Suffering an injury on someone else’s property can lead to complicated legal ramifications. Premises liability law has many factors that come into play, and no two cases are the same. Earning fair compensation is rarely an easy path – but you can put yourself in a good position with the right legal counsel.
Each state has its own premises liability law. However, every state holds property owners to a standard that they must make a reasonable effort to provide and maintain a safe environment for visitors.
When you meet with a premises liability attorney, they will examine the incident to determine a) if you have a valid claim, and b) what your options look like. In this post, we discuss the basics of premise liability law in Illinois – and the next steps.
Let’s get started.
What Does Premises Liability Cover?
The Illinois Premises Liability Act establishes legal principles holding landowners and tenants responsible if someone gets injured on their property. Premises liability claims are filed when a person is injured due to a property owner’s negligence in maintaining a safe environment.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability claims can be filed for many different reasons. The most common types of cases include:
- Slip and falls
- Inadequate lighting
- Defective items (elevators)
- Trip and falls
- Lack of security
- Leaks and flooding
- Failure to maintain stairways
- Unsecured cords/wiring
Premises liability law encompasses many, many different types of injuries. The path to seeking justice is not always clear-cut.
For instance, let’s say someone falls down the stairs of an apartment building late on a Saturday night. The victim may claim there was inadequate lighting or the railing was defective. On the other hand, the property owner may claim the victim was not paying proper attention – or was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
Whether you are a property owner or have been injured on someone else’s property, it’s imperative to speak with an experienced premises liability lawyer to understand your options.
Injury Victims: Legal Statuses in a Premises Liability Claim
Understanding your eligibility for a premises liability claim comes down to your legal status on the property in question. Some individuals may be disqualified from seeking compensation because they entered the property illegally.
For example, if someone breaks into a home and gets injured, the property owner will argue the person entered the home without permission – and is not entitled to compensation.
To begin the process, you’ll need to present the facts as to why you were on the property. Legal statuses of victims in premises liability claims are placed in three categories:
Invitees are owed the highest standard of care by owners. These people were permitted to be on the property. In residential properties, invitees would include friends, family, neighbors, and so on. In business properties, invitees include customers and clients.
Licensees are guests with implied permission to be on a property. Typical licensees would be salespeople and contractors. The property owner owes licensees a duty of care, but not as much as an invitee. However, owners are required to warn licensees of any hazards on the property.
Trespassers include anyone not given permission or implied permission to be on the property. The courts almost always dismiss premises liability claims filed by trespassers. On rare occasions, a trespasser might claim the property owner created an unreasonable risk that led to their injury.
For example, if a property owner knowingly left their front door wide open, then placed a harmful booby trap inside the entrance, the trespasser may claim the owner had foreseen the trespasser and created an unreasonably dangerous situation. These claims are extremely difficult to prove without a skilled premises liability lawyer.
Attractive nuisances are related to children and premise liability law.
Children are generally treated differently in premises liability claims. If a child enters a property without permission, they are not always considered trespassers.
If the property owner has an “attractive nuisance” on the property that may attract children, the child is not ruled a trespasser. In the scenario the child sustains an injury, the owner may be liable. These premises liability cases can be very, very complicated.
For example, say a property owner has a trampoline in their yard. A child sees the trampoline and starts jumping on it. The child then falls and gets injured. The trampoline may be ruled an “attractive nuisance” that drew the child to the property.
This is an extremely contentious area of premises liability law. Those seeking compensation MUST hire an attorney to manage the case. The lawyer will need to prove:
- The owner should have known a child might trespass due to the attractive nuisance.
- The attractive nuisance may cause injuries.
- The owner did not secure the attractive nuisance properly.
- The child was not old enough to recognize the danger of the attractive nuisance.
These are just the starting points for attractive nuisance premises liability cases. Talk to an experienced lawyer to learn more.
Are Injuries Foreseeable?
The basis of most cases in premises liability law relies on the property owner knowing a hazard could lead to injuries. For example, having a broken stair (without any cautionary measures) may be enough to hold the property owner liable for an injury sustained.
Keep in mind, negligence and foreseeability go hand-in-hand.
Property owners must act reasonably to prevent injuries. Failing to fix a clear safety hazard – like a broken stair – may be ruled as negligence with foreseeability. A premises liability attorney will examine these factors to prove both played a role in the injury sustained.
What Victims Need to Prove in Premises Liability Cases
A claim in premises liability law requires victims (and their attorneys) to prove several different factors to hold the property owner liable. This includes:
Duty of Care
This is the most important factor in premises liability cases. You will need to establish proof indicating you were legally permitted to be on the property – and the owner had a duty of care to provide. For a residence, you will need to prove you were invited to the property or were there as a licensee. For a business, you’ll need to prove that you were a customer/client.
If you cannot do this, the duty of care will not be present.
Breach of Care
Once you establish the duty of care, the next step is to show the property owner breached that duty. You’ll need to prove the owner was negligent, careless, or knew about the hazard. Moreover, they didn’t take action to remedy the hazard or warn others of the danger.
At this point, you’ve proven there was a duty of care and the property owner breached that duty of care. Now, you’ll need to show that it resulted in an injury. This will require you and your attorney to collect a range of evidence to solidify the premises liability claim.
Evidence Needed to Support Premise Liability Settlements
In premises liability law, the goal for a victim is to earn compensation for every damage suffered in the accident. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Medical bills
- Future medical treatment (estimates)
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
Covering these damages comes down to holding the liable party accountable and providing evidence to support your claim. This will include (but may not be limited to):
- Accident reports: this must be filed immediately after the accident occurs. It’s crucial to have the events of the accident in writing – not word of mouth. The accident report may also include witnesses and statements.
- Pictures of the premises: Surveillance video may not be available. Therefore, it’s important to take pictures of the area where the accident occurred. Do your best to capture the surroundings, hazards, and injury(s) you sustained.
- Medical records: This will document the injury(s) you suffered in greater detail – as well as the monetary damages incurred.
- Property records: This will either be a lease or title showing the liable party is the current property owner.
- Insurance: The business or residential property owner will likely have insurance to cover injuries. Your premises liability attorney will need a copy of the policy to ensure the provider cannot dispute the limitations.
- Paycheck stubs: If the injury causes you to miss work, you’ll need to provide accurate pay stubs/tax records that indicate the financial losses you are facing.
This list is not exhaustive. Your premises liability attorney will discuss everything you need to file your claim.
Contacting a Premise Liability Attorney
Taking the first step to seek justice under premises liability law can be intimidating. While the road to earning fair compensation is not an easy one, hiring the right legal counsel makes all the difference.
At Midwest Injury Lawyers, we are passionate about helping victims of premises liability injuries pursue fair compensation. We understand you are facing a difficult situation (likely for the first time) and we are happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Even if you don’t have a valid claim, we’ll point you in the right direction.