You are walking in a grocery store when you suddenly slip and fall, aggravating a pre-existing back injury. A cooler had leaked onto the floor, causing you to lose your balance on the liquid. Suddenly, you are faced with medical bills, have to take time off of work, and are dealing with terrible back pain. What can you do? You can file a premises liability lawsuit.
What is a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
Premises liability cases are brought when someone becomes injured on another person’s property that is caused by an unsafe condition that a person was aware of or should have been aware of. Essentially, the property owner or controller did or did not do something with their property that resulted in another person getting injured. The injured party can file a personal injury lawsuit and recover damages from the person who owned or controlled the premises.
Here are some of the more common types of premises liability lawsuits:
- Dog bites
- Slip and fall accidents
- Snow and ice causing injury
- Amusement park accidents
- Escalator/elevator accidents
- Swimming pool accident
- Inadequate premises maintenance
So If I Get Hurt On Another Person’s Property, Can I Sue Them?
Just because someone suffers an injury on the property of another does not necessarily mean that the property owner will be liable. For instance, if someone suffers a heart attack at a dinner party hosted by their friend, and the heart attack was caused by a pre-existing condition, then the friend will not be liable. That is, nothing about the property caused the heart attack. Or, if a person misuses the property–for instance, dives in the shallow end of a pool, knowing it is shallow, and suffers paralysis–the property owner likely will not be held liable.
In Illinois, property owners and occupiers have a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances for the purpose of preventing guests from suffering foreseeable injuries. They have a responsibility to maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition. Therefore, those who own or control a premises must use reasonable care to notice and repair dangerous conditions on the premises. Alternatively, those individuals must let guests and visitors know of the dangerous condition if a reasonable person would not realize the danger or fail to protect themselves against it.
For instance, if a pregnant woman rides a rollercoaster, she could suffer injury to herself or her unborn child. A pregnant woman may not know that a rollercoaster could cause such injury. An amusement park, therefore, has the duty to inform a pregnant woman–generally through a sign or from workers if the pregnancy is noticeable–that riding on the amusement park attraction could lead to significant harm. If the pregnant woman understands the danger and still goes on the ride, and suffers harm, then she has assumed the risk and is solely responsible for the injuries that she might suffer.
How Do I Show That the Premises Owner is Liable?
If you are injured on someone’s property, you must prove:
- That there was a dangerous condition that existed on the premises
- That the party who possessed or controlled the premises knew that there was a dangerous condition or should have known about the dangerous condition
- That the premises owner or controller did not use reasonable care to discover the danger, fix the defect, or warn the guest of the danger
- That you did, in fact, suffer an injury
How Do I Prove That There Was a Dangerous Condition?
Whether something is a dangerous condition can be extremely obvious or a bit more nuanced. If a stairway, for instance, is missing a railing or is clearly poorly maintained, this would count as a dangerous condition. Other common dangerous conditions are things like slippery floors or sidewalk defects. In other instances, an investigation is needed to show that there was a dangerous condition. If there is a door that multiple people have accidentally walked into, and the business has not done anything about it to fix it, then that business could be liable.
Can I Recover Damages?
Clients sometimes worry that they will be unable to recover damages because they contributed to the injury in some way. For instance, suppose a person slips on ice in front of a neighbor’s door. The neighbor might argue that this person should have realized there was ice or was otherwise careless in causing the injury and that they, therefore, are not responsible for any damages.
The standard in Illinois is something called “modified comparative negligence” (735 ILCS 5/2-1116). An injured party can recover damages only if he or she is at fault for less than 50% of the injury or damages. Therefore, if you are half–or more–responsible for the injury, then you will not be able to recover.
If I Suffer Injury As a Result of Another’s Premises, What Can I Recover?
You can recover compensation for damages that are caused by the culpable party’s negligence under Illinois law. This could include obvious things like money to pay for your medical bills and lost wages. Additionally, you might be able to recover damages for the pain and suffering you endured from the ordeal.
Will I Have to Go To Court?
It depends. The first step is to file a lawsuit against the premises liability owner. In the lawsuit, you will state what happened to you and how the property owner or controller’s actions or inactions led to your injury. Once the other side reviews your lawsuit, they can choose to settle–which means you and them agree on an amount of money that they will pay you for the injury–or you will head to court and let a jury decide what the property owner owes you.
Contact an Experienced Premises Liability Attorney
An experienced premises liability attorney will help you collect evidence and file a claim. They will help you maximize your damages so you can be on the road to recovery. Contact our office today.