Premises Liability Frequently Asked Questions
Property owners in the State of Texas are required by law to protect tenants and visitors by maintaining their properties with reasonable care to help reduce the risk of an accident. When a property owner fails to perform this duty, an accident occurs, and someone is injured, the individual has the right to seek compensation for medical expenses and damages. The dedicated premises liability attorneys at Branch & Dhillon P.C. are passionate about helping individuals get their life back on track by ensuring they get the compensation they deserve.
Our team receives a lot of questions about premises liability law. To help educate our clients and community, we have put together this list of frequently asked questions and their answers. If you have additional questions or need help with your premises liability case, do not hesitate to contact our team!
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a legal concept that addresses cases of personal injury where the accident and injury occurred due to unsafe or defective conditions on someone’s property. Under Texas State Premises Liability Law, property owners have a duty to maintain their commercial or residential property to protect its visitors and occupants. If the landowner fails to maintain or warn visitors of potentially dangerous areas on their property and someone gets hurt, they may be held liable for medical expenses and damages.
Premises liability often falls under two different forms. The first form addresses the maintenance of a commercial or residential property. For example, an apartment building has a loose stair rail. By law, the apartment owner needs to address and fix the broken stair rail to ensure residents or visitors do not get hurt. However, the apartment owner fails to get the stair rail fixed and a resident gets hurt while using the stairs. The apartment owner may be held liable for the injuries that the resident sustained because of their accident.
The second form of premises liability concerns the actions or inactions of an employee or property owner. For example, a homeowner knows that they have an aggressive dog. They fail to warn visitors on the property, such as a landscaper, about the dog’s behavior. Unaware, the landscaper moves to work in the backyard and gets bit by the dog. Due to inaction, the property owner may be held responsible for the injuries that the landscaper received while on the property.
What Are the Different Types of Premises Liability Cases?
Premises liability cases come in many different forms. Here are some of the most common cases that fall under premises liability law.
Slip and Fall Accidents: Property owners have a duty to their guests, residents, and customers to keep floors free of debris and spills as well as stairwells maintained and properly fitted with handrails. Other causes of slip and fall accidents are as follows:
- Snow and ice on sidewalks
- Defective staircases due to loose handrails or boards
- Wet or oily floors
- Hidden extension cords
- Changes in ground elevation that are not readily visible
- Unsecured carpets or rugs
- Loose or broken floorboards
Swimming Pool Accidents: Property owners may be held liable for accidents that happen in a pool due to ill-maintained parts, such as a loose ladder. All swimming pools, both commercial and residential, are required to have the following installed to reduce the risk of accidents:
- Approved fencing or gates with a child-proof lock. This helps protect children who may be attracted to the property because of the pool and falls under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.
- Properly installed and secured handrails and ladders to help enter and exit the pool safely.
- Anti-entrapment devices to prevent body parts or clothing from getting caught in drainage pipes.
Property owners who fail to have these items installed may be held liable as their pool poses a significantly increased risk of an accident.
Amusement Park Accidents: Amusement park owners and employees are required by law to perform routine maintenance on rides and attractions to ensure they are safe for use. The grounds also need to be free of debris and other tripping hazards. Additionally, security must be present on the premises to ensure the safety of guests.
On top of this, all employees must be properly trained in safety procedures. Finally, warning signs need to be placed on rides that have an increased risk of sustaining injury. For example, roller coasters need signage warning about the risks to expectant mothers and individuals with certain health conditions.
Negligent Security: Commercial property owners are, by law, required to offer adequate security for employees, residents, and customers. Lack of security increases the risk of visitors and residents being the victim of a crime.
What Are the Different Categories of Visitors?
A property owner’s duty is dependent on the status of the visitor on their property. Texas premises liability law puts visitors into three categories:
- Invitees: If an individual is on the property with the property owner’s knowledge and to their mutual benefit, then they are considered an invitee. An example would be a customer at a store or a resident at an apartment complex. The property owner needs to address or warn invitees about the dangerous conditions on the property so that they can help defend themselves against an accident.
- Licensees: An individual is considered a licensee if they are on the property with the possessor’s consent and to the benefit of either the property owner or the licensee. An example of this could be a guest for a social function. The property owner is required to warn licensees about dangerous conditions on the property and refrain from willful misconduct that can lead to an accident or injury.
- Trespassers: An individual is considered a trespasser if they are on the property without the consent of the property owner or any lawful authority. The property owner does not owe a trespasser any sense of duty in terms of warning them about dangerous conditions.
There is an exception to the trespasser law. If the trespasser is a child, the property owner owes a greater duty of care to protect that child from things on the property that could potentially harm them, such as a swimming pool. Unlike adults, children do not have the knowledge or ability to comprehend dangerous conditions or control impulses. This may lead them to wander onto property out of curiosity. Property owners are required to ensure that their property is safeguarded against the curiosity of children. This often involves ensuring that pools are properly fenced and tools are locked up. All of this is covered under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.
Who Is Held Responsible In a Premises Liability Case?
During a premises liability case, the court is tasked with determining who is at fault for the injuries sustained from the accident. The court will look at the evidence provided to them and determine the responsible party. This may or may not be the property owner. Sometimes, the injured individual may carry partial or full responsibility for the accident, depending on their actions while they were on the property.
For example, a landscaper comes onto the property to do some work. They notice there is a “beware of a dog” sign on the fence but choose to ignore it. The dog is safely tied to the back patio, away from where the landscaper needs to do their work. However, the landscaper approaches the dog and it defensively bites them. In this case, the property owner did everything they could to protect the landscaper from their dog but the landscaper’s actions led to an accident occurring anyways.
What Damages Are Covered in a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
If the property owner is determined to be liable for the visitor’s injuries, the court may award the following damages:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss earning potential
- Punitive damages, if the case involved gross negligence
A premises liability attorney can help you figure out what damages you may be entitled to recover.
Arlington’s Premises Liability Attorneys
Premises liability cases are not as cut and dry as other personal injury cases and can be difficult to navigate. You want an experienced attorney by your side to help you overcome the challenges associated with these kinds of cases. The premises liability attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. proudly serve the individuals of Arlington, Texas, helping them get the compensation they deserve. We offer free no-obligation consultations to go over the specifics of your case. Contact our team today to schedule your consultation or for more information on our services.