Premises liability refers to the legal theory that the owner of a property is liable for any accidents or injuries that may occur on that property. It sounds simple enough.
One of the most common types of premises liability is a “slip & fall” case. Most people assume if they fall at a big box store because there was something slippery on the floor, they must have just been clumsy. That is until they realize that the store manager knew the slippery substance was on the floor, that it had happened before, and that it should have been cleaned up, but no one attended to it. This type of situation may make the store liable.
Premises liability can be applied to any place of business and even to your own personal property if someone is injured in your home or on your yard and driveway.
Alabama Premises Liability Law
Alabama law governing premises liability says the property owner or manager has a “duty of care” to all visitors. When a place has a hazard, whether an open pit, a cracked sidewalk, a dangerous dog, or a slippery substance on the floor, this duty has been breached and the property owner/caretaker is negligent.
Consider all of the ways a property owner/caretaker can be negligent:
A business parking lot in a high crime area has inadequate lighting and you are assaulted in the lot as a result.
An inspection report shows that a refrigerator regularly broke down spilling liquid contents on a store floor which caused you to slip and break your leg.
A dangerous dog was behind a fence that was not properly secured, and you were attacked.
A child visits an abandoned property with an old refrigerator, crawls inside, and is locked in.
A restaurant requires visitors to step down into the dining room, but it is inadequately marked, and the customer falls instead.
The Cochran Law Firm – Birmingham will want to know whether you were an invited guest in the home or store. If you are an invitee, the property owner has the highest duty of care.
An invitee may be shopping in a retail store, may be visiting a commercial establishment, or is a subcontractor there to improve the property. The invitee is on the premises generally for the financial benefit of the owner. That property owner is expected to do regular inspections to make sure visitors to the shop, for example, will not be injured by defects on the property.
A licensee has permission to be on the property but generally enters for his/her own purpose, such as a neighbor, a salesperson, or mail carrier. Premises owners have a slightly lower duty of care to these visitors and may not have to regularly inspect.
If the visitor is a child and the property owner knew or should have known that children sometimes frequent the property where hazards are present, that owner has the duty to put up a fence or at the very least put up a warning.
A trespasser may have no rights at all unless it was a child (who was harmed) and/or the owner acted willfully to harm or entrap the trespasser.
Premises Liability Injuries
Besides the embarrassment of falling, premises liability cases are often built around very serious cases of injury and even death. One in five falls among older Americans cause a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A mild jolt can cause a concussion, while a severe injury may result in coma, memory loss, or even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TBI is a major cause of death and disability in the U.S.
Falls from a loose handrail or uneven sidewalk can cause fractures, sprains, broken arms, legs, and hips. A broken hip can be a life-altering experience for an elderly person and one from which they may never recover.
The legal theory of contributory negligence, which is applied in Alabama, may present a challenge to your recovery if you “contributed” in any degree to your own injury. Had you consumed alcohol at that store’s open house before your fall, for example?
That is not a defense to wanton or willful negligence on the part of the property owner.
However, the premises owner may claim that he/she was unaware of the safety risk on the property, or that the visitor should have seen an open and obvious hazard.
A reliable and capable personal injury law firm that is experienced with premises liability cases can help forecast those predictable defense arguments and effectively counter them to win your case.
A Premises Liability Lawsuit
After you are injured in a slip and fall, it is very important that you first seek medical attention and call an experienced premises liability law firm. Evidence has a tendency to disappear quickly as does store video. We will need to prove that the premises owner knew, or should have known, there was a hazard that caused your injury.
The Cochran Law Firm – Birmingham will notify the store not to destroy any surveillance videotape that may be useful to help prove your premises liability case.
Additionally, if there were any witnesses to your fall, it is important that you secure their contact information at the time. Employees of the store may not be the most reliable witnesses even if they saw what happened. They may also be the persons who failed to clean up a danger.
Attempt to take pictures of the scene if you can or ask others to if you are unable.
If there was a danger inherent with the premise, for example, a cracked walkway or unsecured railings, the Cochran Law Firm – Birmingham must link your injury to the defect and we will have to prove that the notice of the deficiencies, if there were any, were insufficient to ensure safety.
The determination of whether the property owner was aware of the defect will be decided by the jury or worked out during settlement negotiations.
You may be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering, medical costs, and the income you lost due to your accident. But first we need to begin the conversation and sooner is better, because you have just two years in Alabama to bring a personal injury claim.
Contact the Cochran Law Firm – Birmingham as soon as you can after your accident, so that we can determine the facts of your potential premises liability case and begin collecting evidence to bring your claim to court. Call our office today at 1-800 – THE FIRM or 205-994-8555 or message us online to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.