If you slip or fall and injure yourself on someone else’s property, you may have a “premises liability claim”. Legally, a premises liability claim involves the liability of property owners for injuries that happen to someone who is on their property. In Texas, premises liability claims often arise from “premises defects,” which are basically unsafe conditions on a property.
Types of Premises Defects
There are any number of different kinds of conditions that may qualify as a premises defect, including holes, spills, and other unexpected hazards. The question of what is and what is not a premises defect is often a difficult one. You should always consult a qualified lawyer if you have been injured while on another’s property.
The duty of a property owner
The ‘duty’ a property owner (or the person controlling the property) owes to a person entering the property depends on the person’s legal status. In Texas, people entering property belonging to another fall into one of three legal categories:
- Or invitees.
These categories determine the amount of care the property owner or occupier must use when someone is on the property.
As you might guess from the name, a trespasser is a person who enters the property of another without lawful authority, permission, or an invitation. Because trespassers should not be on the property at all, the owner of the property does not have many obligations to look out for a trespasser’s well-being.
Generally, the only duty a property owner owes trespassers is not to injure them willfully, wantonly, or through gross negligence. In other words, as long as the property owner does not injure the trespasser intentionally or through extreme carelessness, the property owner is not responsible for injuries the trespasser might suffer. If a trespasser is injured, it is usually his own fault.
A licensee is a person who enters and remains on the property with the owner’s consent, but whose presence does not financially benefit the owner. The most common kind of licensee is a “social guest.” If you are invited to a friend’s house for dinner or to watch a football game, you are a social guest.
Because licensees have permission to be on the property, the property owner owes a higher degree of duty than he owes trespassers. A property owner has an obligation to either warn a licensee about a premises defect or to fix the hazard. For example, if the owner knows that his front steps are dangerous because they are uneven, he should warn the licensee to be careful on the steps (or, better yet, fix the steps). A licensee injured by a premises defect of which the owner was aware and the licensee was not may be able to bring a premises liability claim against the owner.
The highest degree of duty owed by property owners is owed to invitees. An invitee is a person who enters the property with the owner’s knowledge and for the mutual benefit of both parties. The most common example of an invitee is the so-called “business invitee.” A business invitee goes to a place of business to buy something, a transaction benefiting both the owner (who gets paid by the invitee) and the invitee (who gets the item he needs from the owner).
In addition to the duties discussed above, property owners also owe invitees a duty to protect them… Not only from risks the owners know about but also from the risks they should know about. This encourages owners to “go the extra mile” to protect invitees. Doing things like making sure that the floors are mopped dry in wet weather. Or making sure that spills are cleaned up promptly. Often, there is a question about whether an owner should have known about a given hazard. However, the general rule is how long the hazard has been around. If it’s been there for some time, then the property owner should have been aware of it.
There are many exceptions, special rules, and other factors that can affect a premises liability claim. If you are injured on a property through no fault of your own, you could have a premises liability claim. Please contact us to review your potential case.
Premises Liability if you slip and fall at a store
Should you happen to fall and injure yourself at a store. You must show that the property owner was negligent or careless in order to make a legal claim. It is important to get as much information as possible to help you prove your case.
- Get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of witnesses–both customers and employees. If you cannot do this at the time of the accident, do so as soon as possible afterward.
- Get a good look at whatever you tripped over or slipped on. Take lots of photos if possible. Treat it in many ways like you would gathering details following an auto accident.
- Pay careful attention to anything the employees might say. If any of them admit to knowing about the hazard, be sure to get his or her name.
- Call us. We have successfully represented many slip-and-fall victims. We will get you everything that you deserve under the law.