What is a Premises Liability Case?
A premises liability case is a legal claim for compensation that arises when an individual is injured while on someone else's property due to unsafe conduct or conditions. The basis of such a case is the careless operation or maintenance and dangerous condition of the property that led to the injury. This type of case can be brought against multiple parties, including property owners, property managers, or those who have the right to use and occupy the property such as a repair company. A premises liability case is a way for an injured party to recover damages for the harm they suffered due to the property owner's failure to ensure safe conditions.
A successful premises liability claim proves that the property owner's negligence or careless conduct led to the injury. The property owner is duty-bound to maintain safety on their property and if they failed to fulfill this obligation, resulting in harm to someone, they are liable for damages. Compensation for injuries may be available if the injured person can prove these elements.
Elements of a Premises Liability Case
- Duty is the legal obligation of property owners and occupiers to be careful and attentive to potential risks of injury to people who come onto the property and to take action to prevent injury to others.
Duty Examples (for Property Owners and Managers)
- Landlord duty to tenants and visitors: keep sidewalks and stairs free of debris and liquids, keep the walkways level, and install lighting in walking areas.
- Store duty to shoppers: keep aisles clean and unobstructed for customers.
- Restaurant duty to customers: ensure that food and drink spills are cleaned up immediately.
- Bars: do not over-serve alcohol to customers, eject drunk patrons, have trained security at the bar to manage any dangerous conflict, and have a policy that police are called immediately if conflict escalates.
- Hotels to guests: keep walkways clear and free of debris, and have security measures in place to prevent criminal conduct that endangers guests.
- Office buildings to occupants: keep lobby floor clear and dry, have functioning elevators and keep stairway steps safe.
- Condo and Apartment buildings to residents: have working locks and other security features, ensure doors and windows can be locked, and prevent entry by known dangerous people.
2. Breach of duty is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injuries.
- Allowing tile floors to become cracked and uneven,
- Not cleaning up a food or drink spill in a store aisle,
- Not providing security in a parking lot where customers had previously been assaulted.
Proving Fault for an Accident on Premises in Chicago
Proving the fault or negligence of the defendant is required in order to win a successful recovery. The injured party bringing the case must prove, by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the conduct of the defendant was negligent. What is negligence? Essentially, negligence is an unsafe condition or conduct. Negligence is defined as the failure to meet the duty of “due care.” At its core, negligence is about a lack of safety.
Proving fault requires the use of the law and the evidence. The law comes from many sources:
- Statutory law - law “on the books” passed by the legislature
- Municipal ordinances - laws passed by cities and counties
- Case law - law from court decisions
- Contracts - property owners may have entered agreements requiring them to use due care for the safety of others
Evidence of fault comes in many forms such as:
- Testimony - what people say and describe under oath
- Documentary - contracts, operating manuals, emails
- Visual - photos and videos
Compensation in an Illinois Premises Liability Case
Compensation in an Illinois Premises Liability Case is based on the facts and law of each case. Of course, the competence and commitment of your attorney matter greatly. The two primary factors that drive compensation amounts are the severity of the injury and the nature of the property owner’s negligence. A third factor is the amount of insurance policy limits.
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Disability (past and future)
- Pain and suffering (past and future)
- Income loss
- Disfigurement (scarring)
We have a case where our client was severely injured by a falling garage door. The homeowner had just $300,000 in liability insurance. The limit of $300,000 is the maximum compensation. Most business owners have at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance. The credibility of the injured person is a factor in compensation. Most people are honest. If an injured person is not honest, the value of the case can go down.
Some of the factors that contribute to compensation in a premises liability claim
- Severity of injuries
- The fault of the property owner or property manager
- Insurance policy limits
- The credibility of the injured person
Some Thoughts on Credibility and Persuasion in an Injury Case
A major factor in the compensation obtained in a premises liability case is whether the case and the claimant are believable. Insurance companies and defense attorneys partly evaluate a case on whether the injured party is credible. They look at reports, medical records, and plaintiff testimony about the incident and the injuries. They listen to witnesses and they assess the credibility of their own injured client. Then, decide if they will persuade jurors if the case goes to trial. Also, the plaintiff’s attorneys, judges, and ultimately jurors make credibility assessments to evaluate case value.
Every case must be proven by “a preponderance of the evidence.” That means “more likely true than not.” What do these phrases mean? Your evidence must weigh more in your favor than the evidence from your opponent. You must tip the scales of justice. The visual on weighing the evidence is the Scales of Lady Justice.
One way to describe the standard of proof is that the evidence must be believable, credible, and persuasive. You can draw from your own knowledge and experience to determine what is believable, credible, and persuasive. Was the incident caught on video? If so, the video can make your case or it can break the case. Video can accomplish what testimony cannot. With the growth in video technology, video images are more common in premises liability cases.
Similarly, photographs can accomplish what testimony cannot. For example, the injured person's testimony could be that they stumbled over cracked pavement in a parking lot. If there are photos of the cracked pavement, that could make the testimony of the injured more believable.
Additionally, the testimony of an independent witness is extremely helpful. Why? Because the independent witness has no stake in the outcome of the case. Thus, their testimony is not so closely scrutinized as that of the person who has a stake in the outcome - that would be the injured party or the person against whom the claim is being made. So, independent witnesses are generally considered to be extremely valuable in proving a case.
Compensation We Have Recovered For Our Clients in Premises Liability Cases
Trip and Fall / Paralysis - $3,950,000 - Recovery for our physician client who suffered quadriplegia injury as a result of a fall-down incident.
Leg Crush at Vehicle Repair Shop - $1,500,000 - Recovered for leg crush injuries sustained by a 31-year-old truck driver at a truck repair facility.
Slip and Fall in workplace / Back surgery - $1,275,000 - Recovery for 58-year-old elevator mechanic that slipped and fell on the slippery coating on the roof of a high-rise building. Our client underwent significant back surgery.
Chair collapse / Shoulder surgeries - $900,000 – Recovery for our client as a result of a stool collapse at a laundromat. Our client sustained a rotator cuff tear needing 3 surgeries including a total shoulder replacement
Brain Hemorrhage / Parking lot potholes - $475,000 - Recovered for our client who tripped and fell in the parking lot of a big box store due to the severely cracked pavement
Fatalities and Wrongful Death Claims in Premises Liability Cases
Fatalities and wrongful death liability claims can result from various incidents such as slip and falls, construction accidents, and hazardous property conditions. If a person dies due to a property owner's neglect or failure to maintain a safe environment, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim.
The compensation in a wrongful death claim can include reimbursement for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and loss of companionship. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to penalize the owner for their deliberate or reckless actions.
It is crucial to consult early on with an experienced premises liability attorney at Blumenshine Law Group who can guide you through your legal options and ensure that your rights are protected. We listen to your experience, investigate the accident circumstances, gather evidence to support your claim, negotiate with insurance companies, or pursue your rights in court. By holding the liable parties accountable, you not only receive the compensation you deserve but also help prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.
What Are Common Types of Premises Liability Accidents?
- Broken or Dangerous Stair Accidents
- Wet and Slippery Floor Accidents
- Uneven Floor surface Accidents
- Hotel Accident
- Elevator Accident
- Porch Collapses
- Rental Property Injuries
- Animal bites and attacks
- Amusement Park Accidents
- Drowning Accidents
- Swimming Pool Accidents
- Bridge Collapses
- Stairway and Uneven Steps Accidents
- Grain Bin Explosions
- Gas Explosions
What Are Common Injuries From Premises Liability Accidents?
- Broken bones and fractures - When a fall occurs, particularly from a substantial height or onto a hard surface, it is not uncommon for individuals to suffer from fractures or broken bones. These injuries may range in severity, from simple fractures that can be mended with basic treatment to more intricate fractures that necessitate surgery and a protracted recovery period. The indications of a broken bone may encompass acute pain, inflammation, discoloration, impediments when attempting to move the damaged limb, and contortion of the affected appendage.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) - A Traumatic Brain Injury, is a type of injury that involves damage to the brain due to a sudden force or impact to the head. This type of injury can occur from car accidents, falls, sports injuries, or any other incident that results in a blow to the head. The severity of a TBI can range from mild, such as a concussion, to severe, which can result in long-term cognitive or physical disabilities. It is important to seek medical attention immediately after any head injury as symptoms may not appear right away and the full extent of the injury may not be apparent until later.
- Concussions: a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting from a significant impact to the head or body, can create a variety of distressing symptoms. Sufferers may experience symptoms such as headaches, vertigo, disorientation, amnesia, and aphasia, among other complications related to speech and communication.
- Brain hemorrhage: a type of bleeding within the skull that ensues from an external force exerted upon the cranium or physical body, can be brought on by numerous factors, which include skull fractures, contusions, or lacerations. If someone shows signs like severe headaches, confusion, weakness, or fainting, they need to seek medical help right away because it could be dangerous and life-threatening.
- Skull fracture
- Post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions
- Back and Neck Injuries - falls can cause excessive force to the neck and back which are anchored by the spinal structures. The cervical (neck) spine and lumbar (back) spine are particularly vulnerable to injury in fall-down incidents. Examples of serious neck and back injuries are:
- Herniated discs
- Vertebra fractures
- Pinched nerves
- Torn Ligaments and Cartilage - falls can cause twisting and torquing of the joints which exceed their normal capacity
- Burns - fires and explosions often result in painful and disfiguring burns.
- Fatal injuries (aka “Wrongful Death”) - the more tragic premises liability injuries result in death.
Why do I need an experienced, ethical, zealous attorney?
So, why not do a Google search on how to handle your own premises injury case and have at it? Well, you could, and you could succeed. And, you could ruin your claim and lose. The likelihood and I have seen it time and time again is that a non-lawyer is not equipped to handle the complexities of litigating a serious personal injury case. There are court rules, procedures, and crafty experienced insurance defense attorneys that are minefields that can blow up your case. So whether or not to handle your own personal injury claim is a decision to be made based on careful analysis.
How do you analyze whether to handle the case yourself?
I like to do risk and reward analysis when deciding on what to do. The rewards of handling your own case could be:
- That you have the satisfaction of handling the claim yourself
- Being in control of your situation
- Not relying on someone else
- That you do not owe a legal fee to a lawyer
The risks of attempting to handle your premises liability case without a good lawyer:
- Saying something that endangers your case
- Signing something that provides evidence against you or that waives or limits your rights
- Inexperience in dealing with insurance company processes
- Failure to obtain sufficient evidence
- Failure to get adequate medical attention or complete medical documentation
- Failure to file suit by the deadline caused an irrevocable loss of the right to recover compensation
- Failure to comply with court rules puts the case at risk of dismissal
- Failure to know legal rules of procedure and evidence
- Failure to understand case value
- Inability to procure insurance policy liability limits
Premises Liability FAQs
Who is responsible for maintaining safe premises?
Maintaining safe premises lies with the person or organization that owns or controls the property. This can include individuals, businesses, or government entities. They have a legal obligation to keep the property reasonably safe and free from hazards that could cause harm to visitors or tenants.
What should I do if I am injured on someone else's property?
If you are injured on someone else's property, it's most important to seek medical attention right away. You should also document the incident, report it to the property owner or manager, and consider speaking with a premises liability attorney to understand your legal options.
How long do I have to file a premises liability lawsuit?
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for bringing a premises liability claim is typically two years after the incident. It is vital to contact a premises liability lawyer promptly in order to determine the exact filing deadline.
How much compensation can I receive in a premises liability case?
The compensation you could receive in a premises liability case depends on various factors, like the seriousness of your injuries, the extent of your medical expenses, lost income, and the impact of the injury on your daily activities. It's crucial to collaborate with a skilled premises liability attorney who can provide insights into the potential value of your case and aid in negotiating a reasonable settlement or award. Since each case is unique and varies based on the circumstances, there is no predetermined amount of compensation for a premises liability case.
How much does it cost to have a premises liability attorney?
If you hire us, our premises liability attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means you won't have to pay anything upfront or out-of-pocket. Our firm will only get paid if you receive a settlement or award. We can discuss the details of this arrangement when we look at your case.
What should I look for when choosing a premises liability attorney?
When looking for a premises liability attorney, substantial successful experience in similar cases is required. Additionally, consider the communication style and responsiveness of the attorney and firm staff. Reviews and testimonials from previous clients will offer insight into their overall reputation and client satisfaction level.
Contact a Chicago Premises Liability Attorney
At the Blumenshine Law Group, we're committed to helping you get the justice and compensation you deserve if you've been injured due to someone else's negligence. With our experienced premises liability law attorneys by your side, you can focus on your recovery while we handle the legal aspects of your case. If you've been injured on someone else's property, don't wait. Contact us now to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We'll listen to your story, answer your questions, and help you understand your legal options. Let us fight for your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve. Call or text us at (312)766-1000 or use our contact form.