A claimant may argue that a property owner or occupier was negligent in the maintenance of their property, allowing a defective or hazardous condition to exist that should reasonably have been removed or otherwise corrected before the claimant’s accident.
There are many different types of premises liability cases. Examples of premises liability cases include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Snow and ice accidents
- Accidents caused by inadequate maintenance of the property
- Accidents caused by defective conditions on the property
- Inadequate security resulting in assault or injury
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Fire accidents and burn injuries
- Amusement or recreational park injuries
- Exposure to hazardous or toxic substances
- Construction site injuries
Any injury that can be characterized as having been caused by a defective or hazardous condition on someone else’s property could fall into the category of a premises liability claim.
What You Have to Prove in a Maryland or D.C. Premises Liability Claim
Most premises liability claims are based on a theory of negligence. Negligence means that an injured person alleges that a property owner or other responsible party failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances in the maintenance of the property to ensure that people who enter the property would not be injured due to a defective or hazardous condition.
The care that a property owner or operator must exercise toward someone who may enter the property depends on that visitor’s status. Premises liability law recognizes three categories of visitors to property:
- Invitees – An invitee is someone who is expressly offered the opportunity to enter a property by the owner or occupier. An invitee, therefore, enters the property for the benefit of the property owner or occupier. Common examples of invitees include social guests to someone’s home or customers in a store or restaurant. A property owner or operator has a proactive duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition for invitees.
- Licensees – A licensee is someone who is reasonably expected to enter a property, with the owner or operator’s permission or acquiescence, but for the licensee’s benefit, rather than for the benefit of the owner or occupier. Examples of licensees include a maintenance worker or a salesperson. A property owner or occupier is expected to provide a licensee with a warning of defective or hazardous conditions only if the owner or operator would reasonably know of such a condition and the licensee would be unlikely to discover it on his or her own.
- Trespassers – A trespasser is someone who does not have authorization to be on the property. An owner or operator owes no duty to a trespasser except to refrain from intentionally or recklessly causing harm to the trespasser. For example, a burglar who is injured by a booby trap set by the property owner might have a viable premises liability claim.
In most premises liability cases, a claimant has to prove that the property owner or operator had or should have had knowledge of a defective or hazardous condition on the property and that the owner or operator also had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the condition.
In the example of a slip and fall accident on a wet floor in a supermarket, a claimant would have to prove that the supermarket’s staff either knew of the spill or that the spill was on the ground long enough that an employee should have discovered it.
The claimant will also need to prove that there was sufficient time for the store to clean up the spill. For example, if an employee finds a spill on the floor and leaves to retrieve a “wet floor” sign or cleaning supplies, and someone slips before the employee can return, the store may argue that it did not have a reasonable amount of time to correct the condition, but did take measures to warn about it.
How Can a Charles County Premises Liability Attorney Help?
If you are injured by a defective or hazardous condition on someone else’s property, an experienced premises liability attorney can help you through the complex issues that can arise in premises liability cases. First, a premises liability attorney can help by identifying the persons or entities who were responsible for maintaining the property.
In many premises liability cases, the property is occupied by someone other than the owner. This situation can raise questions about the responsibility of the landlord versus the responsibility of the tenant business to maintain the property and keep it free of the defects or hazards that caused your injury.
Property owners or occupiers may also contract out maintenance to third-party companies, a situation that can shift liability for injuries. A premises liability can examine deeds, leases, and contracts to determine who is really responsible for your injuries.
A premises liability attorney can also examine the evidence to build a solid case to establish liability. An attorney can look at surveillance video, photographs, maintenance logs, or similar evidence to determine whether a property owner or occupier knew or reasonably should have known of the defective or hazardous condition that caused your injuries and whether the owner or occupier had a reasonable opportunity to correct the situation or post warnings.
A premises liability attorney can also negotiate with the responsible parties and their insurance companies to settle your case for fair and full compensation. If a settlement is not possible, a premises liability attorney can help you through the civil justice system, ensuring that your claim is correctly prosecuted in court and advocating on your behalf to seek a favorable verdict and judgment.
Compensation Available for Premises Liability Victims
If you are injured on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to certain kinds of compensation. Compensation for personal injury victims typically falls into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are intended to provide compensation for financial losses, while non-economic damages are meant to provide compensation for more subjective kinds of losses.
Examples of economic damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses, such as doctor’s office visits, physical therapy, hospital bills, surgeries, prescriptions, and equipment such as crutches
- Past and future lost income, such as income lost due to missed work because of injuries and differences between pre- and post-accident income if you are unable to work as much as you could before your accident
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, which compensates for physical and emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life, which compensates a victim for their inability to perform daily tasks or participate in activities they previously enjoyed
- Loss of companionship, which compensates a victim’s spouse and/or immediate family for the loss of their loved one’s society and service to the family
In rare cases, a premises liability injury victim may be able to seek punitive damages. Unlike other kinds of damages, punitive damages do not compensate a victim for a loss but instead punish a wrongdoer for their actions. Punitive damages are typically limited to only those cases in which a responsible party commits particularly egregious conduct that shocks the conscience of a reasonable person.
What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt on Someone Else’s Property in Maryland or D.C.
If you’ve been hurt on someone else’s property, you can take steps to help protect your legal rights and options and give yourself the best chance at maximizing your recovery in any premises liability claim.
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident, including emergency treatment if necessary. You may not believe your injuries are very serious at first, but symptoms of some serious injuries can take days or weeks to appear. Getting prompt medical attention can improve your prognosis. Quickly identifying your injuries will also strengthen your argument that your injuries were caused by your premises liability accident.
You should try to take photos and videos of the scene if you are capable of doing so. Try to capture the exact spot where you were injured, including whatever hazard caused your injury (ice, a spill on the floor, uneven pavement, etc.). Also try to capture other aspects of the area, such as any warning signs indicating the hazard, obstructions blocking your view of the hazard, lighting conditions, or weather conditions.
You should try to contact the owner or occupier of the property to notify them of your injury. Be sure to get their contact information. If the owner or occupier of the property has evidence relating to your accident, such as an accident or incident report or surveillance video, be sure to contact them in writing as soon as possible and ask them to preserve that evidence. Many companies have data-retention policies that can cause important evidence to be quickly lost.
For help, you should contact an experienced premises liability attorney as soon as possible. You have a limited time to pursue a legal claim for any injuries you suffer. Evidence may quickly be lost, so it is critical to have an experienced attorney begin an investigation as soon as possible.
Time Limits on Premises Liability Claims in Maryland and D.C.
If you have a premises liability claim in Maryland or D.C., the law imposes a time limit on filing a lawsuit to pursue your claim. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. In Maryland and D.C., a claimant has three years from the date of their injury to file a premises liability claim. If a lawsuit is not filed within the statute of limitations, the courts will almost certainly reject it.
There are certain circumstances where a court may pause or extend the deadline, also known as “tolling” the statute of limitations. For example, a court may toll the statute of limitations for a premises liability claimant who is a minor. Maryland and D.C. laws include a particular statute of limitations for minors, which runs for three years from the minor’s 18th birthday.
Talk to a Charles County Premises Liability Lawyer Now
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You don’t have to fight alone against businesses or insurance companies to try and get the compensation you deserve.
Contact Trollinger Law today to schedule a free consultation with our Charles County premises liability attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options and how a premises liability attorney can help you secure the financial recovery you need and deserve.