Accidents could happen just about anywhere, even in your own home. If you are a careful homeowner you will make sure your own home and surroundings are as safe as possible. If you do slip over or a fire starts somewhere in your home and you are injured, you will probably not be able to blame anyone else but yourself. You may have taken out a personal home insurance policy that could be used to make a claim to help pay for medical treatment and other costs. But what happens once you leave your front door and enter someone else’s property? If you have a preventable accident, can you claim compensation from the owner of the property?
The answer depends on the circumstances, of course. As long as you were legally entitled to be on that property, what the law calls an “invitee” you should be covered by the property owner’s own premises liability insurance if it was a government owned or commercial property. Things could be different if you were injured in someone else’s home as will be explained further below.
Claiming compensation depends on proving negligence
As with most personal injury claims, if you suffered an injury while in another property, whether it was a U.S. post office, a McDonald’s restaurant or a supermarket, you may be able to make a claim against that property owner’s premises liability insurance as long as you can show that the injury was caused by negligence on part of the property owner.
Basically, as long as you are legally entitled to be present on that property e.g. as a customer of a store, or a restaurant, you have a reasonable expectation that the environment is safe for you to use. Most accidents are caused by some existing hazard, e.g. a loose floor covering, a slippery surface, poorly maintained lighting or electrical wiring etc. The question of negligence is all about whether whoever was in charge of the property knew about the hazard, should have known about the hazard, did not bother to remove or deal with the hazard. This can be difficult to prove, but proof is necessary if a claim is going to have any chance of success.
To take some hypothetical examples, say you visit a fast food restaurant and on receiving your meal from the counter slip over on something greasy or wet on the way out. Negligence could be established if the restaurant manager had known about the potential hazard for some time but was too lazy / not concerned about doing anything about it. It might be expected that the manager would have instructed a staff member to clean up or dry the surface before anyone got hurt. Another precaution might have been cordoning off the area or putting up a sign to show that there was a hazard. It would be unlikely that you could allege that the management was negligent if someone else had spilled a drink or some of their meal just before you slipped over on it.
Take another example. You visit a national park and hike a trail. At one part of the trail you need to cross a stream using a wooden bridge. It’s hard to see whether the bridge is sound, but because there is no warning sign you think it is safe. Unfortunately, part of the bridge is rotten and your leg falls through a hole and you are badly injured. The absence of any warnings posted near the bridge, or at the start of the trail or on a national park website could be construed as negligence and you may have grounds for filing a claim against the relevant authority, in this case probably against the U.S. National Park Service. Of course, if there was a warning sign clearly stating that you cross at your own risk and you still decide to use the bridge, then you probably don’t have grounds to make a claim.
Accidents in a friend’s or family member’s home
Accidents can happen anywhere and things can get complicated if you have a preventable accident in someone else’s own home. If you are badly injured and the accident could have been prevented, it wouldn’t be fair for the friend or family member to expect you to shoulder the financial loss incurred by the accident. It’s unlikely that the homeowner would have premises liability insurance, but their own home insurance policy may cover this sort of eventuality, however embarrassing it might seem to seek to make a claim.
Use a premises liability attorney to help you with a claim
As can be seen from even the limited number of examples given above, claiming compensation after a preventable accident can be complicated; especially if the property owner denies any responsibility, or claims that you were partly or wholly to blame for our own injuries. The best advice is to talk to a personal injury attorney about your accident and discuss your legal options and how the attorney can help. In Jackson, contact the Diaz Law Firm for expert advice and representation. You can call the office to make an appointment at 601-607-3456.