What is Premises Liability?
When we enter a business, we as consumers, have a certain expectation that the store or building is safe. And why shouldn’t we? With all the advertisements, displays and distractions set out by the store, our eyes are naturally drawn upwards, not to unknown dangers at our feet which could cause us to slip and fall.
And what if those dangers are hidden?
Why should we, during our first trip into the store, be aware of a latent danger that the store owners knows all about?
Shouldn’t he warn us of it?
Premises liability, which encompasses slip and fall cases, is a niche area of personal injury law. As a general rule, there are two types of premises liability actions: negligent activity and general premises liability.
Under the negligent activity doctrine, an injured claimant must prove that:
- the owner or occupier of land owed a duty to the claimant;
- the owner or occupier breached its duty; and
- the breach proximately caused the claimant’s injuries.
Typically slip and fall cases are not perused under the doctrine of negligent activity.
General Premises Liability
In the alternative, a claimant can pursue a cause of action against an owner or occupier of land under general premises liability.
Under general premises liability, the claimant’s status is first determined. After a determination of status is made, the duty owed by the owner or occupier of the land to the claimant is prescribed.
The three statuses are as follows:
- Trespasser – A trespasser is someone who enters upon property with no legal authority. A owner or occupier of land owes a trespasser the duty to avoid intentional or willful conduct that would injure the trespasser.
- Licensee – A licensee has permission to enter the premises but not by permission. An example of a licensee would be a meter reader. An owner or occupier of land owes a licensee the same duty he owes a trespasser. In addition the owner or occupier must avoid gross negligence and warn the licensee of hidden dangers known by the owner or occupier. The knowledge required by the owner or occupier is actual knowledge, meaning that the owner or occupier does not have to conduct periodic searches of his premises for latent dangers.
- Invitee – The invitee is the most common type of claimant that seeks our services and usually applies to most slip and fall clients. An invitee has permission to enter a premises with the owner or occupier’s knowledge and/or consent. Moreover, in order to qualify as an invitee, the claimant must enter the premises for the mutual benefit of the invitee and owner / occupier. The invitee is not required to actually conduct business on the premises, so long as it is possible to do so. For example, someone entering a convenience store merely to use the restroom still qualifies as an invitee. A owner or occupier owes an invitee the duty to exercise ordinary care to make the premises reasonably safe. An invitee does not have to prove that the owner/occupier had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition; merely that the owner/occupier should have had knowledge through a reasonably search of his premises.
Governmental Premises Liability
Premises liability suits against a governmental entity are a bit more tricky than general premises liability.
Premises liability against a governmental entity is addressed by the Texas Tort Claims Act, which can be found under Section 101.021(2) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Under the TTCA, an additional consideration, known as a “special defect” is introduced.
The term special defect applies to the condition which caused the injury. A court, i.e. a judge, first determines whether a condition qualifies as a special defect.
If it does, the governmental unit’s duty of care is that owed by a premises owner to a licensee.
This is good news.
If for example, you were traveling down street owned road, you would only be a licensee.
However, if a condition – say a recent excavation – causes your injury, and the excavation qualified as a special defect, you would not have to prove that the government had actual knowledge.
If a condition does not qualify as a special defect, the governmental duty is that owed to a licensee or trespasser depending on the claimant’s purpose for being on governmental land.
Slip and Fall Injuries
We see all kinds of injuries caused by slip and falls. It is not uncommon to see broken bones, scrapes, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and on rare occasions catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.
What If I’m Hurt and I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
At Hutchison & Stoy, PLLC we have helped a number of slip and fall accident victims get the medical treatment they need without any upfront costs out of their pocket. We have a network of doctors who will treat you for your injuries and wait until the case is resolved to collect payment. To see if you qualify for this plan, follow this link.
Why Do I Need a Slip and Fall Lawyer?
Insurance companies will most likely attempt to classify you as a licensee thereby reducing the duty owed by their insured.
A Fort Worth Slip and Fall Lawyer can navigate the classifications of premises liability for you and fight to collect the compensation you deserve.
It seems that every few months the Texas Supreme Court comes out with a new case that makes proving the knowledge requirement even more difficult.
You’ll need a lawyer who is up to date on Texas law and who will fight to get you what you deserve. If you or a loved on has been injured by someone else’s negligence, fill out a free case evaluation online or call us today at (817)820-0100.