If you were injured on someone else’s property, you may have the grounds for a premises liability case. Your first step should be to contact a premises liability lawyer so you can build your case with confidence and accuracy.
Ask a Premises Liability Lawyer: 7 Steps to Building a Case
1. Hire an Attorney
Always hire a lawyer if you were injured on someone else’s property. Unlike other personal injury law cases, your premises liability case significantly depends on the legal relationship between you and the property owner. Premises liability lawyers in Houston will understand how your legal status affects the liability of the property owner.
2. Determine Your Legal Status
Now that you’ve hired a lawyer, you’ll work together to define your legal status: trespasser, licensee, or invitee. Trespassers often have the lowest protection by law because the property owner did not welcome you to the property. However, there are some cases in which you can get protection, which makes having a lawyer especially helpful.
You are a licensee if you were invited to someone’s property as a social guest. For instance, visiting your friend’s home for her monthly dinner party classifies you as a licensee. You are an invitee if you visit a property for the purpose of doing business or you visit a public property to use its services. Shopping at a store, going to the public playground to play with your children, or visiting someone’s home office for a legal consultation are activities that make you an invitee.
3. Prove Defendant’s Ownership & Duty of Care
The next step is to establish that the property owner had a duty of care based on your legal status. Your lawyer will obtain documents that prove that the liable party is in fact the owner of the property, which establishes that they did have a duty of care. For a trespasser, the duty of care is minimal, unless the property owner knew you were trespassing and purposely let you go into harm’s way.
For a licensee, the duty of care requires the property owner to notify you of any hazards on the property that they know of but may not be obvious to you, like a deep hole in the ground that’s covered by a tarp and may cause you to fall. Property owners do not have to inspect the property before licensees arrive, but they do need to inspect the property and remove all hazards before an invitee visits. Invitees can expect the highest degree of safety from property owners.
4. Define Owner’s Negligence
With the duty of care established, you now can demonstrate that the owner breached the duty of care. In a legal setting, the term is negligence, which means that the property owner did not take the action that a reasonable person would be expected to do in the same circumstance. For instance, in the case of a licensee, negligence would mean that the property owner did not tell you about the rusty nail that they know sticks out the stairs before you stepped on it.
5. Record Injuries & Show That Injuries Resulted From Owner’s Negligence
It’s not enough for your case to prove that you have injuries. You need to demonstrate that there is clear causation between your injuries and the unreasonable action or lack of action from the property owner. If there is an eyewitness or footage of what happened, your case will be much stronger. Even if this evidence isn’t available,e you can still show causation by using medical records before and after the accident to demonstrate that it was the incident that caused your injuries.
6. Consider Other Damages
Injuries are only one time of damage that will be used to build your premises liability case. You should collect all medical bills for current and ongoing treatment, as well as employment stubs for the time you missed and any future time you’ll be unable to work. These monetary losses represent your special damages. You can also request general damages, which include your emotional pain and suffering and other easily quantifiable sufferings you’ve experienced.
7. Begin the Negotiations Process
Your lawyer will record all of your damages to come up with a final number that reflects fair compensation for your injury. Now you can begin the negotiations process with the liable party. You may have already received a settlement from the property owner, or the party responsible may be in denial about what happened. Your lawyer will file a formal demands letter describing the accident and your expected compensation to show that you’re not afraid to take action.
While we’ve explained the typical process for building your premises liability case, there are even more nuances that could affect your outcome. The best way to ensure that you get the highest amount of compensation possible is to get in touch with an attorney.