A premises liability claim is any claim involving an injury that occurs because of some defect, or negligence that is perpetrated or caused by a property owner, and premises liability claims can also consist of slips and falls. They can consist of trips over dangerous or hidden conditions of the premises. It can consist of stairs being improperly designed such that they cause somebody to fall and suffer an injury. Many of the premises liability claims that we have handled, have involved concrete structures, such as sidewalks, parking lots, or exterior stairs that were ineffectively constructed, or defectively designed, and placed on the premises or the owner of the premises did not properly mark them to warn people of the danger of the situation.
For example, if you have curbs or stairs that do not comply with local code and the local code requires you to paint them a contrasting color in certain circumstances. If you fail to have the steps, the parking lot, or the pedestrian area where a person falls properly painted such that people would recognize a change in the level of the area, and they fall because of that. We have filed suit, and have been successful in making those types of claims against property owners, with those types of design defects or construction defects on their premises. Premises liability has anything to do with a property owner, property designer, or construction company not properly having a particular premises set up to where a person can safely traverse, walk, run, or do whatever is expected of a person who comes on that premises, and that premises causes an injury to that individual.
Probably the most common misconceptions regarding premises liability is that just because they fell, on the premises, they can file a suit or a claim against the owner of the premises. That is just not true. You need to be able to prove that the owner of the premises was somehow negligent in the maintenance, use, design, construction, or in any other way of the premises, and that conduct caused them to suffer this fall, which thus caused them to suffer an injury. For example, many people have contacted our office with a slip, trip, or fall at a particular store, and they think that just because they fell and suffered an injury that they have a claim against that store, but they do not realize that the store has cameras and may show how that fall occurred.
However, they probably fell because of some other customer dropping some water on the floor right before they walked across the floor, and slipped and fell. If the store owner does not have the opportunity to clean up the mess where you fell, because you fell right after that mess was created, then most likely you probably do not have a reputable case. Just because you fell on somebody’s premises, does not mean that you necessarily will prevail in a premises liability claim. Another common misperception about premises liability claims is that they are easy to prove. In many of the cases that we have reviewed, we have had to retain many different experts. For example, we know that there is video, but the video has been tampered with, and we will have an expert evaluate the videotape, and prove that the videotape has been altered. This will help to try to prove the defense case.
If we are able to prove that they altered the video, it can help tremendously in a premises liability case. You also will often need to hire what is called an ergonomics expert in a premises liability case. They will prove that the property owner did not anticipate the ordinary human movement, and thus the environment happened was not ergonomically correct. You often need to have that type of expert involved in all your cases. That along with the need for perhaps an accident reconstructionist can make these premises liability claims complicated, and the common misperception from people is that these are simple cases, and can easily obtain a settlement, which is just not true. The last misconception I can think of that comes up quite frequently, is that when you fall on someone’s premises, there is always going to be insurance available to cover your accident. That is just not always the case either.
If it is a small mom and pop store, many of those stores have opted not to have insurance coverage, because they do not want to pay the premiums, they are too high, and they have opted to go without insurance. They know what the risk could do to them, but they may be so far in debt, that it does not matter if they lose the store anyway. Most people who have premises liability claims, do not want to take over stores, they just want to try to get a reasonable settlement from insurance companies.