We all know that accidents can happen anywhere at any time. Usually, we try to make decisions that keep us from harm, but sometimes, it is impossible to avoid an accident. Imagine doing a bit of weekend shopping. As you were about to take your first step down the stairs to get to the first floor of your favorite shop, you slip on a tile and fall down the first flight. X-rays reveal cracked ribs and a broken arm.
Now, you must figure how you are going to pay for the medical expenses your insurance does not cover. You will be off the job for several weeks while you wait for your doctor to give you clearance to resume working.
When accidents like this happen, some people blame themselves for simply being too clumsy or inattentive. But hold on, is it really your fault? There may have been an unsafe condition or a hidden hazard that contributed to your fall.
What if the area at the top of the stairs was unsafe? What if you were not the first person to fall there and management was aware that there was problem with the second-floor landing? In a premises liability case, it is important to understand who may be at fault for the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney in the New York area can review your case and determine if you might recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
Your status on the property
When you set foot on property that is not your own, there are generally four possibilities that apply to your status. Your status may play a role in determining who is at fault for your accident:
- As a customer at a store or other place of business, your status is invitee. When a store opens its doors to customers and invites them in, there is an implied contract that the store has taken steps to provide a reasonably safe environment for its guests. This means that if the owners or managers of the store were aware of an unsafe condition and did not take steps to ensure the safety of its patrons, then you may have a strong premises liability case.
- As a social guest on private property, the property owner assumes a similar duty to your safety and a responsibility for dangerous conditions that result in injury.
- The status of licensee means that you are on property that is not open to the general public, but with the owner's permission. The owner has a more limited duty to the safety of licensees.
- A trespasser has no express or implied permission to be on the property, and the owner generally is not liable for a trespasser's injuries.
Your responsibility for your own safety
While the store management and owners are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe space, customers and guests are also responsible for exercising a certain amount of care. This means that you should not knowingly endanger yourself by doing things that have a reasonable chance of ending in an accident or injury. If you chose to slide down the banister of the stairs instead of using them for their intended purpose, the court may not look kindly on a lawsuit against the store. If you were so mesmerized by a smartphone that you tripped over an open and obvious obstacle, you might be hard-pressed to prove that the owner is at fault.
Premises liability hinges on your status as a visitor and the nature of the unsafe condition. If you have suffered an injury due to the negligence of a store owner or its management, you may be able to file a suit for compensation. Look into your legal channels to explore this incredibly important option.
Source: FindLaw.com (Premises Liability: Who Is Responsible)