During a typical week, most of us spend a major portion of our time outside of our home. We go to work, go out shopping, go out to restaurants, spend time with friends, and occasionally go on vacations. Sometimes, accidents can happen when we are out on someone else’s property. Many times, these are just minor mishaps. Other times, however, they can result in moderate to severe injuries.
If you were hurt on the property of another party, you may have a right to compensation under the legal theory known as “premises liability”. There are a number of incidents that may be covered under this theory, such as:
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Animal attacks;
- Elevator and escalator accidents;
- Swimming pool accidents;
- Fires and explosions;
- Exposure to toxic substances;
- Injuries that happen because of negligent security.
An owner or caretaker of the property may be liable for injuries sustained by visitors under certain circumstances. For a premises liability claim to be successful, however, the plaintiff must prove several elements, including:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care;
- The defendant breached this duty;
- This breach resulted in the plaintiff getting injured;
- The plaintiff’s injury resulted in compensable losses.
The extent of the duty owed by a property owner or caretaker depends largely on what type of visitor you were when you were hurt on the property. There are three general categories of property visitors:
- Invitees: These are visitors who have explicit or implied permission to be on the property, usually for the benefit of the owner or caretaker. Examples of invitees include customers of restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail establishments, hotel and resort guests, residential and commercial property tenants, and individuals who are walking through a public park. The highest duty of care is owed to invitees, and those in charge of the property are responsible to take reasonable steps to keep the premises free of hazards and to adequately warn visitors of any dangerous conditions that exist.
- Licensees: A licensee is someone who also has explicit or implied permission to enter a property, but they generally do so for their own benefit. Examples of visitors in this category include social guests, neighbors, and delivery carriers. A slightly lower duty of care is owed to licensees; property owners are required to take reasonable steps to protect and adequately warn visitors of known hazards, but they are not necessarily required to inspect the property to discover unknown dangers.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who is not authorized to be on the property. As such, landowners have no legal obligation to protect trespassers from hazardous conditions, they must only refrain from willful and wanton conduct or entrapment that may cause them harm.
Pursuing a Premises Liability Claim in Alabama
If you were an invitee or licensee when you were hurt on someone else’s property, you may have a case against the owner, depending on the specific circumstances. However, establishing your visitor status and duty of care owed to you is only half the battle. If the injury occurred in Alabama, you must also overcome the state’s “contributory negligence” legal standard.
Under contributory negligence, a defendant can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to be even 1% responsible for the underlying incident that caused the injury. You can be certain that the defendant will try to use this against you by claiming that the injury was at least partially your fault. Some possible defenses they may use include:
- The condition was clearly marked (with a sign, cone, or similar);
- The hazardous condition was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person;
- You were not paying adequate attention to where you were going;
- You were in an area that is restricted to visitors or they are not normally expected to be.
Given the uphill battle you are facing, it is important to take proactive steps to protect your legal right to compensation. Take multiple photographs of the accident scene from various angles to show the hazard and how you got hurt, obtain statements and the contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the event, get immediate medical attention to fully document your injuries and ensure that you are properly treated, and retain skilled legal counsel as early as possible in the process.
Injured on Someone Else’s Property? Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one was hurt on the property of another party in Alabama, call M. Adam Jones and Associates for a free, no-obligation consultation. We will thoroughly review your case and advise you of your legal options. Call us today at 334-581-9238 or send us a message through our online contact form.