Dallas Premises Liability Attorney
Have You Been Injured on Someone's Property Due to a Known Hazard or Other Form of Negligence? If So, A Dallas Lawyer Well Versed in Premises Liability Law Can Help.
Premises liability (otherwise known as property owner liability) cases are matters where a visitor to a property is injured due to a defect of the property that was created by the property owner's negligence.
Covered in This Article
- Premises Liability in a Nutshell
- What Duties Are Owed to Me?
- What Are Property Owners Liable For?
- Is There Premises Liability Insurance?
- Are These Cases Easy?
- Common Types of Premises Liability Cases
- Will I Have to File a Lawsuit?
- What if I am Injured at Work?
While the concept is simple enough, there are many facets that make premises liability cases counter-intuitive. Armed with more than 20 years of experience litigating premises liability cases, our lawyers have composed the following information in order to shed some light on this often misunderstood area of Texas law.
Premises Liability in a Nutshell
If someone owns a piece of property, be it a house, an apartment, a vacant lot, a skyscraper, or even just a pile of dirt, they have a duty to keep visitors free from harm that they could sustain when visiting the property.
The first question that comes to most people's mind is whether or not a property owner is liable for every injury that occurs on their land. The short answer is "no." Property owners are only liable for injuries that were caused when a property owner breaches a duty they owe to a particular visitor to their property. Naturally, such an explanation leads to the question, "Do property owners owe the same duty to all visitors?" Again, the answer is no. Simply put, property owners have to work diligently to protect some visitors, while other visitors they simply owe the duty to not deliberately or recklessly hurt them.
Specifically speaking, the extent of the duty that is owed by a property owner is determined by the reason that the visitor came to the property. Or on the other side of the coin, different people who visit the same property for different reasons or under different circumstances should have different expectations regarding how safe the property owner is required to make the property. The rights that an injured visitor has are therefore determined by the type of visitor that they are (i.e. the reason they came to the property).
Texas law identifies three classifications of visitor that may go onto someone's property. Each type of visitor will be owed different legal duties by the property owner, and therefore have different rights to pursue compensation.
The first type is a licensee, who is a visitor that is invited to the property by the owner but the property is not open to the public, like when a friend invites you over to their house. The next type is an invitee, who is someone that visits a property that is usually open to the public for an economic purpose. A shopper visiting a grocery store would be considered an invitee.
The third type is a trespasser. A trespasser is someone who is on someone's property without the consent of the property owner. Learn more about the different types of duties owed to different types of visitors.
What Duties Are Owed to Me?
If you are injured on someone else's property, the first thing an attorney will do is identify the reason you went to the property and, therefore, what duties were owed to you. In the worst case scenario, you would be a trespasser, meaning that you are on the property without the consent of the owner. The word trespasser has a harsh connotation in our common vernacular but in a legal sense, it does not necessarily mean you were there for an unlawful purpose, just that you were there without the owner's consent.
If you are a trespasser, the property owner must still exercise some care to make sure you are not injured by their gross negligence, but they do not need to go very far out of their way to protect you. For example, imagine you are driving and get lost, so you stop at a local store to ask for directions. The store has a closed sign on the door but the door is unlocked so you enter to ask the owner for directions. When you go inside the store, as coincidence would have it, the roof collapses on you and you are injured. Under these circumstances, you would technically be a trespasser, so it may seem at first glance that the store owner is free from liability.
However, property owners must still protect trespassers from their gross negligence, and if the roof of a building caves in, there is a strong likelihood that gross negligence was afoot since there would have been a million warning signs to the owner that the roof was soon to cave in. His failure to heed these warnings is a grossly negligent act. That being said, the store owner would not owe you a duty to protect you from a slippery floor. In short, as a trespasser the property owner would not have to go well out of their way to protect you, but they are also not allowed to get away with harming you when the harm was caused by egregious actions.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, imagine that you are going to a store during business hours to shop. In this case the store owner would owe you a tremendous duty because you are there for their economic benefit. They would be required by law to go above and beyond to protect you and prevent you from becoming injured.
For example, if you go to Walmart, a customer spills a drink on the floor, and ten minutes later you slip on the liquid and fall and break your arm, it would be reasonable to hold Walmart liable for you injuries because they have a duty to purposefully seek out things that could harm you and prevent them from harming you.
What Are Property Owners Liable For?
If you have established the existence of legal duty that was breached by the property owner and it caused an injury to you, they are therefore accountable for the damages you have incurred (damages meaning the money to make you whole again). In a premises liability case you can seek either wrongful death damages (in the event that a relative was killed due to defect in the property) as well as ordinary personal injury damages, including compensation for the discomfort and pain you have sustained, the loss of income you have experienced, and various other types of damages.
Is There Premises Liability Insurance?
Yes, there is. Virtually all liability insurance that property owners buy is primarily used for premises liability cases. If you are a homeowner and have homeowner's insurance, then such will apply and cover any injuries that occur on your property that were caused by property defects that you neglected to fix.
Are These Cases Easy?
Put simply, the answer is "not really." Premises liability cases are fairly technical and, as with any technical legal matter, there is a possibility that the defendant can take advantage of the jury's misunderstanding the law. For instance, if you are technically a trespasser but not on the property for an unlawful purpose, the jury may still find against you because hearing that you are a "trespasser" can make them unsympathetic. As you can imagine, the defendant's attorneys would like nothing more than to convince the jury that you were indeed trespassing.
Also, even if it is clear that a duty was owed by the property owner, Texas juries have a history of protecting property owners in all but the most obvious cases of negligence. There are no free rides in premises liability cases, thus the efforts of a Dallas premises liability attorney are necessary to handle the defendant and convince the jury of your claim.
Common Types of Premises Liability and Property Owner Negligence
Premises liability cases consist of normal things like:
- Slip and Fall Cases
- Dog Bite Injuries
- Structural Collapses
- Inadequate Maintenance
- Defective Conditions
- Inadequate Security
but also involve less obvious things like injuries involving a mold outbreak in a house or a building being contaminated with asbestos. Our attorneys have even handled a case where an apartment complex failed to fix an air conditioner during the summer and an elderly woman died of heat stroke. We have also handled all manner cases involving defective apartment railings and stairs. There are indeed many ways that a property owner can be negligent.
Will I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Typically premises liability cases can be settled out of court and in most cases do not go to trial. Naturally, hiring a firm like ours with a winning track record greatly increases your chances of not having to go to trial, since our reputation gives us considerable leverage to negotiate a settlement.
What if I am Injured at Work?
Several times each week, we are called by a prospective client who had a slip and fall or other such injury while on the job, and the injured party wants to know if they can pursue a premises liability case. If you are injured while on the job and the premises defect is in a building that is leased, such as an office building, then the property owner would be liable for your injuries, and your employer would likely not be. So under those circumstances, you can pursue a premises case against the property owner and you may even qualify for workers' compensation benefits as well. On the contrary, if the employer owns the facility, as is the case with most restaurant or auto mechanic jobs, then the employer bears the responsibility for building safety and would likely be liable. However, this would technically be a work injury case and not a premises liability case.
You Need an Experienced Dallas Premises Liability Attorney
Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have helped Dallas clients determine their rights in their premises liability cases and get them the compensation that they deserve.
Call today for a free consultation regarding your premises liability case at 1-855-326-0000.