Compensation Due to Property Owner Negligence
You may have tripped on a wire at a neighbor’s house. Or perhaps you slipped on a spilled drink at a local eatery.
If you sustained injuries on another’s property due to a dangerous condition, and those injuries resulted in medical treatment, you now have the bills and your recovery to contend with.
Whatever the cause, you may be entitled to compensation due to the property owner’s negligence under premises liability law. Examples include injuries stemming from the owner’s failure to clear debris from a sidewalk, clean up a spill or repair faulty stairs, loose handrails, poorly lit areas or damaged walkways.
The negligent property owner may be required to cover all or part of your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses stemming from your accident. In some cases, the owner’s liability is covered by their personal or business insurance company, while at other times a jury will make a finding at trial.
A qualified personal injury lawyer will help you understand your rights, navigate the process and ensure that you receive fair compensation. In the State of Missouri, the outcome of your premises liability case will hinge on a few factors:
- The extent to which the property owner is responsible for your injuries
- The extent of your shared responsibility for the accident
- Your reason for being present on the property
- The statute of limitations
#1: Property Owner Liability
As the plaintiff, you must prove one of the following things in order to establish property owner liability for your injuries:
- The property owner or an employee directly caused the dangerous condition that led to your accident.
- The property owner or an employee knew the dangerous condition existed but did nothing to correct it.
- The property owner or an employee should have known about the dangerous condition because a reasonable person, exercising proper care, would have discovered and corrected the problem.
What exactly is considered to be “proper care” by a “reasonable person?” Here are some of the questions the court will ask:
- Does the owner or an employee conduct regular inspections and preventive maintenance?
- Could the owner have provided fair warning to visitors that might have prevented slips and falls?
- Could the owner have erected a barrier to keep people away from the dangerous area?
- How long had the dangerous condition existed? Had it been there long enough that the owner or an employee should have noticed it?
- If you tripped over an object left on the floor, was there a legitimate reason for it to be there? Could the object have been placed in a different location where it would have posed a lower risk?
#2: Shared Responsibility
When you seek compensation in a premises liability case, the owner will try to prove that you bear at least some responsibility for your injuries.
In Missouri, the following factors are considered in determining shared responsibility:
- Were you on a part of the property where visitors aren’t usually allowed or aren’t expected to be?
- Were you wearing inappropriate or unsafe footwear?
- Was the dangerous area cordoned off with cones, signage or other barricades which should have been obvious to you?
- Were you paying attention to where you were going or what you were doing? Were you distracted by your phone, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
If the insurer or court determines that you are at least partially at fault for the accident, a “pure comparative negligence” rule will be applied to determine what “share” of the accident was your fault and what share was the property owner’s.
For example, suppose the total cost of your accident is $10,000. A jury may find that you are 25% responsible for the accident, while the property owner is 75% responsible. In this case, you would receive $7,500 in damages from the property owner, while you would have to cover the remaining $2,500.
#3: Type of Visitor
Insurers and courts will also consider your status as a visitor on the property. In premises liability cases, there are four basic categories of visitors.
- Invited guests include family or friends who visit the property for a social gathering. The property owner must warn guests of hidden dangers on the property and how to avoid them.
- Customers include anyone making a purchase from the owner. This category applies to both places of businesses and private homes where transactions occur, such as a garage sale. Property owners must conduct inspections and make reasonable repairs, and must warn customers of hidden dangers and how to avoid them.
- Trespassers include unauthorized visitors who are entitled to a lesser duty of care than customers or invited guests. A landowner must provide fair warning of dangerous areas on the property, which may include signage in appropriate locations or verbal warnings to discovered trespassers. In addition, property owners may not set “traps” intended to injure would-be trespassers.
- Child trespassers enjoy a higher level of legal protection under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. An attractive nuisance refers to any dangerous, unsecured object, such as a swimming pool or trampoline, that may entice a child. If your child is injured after venturing onto a neighbor’s property, you may be entitled to damages under this rule.
#4: Statute of Limitations
Under Missouri law, you have five years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit against the property owner.
The statute of limitations applies to both physical injuries and property damage resulting from the incident. For example, you may have broken your watch or damaged an electronic device when you fell.
Because the clock is ticking, the sooner you speak with an attorney about your premises liability case, the better. With Eng & Woods, you’ll have a passionate litigator on your side who will thoroughly assess every detail of your case in order to win the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
July 12, 2019