If you've been injured while on someone else's property, you may have a lot of questions, especially if the accident led to expensive medical bills or lost wages. Because of premises liability, you can often file a personal injury lawsuit against the homeowner to recoup your losses. If you would like to know more, keep reading.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability means the property owner has a responsibility to adequately maintain their property to prevent possible injuries. In some cases, the homeowner may not have even known about the potential hazard, but if the courts determine that a reasonable, average person would have noticed the issue, the homeowner can be held liable.
For example, if the porch steps are rotten and you break through them, slicing your leg, you likely have a case. The front steps are used often, so the homeowner should have known about the issue and already fixed it.
In some cases, the homeowner can get off the hook by if they had warned you about the hazard. In this example, if they would have asked you to use a side door because the steps are broken, and you didn't listen, you may be found partially or fully responsible for your own injuries. Similarly, if the steps were fine and you tripped over your own foot or shoelace, which lead to injury, you don't have a case.
What About Trespassers?
Typically, premises liability only protects invitees (people invited onto a property) and licensees (people with implied permission, such as mail carriers). Trespassers, however, are not authorized to be on the property, so the rules are a little different.
In a perfect case, the trespasser will not be able to sue for any personal injuries sustained on the property. However, if the homeowner purposely tried to harm trespassers by setting up automatic guns, digging holes, or building traps, they can be held responsible.
The courts will also consider the history of trespassing on the property. Some properties simply make great shortcuts or have good jogging trails. People may not even realize they are trespassing if the area is frequently tramped. If the area has a history of people trespassing, the property owner may be responsible for the trespasser's injuries.
What If the Injury Involved a Dog?
South Carolina follows strict liability rules. This means the owner didn't need to know about the dog's possibility to bite for you to sue. There does not need to be a history of biting or aggression for you to win your case.
If the owner can prove you were antagonizing the dog, however, you may not win your case. Unfortunately, even if you accidentally antagonized the dog (accidentally startling it, accidentally stepping on its tail, etc.), you could lose your case or have your settlement reduced.
How Can You Prove Your Case?
To prove your case, start by getting a skilled attorney. Your attorney will do all the legwork for you, such as collecting photos, witness statements, medical bills, past complaints, and anything else that can help boost your case.
Ultimately, all your documents must show that the homeowner had a duty of care, they broke that duty of care, and the breach directly lead to your injuries. Even if the homeowner is found mostly responsible, the courts may determine you hold some responsibility too, which can lower your settlement.
Personal injury cases are common, but that doesn't mean they are always simple. Each case is unique, and injuries can range from mild discomfort to life-lasting chronic pain. If you would like to know more, or if you need a consultation for an attorney, contact us at Palmetto Injury Lawyers.