Every year, lawyers work to resolve nearly half a million personal injury lawsuits all over the United States.
However, only a tiny percentage of cases actually make it to trial, and most are settled outside of court. From issues with a faulty product to accidents in the workplace, the details of these personal injury cases differ. One of the most common yet easily forgettable personal injury cases involves becoming injured while on another person's property.
These are also called premises liability claims.
The unfortunate truth is that many insurance companies won't treat premises liability claims as a priority. When processing these claims, insurance providers will do everything in their power to either deny the claim outright or minimize the settlement.
So, if you've been injured on someone else's property, then you should know what your next steps should be—and why you need a personal injury attorney in your corner right away.
What Should I Do If I Am Injured While on Someone Else's Property in Louisiana?
Whether you're visiting a family member or a restaurant, experiencing an injury on somebody else's property is serious, and you have rights.
You can potentially gain compensation for your injuries by filing an insurance claim. This is why it's so crucial to have home or business insurance: In the end, it protects both the property owners and the victims.
Let's say that you're shopping at a store and, when you round a corner of an aisle, you slip and fall on a puddle of liquid on the floor. You notice that the puddle was not dressed with the proper signage (i.e., a “Slippery Floor” sign), and no employee is tending to it. When you stand up from the fall, you begin to feel a pain in your back and neck. Nobody was around to witness the fall, and you're worried you've hurt yourself.
So what do you do next?
Step #1: Seek Medical Attention Immediately
If you are injured to the point where it hurts to move, you have to seek immediate medical attention. Remember that your health always comes first because your injuries could worsen if you don't get a problem assessed right away.
If you're able to wait to go to the doctor for a couple of hours, then you can move onto the next steps. Just be sure that you go to a doctor immediately after: Doing so will help your case, as it will prove that you sought help and may even have incurred a severe injury.
Step #2: Document the Scene and Gather Information
Take plenty of photographs of the scene and take down any witnesses' contact information. Additionally, you can request any video footage from the store or restaurant camera if it's available.
Taking photos of the scene is crucial: It paints an exact image of precisely what the hazardous scene looked like so that insurers and the property owner could see it firsthand without any intervention.
Step #3: File a Police Report
This may seem over-the-top, but if you're injured, it's best to file a police report before moving forward with a liability lawsuit. Also, be sure to ask the property owner to bring you an incident report — this is applicable if you're at a store or restaurant.
The police report will show that you contacted the authorities about the situation. The officers will also take down other important information and interview you, witnesses, and the property owner.
Step #4: Hold Onto Expense and Medical Records
Never throw away any of your medical or expense records that are related to your injury. Be sure to keep all notes and medical bills from when you visit the doctor on the day of your accident and any time after that, including follow-up visits, prescriptions, receipts for insurance-paid, or out-of-pocket expenses.
Additionally, you'll also want to keep any copies of paperwork that says you're unable to work or are suffering from loss of wages. If your injury is so bad that you can't work, then you're entitled to earn a sum that will compensate for the wages missed.
Step #5: Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers are trained to stand in your corner and defend your side, no matter the severity of the case. This means that they'll pit themselves against the insurance companies, defense attorneys, and even the property owner if need be.
Since lawyers know the ins and outs of premises lawsuit claims like these, having one can help you receive fair compensation from a liability lawsuit.
What Is a Premises Liability Claim?
Premises liability law holds a proprietor or landlord responsible for any damages and injuries on that person's property.
By law, property owners must exercise reasonable care by consistently maintaining and providing a safe environment for visitors. If they fail to do so, and their negligence causes you an injury, they can file a premises liability claim.
Some of the most common liability lawsuits arise from incidents such as:
- Animal bites
- Slip and fall accidents
- Hazardous conditions
- Negligent security
- Swimming pool injuries
- Inadequate maintenance
However, it's good to know your state's specific regulations. Premises liability in Louisiana specifies that this law does not protect visitors from any injuries that may occur while hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, sightseeing, or boating.
Other properties like homes and businesses are the owner's responsibility to keep safe for permissible visitors. Additionally, specific guidelines must be met for an injured person to gain any leverage in a lawsuit.
When Is the Property Owner Liable for My Injury?
In Louisiana, a property owner or proprietor is responsible for any injuries on their land or building. However, that's only true if you:
- Are a permissible visitor on the property (i.e., you're not trespassing), and
- Can prove that there was a hazard caused by neglect.
Let's start with the first part: To obtain any rights as a visitor, you need to have permission to be there. Every visitor on a property is classified as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
- Invitee: An invitee is on a property with the owner's knowledge for the benefit of both parties. For example, a customer at a restaurant or shop is an invitee.
- Licensee: A licensee is a person who was invited to somebody's property for reasons not related to business or commercial intent. For example, friends and family are considered licensees.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is a person who accesses a person's property without the owner's consent. People who go onto the property after hours or aren't allowed on a specific property are trespassers.
Only invitees and licensees have rights if they've been injured on somebody's property. In addition to this requirement, you also need to prove that there was some hazard.
Some common types of hazards may be:
- Broken or unstable railing on a staircase
- Falling merchandise from shelves
- Gaps or cracks in sidewalk or ground
- Poor or no lighting
- Violations of building codes or outdated building codes
- Poor maintenance
- Broken or defective furniture
- Loose flooring
- Extension cords hidden from view
- Lack of security guards
- Failing to keep a dog behind a fence or on a leash
When a place of business does not adhere to basic safety rules, then their customers and visitors may experience severe injuries due to any of these hazards. This may be why premises liability cases make up about 17% of tort cases each year.
How Can You Prove Liability?
In any personal injury negligence case, there are four fundamental pillars that you must meet to prove liability:
- Duty: You must first prove that the proprietor owed you a legal duty of care as an invitee or licensee. For example, a restaurant owner must provide a safe place for employees and diners.
- Breach of Duty: Secondly, you must prove that the proprietor breached that duty by negligence to fix or adequately warn about the hazard that caused the injury. For example, let's say that a restaurant owner neglects to put a “Watch Your Step” sign on a steep, lowly visible step in the restaurant. If an invitee falls, then the restaurant owner is responsible. Had the restaurant owner placed that sign, then he would be protected from the claim.
- Causation: Thirdly, you must prove that the proprietor's negligence is what caused your injury. The injury must be “reasonably foreseeable,” which is where things can get a little tricky. In other words, if the victim could have reasonably predicted a consequence from performing a particular action, then it is not the property owner's fault.
- Damages: Lastly, you must prove and evaluate your total damages by gathering evidence and witness testimonies. Some examples of evidence may be hospital and medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Going head-to-head with the proprietor's insurance company and lawyers is no easy task, especially when you must also attempt to prove all four of these elements. That's why you should consult with an expert personal injury law firm that can give you the right legal advice and guide you through everything you need to know about filing a claim.
If you've been injured on another person's property, remember to follow these key steps to be eligible for compensation through an insurance claim:
- Seek medical attention immediately
- Gather photos, witnesses, and evidence from the scene
- File a police report
- Keep medical and expense records
- Be an invitee or licensee
- Prove that there was a breach of duty and the property owner caused your damages
Unfortunately, these negligence torts often get tied up in bureaucracy. Insurance companies will do their best to either deny your claim, delay your claim, or lowball you with a smaller settlement than you deserve.
That's why you should always consult with a personal injury lawyer. They will take care of the hard part so that you can recover by handling the details of your premises liability case, dealing with the insurance companies, and getting you the best settlement possible.
If you need legal advice on filing a negligence tort, contact Schwartz Law Firm for a free consultation today.