny the existence of any dangerous condition on the premises or to deny having timely knowledge of its existence. For example, a defendant may argue as follows: There was no liquid on the floor in aisle five, and even if there were liquid on the floor, we did not know about it in time to take any action. Or the defendant may argue: The floor is specially designed to be slip resistant, even when wet.

Another common defense is to argue that you were careless or negligent in failing to observe the dangerous condition (the spill, the loose carpet, the step down, for example) and as a result, should either have all compensation denied or substantially reduced.

Still another common defense is to maintain that the incident did not cause you any new injuries or aggravate any preexisting conditions or diseases. Sometimes this defense argues that any injury that did result from the incident was only temporary in nature.

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