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Residential/Commercial Property Safety & Security

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Every year thousands of people are injured, some seriously, because of the negligence of property owners. Many people are hurt while in someone else’s home or place of business. People may be injured on a flight of stairs, on a patch of ice or snow, by a building defect, or by the intentional, criminal act of a third party. The area of the law that applies to these types of situations is known as premises liability. Premises liability law covers slip, trip, and falls due to dangerous conditions on public or private property, and holds the property owner (or owners) responsible for any resulting medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.

Premises liability law establishes guidelines regarding duties that a property owner or occupier has to protect entrants from dangerous conditions or defects on the property. Generally, the law provides that property owners must keep their premises reasonably safe for people who are on the property.

The attorneys of Coker, Schickel, Sorenson, Posgay & Iracki have had success in many complex premises liability cases. Contact our attorneys and we can meet with you free of charge to discuss your situation, and your potential case. If we can help you, we will work directly with you on all aspects of your case, charging no attorneys’ fees unless and until you recover monetary damages.

Premises liability cases generally proceed under the theory that the defendant (the landowner or occupier) was negligent. To establish negligence, an injured individual must establish the existence of a duty by the defendant to conform to a specific standard of conduct; breach of that duty by the landowner or occupier; that this breach was the actual cause of the injury; and that the individual was actually injured.

Dangerous Indoor Conditions

The duty of an owner, occupier or possessor of land to a person who is injured as a direct result of a condition of the premises depends on the status of that entrant. Entrants are typically classified as invitees, licensees or trespassers, and the duty that the landowner or occupier owes to each class of entrant is different. An invitee is someone who enters the land in response to an express or implied invitation from the landowner. A licensee is a person who enters the premises with the landowner’s express or implied permission for his or her own purposes rather than the landowner’s benefit, such as a social guest. A trespasser is someone who enters the land without the owner’s permission. However, sometimes the landowner has knowledge of the trespasser before the injury is suffered.

One of the most common  liability situation occurs when a member of the public is injured by a defect on a public sidewalk or roadway. In these cases, it would seem clear that the governmental unit responsible for maintaining the road or walkway should be held legally responsible for the person’s injuries. Traditionally, however, governmental entities enjoy protection from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which provides the government complete immunity from suit. State and federal governments have reduced this broad sovereign immunity over the years by passing laws that limit or reduce the immunity of government entities in certain situations. These laws vary from state to state, but most are modeled on the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which is a federal law that waives the sovereign immunity of the federal government under certain circumstances and allows it to be sued.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C.A. §1346, 2674 et seq.) waives the immunity of the United States from tort liability for the acts of its officers and employees. Generally, a person who is hurt by a dangerous condition on federal property can recover damages from the United States in a premises liability suit if he or she can establish that the US’s negligence was caused by a government employee acting within the scope of his or her authority; that a duty was owed to the injured party; and that the duty was breached by a hazardous condition about which the government knew or should have known.

Coker, Schickel, Sorenson, Posgay & Iracki attorneys have handled hundreds of cases involving slip and fall accidents caused by unsafe conditions. Most of these cases have involved one of the three following area:

Flooring problems often result in slips and falls, and include an owner’s failure to provide adequate signs for wet spots, failure to provide proper barriers to closed-off areas, using excessive or uneven floor waxing, and allowing torn, uneven, or bulging carpet areas to go unrepaired.

Stairs undergo normal wear and tear, and the property owner is responsible for maintaining their upkeep. Edges can become rounded, the stairs’ non-stick surface (which is required in most states) can wear out, and a handrail can be broken or missing. All of these dangerous conditions can be attributed to owner negligence and result in injury and liability.

Escalators and Elevators are held to high standards under the law because they are designed to carry passengers. Property owners must fulfill these high standards or risk a lawsuit when users slip, trip or fall.

Dangerous Outdoor Conditions

Inadequate Outdoor Lighting: Inadequate lighting can lead to pedestrian injuries in parking lots or on sidewalks. The property owner can be held liable if they knew or should have known about the dangerous situation and failed to remedy the problem in a reasonable amount of time.

Sidewalks: Most sidewalks are owned and maintained by the city or county. However, if a public sidewalk is used exclusively by the property owner’s clientele, the owner can be held liable for the sidewalk’s dangerous conditions.

Parking Lots: Parking lot owners are legally responsible for maintaining the safety of their lots. This includes any protrusion in the surface of the parking lot that contributes to an injury.

Falls and Falling Objects: Slips and falls are among the most common injury-causing trauma to occur on commercial property. We represent clients who have fallen on spilled merchandise in stores, slipped on wet surfaces or ice and tripped over uneven pavement or turned-up rugs. Other types of injuries on commercial property involved falling objects. When merchandise falls from a store shelf, a hotel room television falls from a shelf or construction supplies fall onto passersby, the property owner may be liable.

Inadequate Safety and Security: Inadequate lighting and inadequate attention to security can result in assaults, sexual assaults and homicide. If you or your loved one was injured because inadequate safety and security measures contributed to a violent attack, we will pursue financial compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, rehabilitation expenses and lost wages or income.

Store Owner Liability

Because people in stores are there primarily for the benefit of the store owner (i.e. to purchase their goods or services), owners have a considerable responsibility to keep their premises safe. Store owners must inspect their property for potential dangers and then fix the problem in a reasonable amount of time or adequately warn the public of the dangers. If they do not, they can be liable for any injuries that may result.

Private Property Liability

If you have been injured at a friend’s home or by their dog, you may be hesitant to file a personal injury claim. It is important to note that your friend or neighbor will typically not be paying your claim out of pocket. You will typically be compensated by his or her homeowner’s insurance company. Coker, Schickel, Sorenson, Posgay & Iracki attorneys can help you recover financial compensation for the full amount of your losses including medical and rehabilitation expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages or income.

If you have been injured in an accident, or in a criminal act that took place on private or public property, contact our office to discuss your injuries and situation and we will evaluate whether you have a case and what type of claim would be appropriate to make on your behalf.