If you were injured while on someone else’s property, you are likely wondering whether you may have a claim against the individual or business that is responsible for the property. If the responsible party failed to keep the property reasonably safe, you may have what’s known as a premises liability claim.
Because these types of claims are often complex, it’s important to have a Phenix City premises liability lawyer at Bence Law Firm and on your side who can help you understand your legal rights and options in your specific case.
No two cases are the same, which is why it’s important to sit down with an experienced personal injury attorney who can walk you through the process and ensure your rights are protected throughout the course of litigation.
What Is Premises Liability?
The laws in Alabama require that property owners maintain their property and keep it reasonably safe for visitors. This duty applies to both private and commercial spaces. Failure to keep your property safe can mean the property owner or occupant could be held liable for any injuries that someone suffers while on the property.
Premises liability cases often involve slip-and-fall accidents or trip-and-fall accidents, as well as dog bites, injuries caused by inadequate lighting, swimming pool accidents, attacks due to inadequate security, and more.
The property owner’s duty of care will vary based on what type of visitor you are. In Alabama, the main classes of a visitor are:
An invitee is someone who has express or implied permission to be on the property for a commercial transaction that benefits both parties. This could be a customer entering a store to make a purchase or a patron dining at a restaurant. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. They should regularly inspect the property to catch and fix any hazards and warn you of any possible dangers. Failure to discover a hazard that they should have corrected or failed to warn you about could result in liability.
A licensee is someone who is invited on the property but has no commercial purpose. Perhaps it’s social guests in someone’s home, or you’re on private or public property with permission for a recreational purpose. The duty of care is lower here, but owners are still required to warn you of or correct any known hazards.
Trespassers are people who enter someone’s land without permission. While property owners typically owe no duty to trespassers, children are a different story. There is an obligation to provide some level of protection for children in certain circumstances, like a fence around your pool in order to keep them out. If the property owner is aware that trespassers are common, they also need to warn of dangers and can’t set traps to harm them.
Common Types of Premises Liability Cases We Handle
Premises liability matters can encompass a wide variety of accidents and injuries. One of the most common is a slip and fall claim. Slip and falls can occur due to a variety of hazards, some of which include debris, pooled liquids, ice, snow, damaged flooring, or poor lighting.
Slip and trips typically happen in an invitee situation. A business is required to keep on top of potential hazards. If it’s a rainy day and people are tracking water inside the store with them, the business has a duty to warn them and take extra precautions to continually clean the floors so water doesn’t pool and cause someone to slip and fall, for example.
Other issues that can cause a slip and fall include:
- Spilled food or drink left on the floor
- Untethered cords
- Freshly waxed floors that are unmarked
- Loose handrails, steps, or deck boards
- Debris left in walkways
- Broken steps
- Lack of handrails
- Uneven stairs
- Uneven sidewalk or parking lot pavement
- Rotten decking or stairs
Slip and falls only make up a portion of all premises liability cases in Alabama. A property liability attorney in Phenix City could help with slip and fall cases.
Examples of Other Premises Liability Matters We Handle Include:
- Dog and other animal bites and attacks
- Retail store liability
- Inadequate maintenance
- Negligent security
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Attractive nuisance
- Swimming pool injuries
When it comes to landlord/tenant situations, it’s usually assumed that the tenant has control of the property. There are situations where a landlord can be liable, like when a dangerous and concealed condition existed when the tenant took possession of the property. Landlords are also usually liable for hazards in common areas.
Compensation Available for Injury Victims in Premises Liability Cases
The amount of compensation will vary based on the accident specifics and the extent of your injuries and other losses. A Phenix City premises liability attorney could help you understand how much compensation you may recover. Some of the damages that are recoverable include:
Special damages are also known as compensatory damages. This type of damages encompasses reimbursement for medical expenses and lost earnings. If you have future medical treatment and expected time off work, those damages would fall under compensatory damages as well. Property damage would also fall under this category.
General damages are more subjective but just as real and just as compensable. General damages include compensation for things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental anguish or emotional distress. General damages can include compensation for physical impairment and disfigurement, like visible scars from a dog bite or paralysis after a slip and fall.
In select cases, the jury may award punitive damages against the defendant. These are rare and not easy to obtain since the idea is to punish the defendant for egregious conduct. They do not fall under special or general damages since they are not intended to compensate for the loss. The defendant’s behavior must be so hazardous or reckless that it is seen as a willful disregard for the rights, safety, and health of others, or it could be construed as a demonstration of malice. Alabama has a cap on the amount of punitive damages you can recover.
What to Do If You Have Been Hurt on Someone Else’s Property
The first step is to seek medical attention. This is important, even if you don’t think you are injured that badly at first. There are a lot of injuries that aren’t immediately apparent but could become life-threatening if left untreated. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a good example.
If you are able, you should file an incident or police report. If the incident occurred in a business, you need to inform management or security right away and ensure a report is logged. In the event there was a criminal act, like you were attacked by someone, then you need a police report on file. If medical personnel visit the scene, try to get names of everyone involved and any copies of reports if possible before leaving. At a minimum, get the assigned case number or incident report number.
You also want to document everything, which means getting witness information so you have someone else who can provide testimony about the facts of the accident. You want to document everything from the condition of the floor to the amount of lighting or any other factor that may have played a role. Take photos if you can so you can use them later on. If your case involves a slip and fall, it’s wise to preserve your clothing, including your shoes. Don’t wash or change them in any way, just secure and store them in case they are needed later during the claims process.
Make sure you keep records of all your expenses. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, you may need supporting evidence if the property owner chooses to fight the case rather than settle. This means you want detailed records of your medical bills and treatment, proof of lost earnings from work, and receipts from any other expenses you have like medical equipment or prescription medication.
If someone asks you to sign a release before you leave the incident scene, do not do so without first meeting with a seasoned premises liability lawyer in Phenix City. It is common that people will try to get you to sign a release stating you are ok and you waive all your rights and will not pursue a claim. You do not want to sign any documentation without legal guidance and verifying the extent of your injuries.
Tips for Dealing with Insurance Companies after an Accident
Dealing with an insurance company can be both frustrating and stressful. Remember that they represent the property owner and no matter how black and white your case looks, they will fight it in order to save money and protect their profits.
When a claims adjuster contacts you from the other side, it is helpful if you already have retained an Alabama premises liability attorney who can handle all communications. This ensures your rights remain protected and the insurance adjuster won’t get an opportunity to trick you into saying something they can twist and use against you.
No matter how nice they may seem, no one from the insurance company is on your side. Their primary interest is in how to make your case go away as quickly and cheaply as possible. That is why you need a knowledgeable Phenix City premises liability attorney on your side to fight for your interests.
Time Limit on Premises Liability Claims in Alabama
As with other types of claims, there is a certain amount of time you have to pursue a premises liability claim in Alabama. This is known as the statute of limitations, which is the rule that sets the deadline on how much time you have to file a claim.
If you miss the date, there is no obligation for the other side to continue negotiations. In fact, the court will almost certainly throw your case out entirely.
For a case involving any type of personal injury or property damage in the state, the general Alabama statute of limitations is covered under Alabama Code §6-2-38, which states:
- Two years for personal injuries
- Two years for property damage if caused by negligence
If your child is the one who was injured on someone else’s property, the statute of limitations could be extended under Alabama Code §6-2-8.
A Phenix City Premises Liability Attorney Can Assist
It’s important to retain a dedicated Phenix City premises liability lawyer if you were injured on someone else’s property. Premises liability cases can be some of the most difficult to prove, especially given that Alabama follows the contributory negligence rule.
There are a number of rules and factors that need to be considered in a premises liability matter. A property owner is not automatically liable just because an incident took place on their property. In order to successfully recover damages, you have to show the property owner or business did something or failed to take action that caused your injury.
If you believe you have a valid premises liability case against a property owner or business, contact the Bence Law Firm, LLC today to schedule a free initial consultation. Let us review the facts of your case and advise you on the best course of action to help you seek the compensation you deserve.