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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year Americans go to the doctor 39.5 million times for accidents or unintentional injuries. While many of these accidents are just bad luck, there are situations where someone is hurt because of something that another person did or failed to do.
A key example of this type of case involves slip and fall accidents. Sometimes, we just aren’t watching where we are going and trip. But if you fall and get hurt because the property owner didn’t take care of their property, then you could file a personal injury lawsuit known as a premises liability claim.
In a premises liability lawsuit, you can recover financial compensation for all of your losses, including medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. A Simpsonville, SC slip and fall lawyer can help you with the process, standing by your side to help you achieve the best possible result. At the Derrick Law Office, we offer free consultations to all prospective clients, and we never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.
What Is Premises Liability?
In South Carolina, a person or business can be held responsible if someone is hurt on the property due to the way that they took care of — or failed to take care — of it. There are three elements of a premises liability case. To win, you will need to show that:
- The property owner, occupier, or manager owed a duty of care to you;
- They breached (violated) that duty by either negligently doing something (an act) or failing to do something (an omission); and
- You were hurt as a result.
The duty of care that a property owner owes to you is based on your status at the time that you were injured. In general, property owners owe a higher duty of care to business guests, children, and people who have permission to be on their property. When you are on someone else’s property, you fall into one of four classes:
- Invitees: property owners owe people who are on their property because they are doing business the highest duty of care. This includes the duty to use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the premises safe, and to protect invitees from injury caused by a dangerous condition that they might not discover on their own;
- Children: the duty of care owed to kids depends on their age and mental capacity;
- Licensees: social visitors, such as friends and family, are owed a high duty of care. The property owner must exercise reasonable care to warn guests of dangers that they are aware of but which are not reasonably discovered by licensees; and
- Trespassers: adults who do not have permission to be on the property generally are not owed a duty of care because the owner does not expect them to be on the property.
Consider a situation where you slip and fall on a set of stairs at a business because one of the steps was crumbling. Your ability to file a lawsuit for your fall injuries will depend on why you were on those stairs. If you were a patron of the business (such as a hotel guest), then the owner had a duty to fix the step and/or warn patrons about it. If you were there as a friend of the business owner, then they had a duty to warn you about the step.
However, if you were trespassing and had no right to be on the property, then you probably cannot file a premises liability lawsuit against the owner. That is because property owners do not typically owe a duty of care to people who are not legally on their premises.
The law is slightly different for children, who often don’t have the same ability to judge risk as adults do. If a property owner has something known as an “attractive nuisance” — something that may draw kids to the property — then they must take steps to prevent children from entering it, or else be held liable if a child is hurt on their property. For example, if a property owner has a pool that is visible from the street, but doesn’t have a fence around it, they could be held responsible if a child goes onto their property to use the pool — even though that child may be considered a trespasser.
Common Types of Premises Liability Cases
When you think about people getting hurt on someone else’s property, you probably think about slip and falls. While this is an incredibly common type of premises liability case, people get hurt on others’ property in any number of ways.
As Simpsonville personal injury lawyers, our practice areas include premises liability cases involving:
- Dog bites
- Chemical injuries
- Construction site accidents
- Negligent security
- Stairway falls
- Swimming pool accidents or drowning
- Falling trees and limbs
- Deck and balcony collapses
- Playground injuries
- Falling merchandise
- Poor lighting
- Obstructed walkways
If a person is hurt in any of these ways because the owner, tenant, or property manager failed to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, then you may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against them.
These types of accidents can cause a range of injuries, including:
- Broken bones/fractures
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries or paralysis
- Neck and back injuries
- Internal bleeding
These injuries may even be fatal. In this situation, our law firm can work with you to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for the loss of your loved one.
What Do I Do After a Slip and Fall in South Carolina?
Filing a Premises Liability Lawsuit
If you are hurt in a slip and fall or another type of accident, you may be able to file a lawsuit. The defendant in this type of personal injury case may be a person or a company that owns, leases, occupies, or controls the property owner. This may mean filing a claim against an individual, a business, or even a government agency.
In some situations, there may be more than one defendant in a premises liability lawsuit. Your accident lawyer will examine the facts of your case to determine who may be brought into the claim as a defendant. For example, if you fall on a crumbling sidewalk of a business, you may be able to file a lawsuit against both the business owner and the property management company that is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk.
In order to file a successful premises liability claim, you will need to prove that three basic things:
- You were legally on the property at the time of the accident (you were not trespassing);
- A dangerous condition existed, and the property owner knew about it and failed to fix it or warn others about it; and
- You were using the property in a way that the owner could reasonably anticipate. This means that when you got hurt, you weren’t doing something dangerous or unexpected that the owner couldn’t have known that you were going to do.
For example, Mary is stuck in the head by a large falling can at a grocery store. She was an invitee to the property, having gone there to buy food, so the owner owes her a high duty of care. These cans were stacked precariously, and other customers had complained that when they reached to get one, the entire stack wobbled and nearly fell.
Because the store did not fix the cans, they could be held financially responsible for Mary’s injuries. However, if the cans fell on Mary’s head because she rammed her cart into the stack in anger, she may not be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. The grocery store owner couldn’t anticipate that a shopper would do such a thing, and so the store may not be held responsible.
In a premises liability lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory, which means that their goal is to compensate you for a specific loss. In comparison, punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer who engaged in intentional or reckless conduct, so they are rarely available in this type of case.
Examples of economic damages include medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, property damage, and reduced earning capacity. Non-economic damages may include things such as emotional trauma, pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. Your accident lawyer will work with you to put together evidence to support your claim for damages.
Premises liability claims are typically covered by homeowner’s, renter’s, or business insurance (just as auto accident claims are usually paid by car insurance). While you may be tempted to file a claim with the insurance company on your own, keep in mind that insurers are in the business of making money. They will often try to deny or minimize legitimate claims in order to make a profit.
A skilled personal injury attorney will advocate for your best interests and will handle all communications with the insurance company on your behalf. If you are approached by an insurance adjuster, do not give a statement or sign anything without first consulting with a slip and fall lawyer near Simpsonville, SC
I Fell at a Friend’s House. Do I Have to Sue Them?
Many slip and fall and other types of accidents happen at the homes of our loved ones. This can put you in a difficult situation, where you need compensation to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and more — but don’t want to ruin your relationship.
Fortunately, these types of claims are typically covered by an insurance policy. Your friend or family member pays a premium each year to be covered in the event that something like this happens, so you shouldn’t feel bad about filing a claim against their policy.
Most personal injury cases are settled without going to trial. Even if you do have to file a lawsuit, keep in mind that the insurance company will be paying the lawyers and for any settlement or award — not your loved one. Most people will understand the need to file a claim and will want to make sure that you get the money that you need for your fall injuries.
The best way to handle this type of delicate situation is to search for a slip and fall lawyer near me. This will help you find someone in Simpsonville, SC who is well-equipped to represent you and get you a fair settlement or award.
How Long Do I Have to File a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
In the state of South Carolina, there are specific deadlines for filing certain kinds of lawsuits, known as the statute of limitations. If you don’t file a lawsuit within that period of time, then your claim will likely be barred. For personal injury lawsuits (including premises liability claims), the statute of limitations is three years, unless the defendant is a government entity, in which case the limit is two years.
Because this statute of limitations exists, it is important to consult with a Simpsonville personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after you suffer a fall injury. You can start the process by googling, “slip and fall lawyer near me.” This will bring up a list of law firms, which you can use to help you find an attorney who will help you get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Do I Have an Obligation to Avoid Hazards on Someone’s Property?
As a general rule, visitors to a property have a duty to avoid an open and obvious hazard. This means that if you could have avoided being hurt by paying more attention to something like a warning sign, then your premises liability lawsuit may not be successful.
A dangerous condition is considered to be open and obvious if it is reasonable to expect that an average person with ordinary intelligence would have discovered it upon casual inspection. In other words, if most people would have seen the hazard and been able to avoid it, a property owner may use it as a defense to a premises liability claim.
For example, you are walking down the street, and trip on an uneven sidewalk, bumping your head. You had lived in the area for 15 years, and were very familiar with this sidewalk. It was painted bright orange to warn pedestrians of the danger. In this situation, the owner of the sidewalk may be able to argue that the uneven sidewalk was an open and obvious hazard.
However, if you were new to the area, had never walked there before, and there was no warning paint, the case would likely be very different. Remember: you only have a duty to avoid hazards that are open and obvious, not hidden dangers.
Hurt in a Slip & Fall? We Are Here to Help.
There isn’t always someone at fault for an accident. However, if you are hurt in a slip and fall because a property owner failed to fix or warn you of a dangerous condition, you may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit. The Derrick Law Office will walk you through the process, fighting for your right to compensation.
Based in Simpsonville, SC, we represent clients who have been hurt in slip and falls, motorcycle accidents, car accidents, and even those who have been hurt at work (workers’ compensation). We work throughout Greenville County, including Fountain Inn, Mauldin, Greer, and Greenville. To schedule a free consultation with a Simpsonville personal injury attorney, contact us today at 864-428-1822.