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Premises Liability FAQ

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

Yes, you may be able to pursue a premises liability claim against the property owner. Property owners are responsible for ensuring that their premises are safe for visitors. This means that hazardous conditions must be fixed or, if they cannot be fixed, that visitors are adequately warned about dangers.

An owner’s liability will depend on a number of factors, including how long the hazard has existed and whether the owner knew or should have known about it. A good example is slip-and-fall accidents caused by slick surfaces. If a customer spills some liquid in a grocery store and another customer slips and falls just a minute or so later, the business owner couldn’t be expected to know about the hazard and address it in that short period of time. If the spill sat uncleaned for hours or was a recurring problem in that part of the store, there would be a much stronger case for store owner liability.

The example above is a temporary hazard, but premises liability also extends to permanent hazards like an uneven concrete sidewalk or an apartment door with a broken lock. Permanent hazards are more likely to result in liability because there is a greater expectation that the property owner knew or should have known about them.

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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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