Generally speaking, an individual on another person’s property should reasonably expect not to be injured, which includes a responsibility on behalf of property owners to maintain a “relatively safe” environment. Lawsuits regarding accidents and injuries on another’s property belong to the category of “premises liability,” which upholds the theory that property owners (and non-owner residents) are held liable in such cases.
Premises liability claims may be pursued for a variety of injuries and circumstances which lead to accidents. Common circumstances include:
– Broken/uneven sidewalks
– Dangerously-displayed merchandise
– Inadequate interior/exterior lighting
– Obstructions in aisles and stairways
– Broken/missing handrails on stairways
– Poorly-lit entryways and stairwells
– Slippery floors
In these cases, the victim intends to prove that his/her injuries were caused by negligence on behalf of a property owner, i.e. failure to keep the premises reasonably safe. Generally, three factors must be proven:
– The plaintiff’s injury occurred on the property due to a dangerous condition
– The property owner was aware of, or should have been aware of, the dangerous condition
– The property owner failed to repair, or provide warning of, the dangerous condition
There is some debate over whether a property owner should be reasonably aware of a particular danger, but this is usually on a case-by-case basis; most of the time, property owners cannot be held liable if they were “reasonably unaware” of the danger. Furthermore, individuals entering another person’s property must still show reasonable care for themselves, and a common defense against them (as plaintiffs) is that they were at least partially at-fault for their own injuries. Illinois, like many states, maintains a “modified comparative negligence” system in which a plaintiff’s recovered compensation may be reduced in proportion to his/her own fault for the injuries sustained. It should be noted, however, that there is a “threshold of fault” which may automatically produce a not-guilty verdict: cases in which the plaintiff is found to have been more than 51% responsible for his/her accident are settled in the defense’s favor.
Generally, there are three classifications of plaintiffs in premises liability claims:
Business Invitees – Individuals on a property for business purposes, such as at a grocery store to buy food or gas station to fill a vehicle. For business invitees, property owners must: keep their property relatively safe; repair, or provide notice of, potential dangers; and perform regular inspections for these dangers. They may be held liable for injuries caused by dangers of which they should have been aware.
Licensees – Individuals such as friends and relatives who are on a property for various social reasons – keep in mind that unexpected/uninvited guests may also qualify as licensees, depending on the situation. For licensees, property owners should keep the premises relatively safe, repair dangerous conditions, and provide adequate warning of existing dangerous conditions.
Trespassers – Trespassers are still owed a duty of care (despite not having permission to be on the premises), which is generally considered a duty to prevent intentional or reckless injury. When a property owner becomes aware that a trespasser is on his/her property, he/she is obligated to warn the trespasser of any dangers which are detectable with “ordinary observation.”
Provided that the right factors are proven, victims of injuries on another’s property may be entitled to compensation for expenses such as lost income, household assistance, medical bills, and emotional distress. If you or a loved one has been injured on another person’s property, contact Mike Agruss Law, LLC for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based injury law firm representing individuals (and their families) who have suffered an injury in an accident. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you.
Lastly, Mike Agruss Law is not paid attorney’s fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.