Houston Premises Liability Lawyers
When you’re injured on someone else’s property, it’s possible that the owner might be legally responsible. However, establishing that responsibility requires a step-by-step legal process, with a focused attention to all the details that make up a case. The quality of your premises liability attorney can make the difference in whether you win or lose your case, and what kind of settlement you end up with.
All personal injury cases, be it an injury on someone else’s property, a car accident or an injury on the job, come down to a single word–negligence. When you can prove the other party was negligent, you have a case. Negligence consists of four basic components…
- A duty of care
- A breach of that duty
- A breach that caused injuries
- Injuries that resulted in damages
As the plaintiff in a premises liability case, you have the responsibility of proving that all four components are present, and then proving the extent of the damages for the purposes of the final settlement. Let’s consider two hypothetical examples that will illustrate how negligence claims might be proven, and how defendants might contest them.
Injured While Shopping
You’re walking down the aisle in one of your favorite stores when a large item on the right side’s top shelf falls over and hits you. Do you have a case?
The store does have a duty of care. By opening for business, the store is implicitly inviting everyone on their premises. A burglar who enters the store in the middle of the night is owed no such duty–they are obviously uninvited, and the store is closed. But a regular customer during normal business hours is presumed to have been invited in.
Whether there was a breach of duty will depend on circumstances. The mere fact the large item fell doesn’t automatically make the store guilty. What if another customer in the aisle on the far side of the shelving was the one who jostled the shelves, and that in turn caused the fall? The store is only obligated to exercise reasonable care. It’s fair to say that most reasonable people would not expect the store to be perfectly aware of what every single customer was doing at every second they're in the store.
But what if the large item fell because it was poorly positioned by the employee? Now, we have a failure to exercise reasonable care. Or, what if the jostling incident with the customer took place four hours prior to your accident? The large item, which has originally been stocked well, is now vulnerable to a fall. The standard of reasonable care would likely call for the store to be checking its aisles on a reasonably regular basis to make sure everything is safe.
If we presume that breach of duty is proven, it must then be shown that this breach is the cause of injuries, which in turn resulted in damages. .To pick an extreme example, let’s say the large item in question is a big bag of pillows. Even if the store was at fault for the accident, how much damage did the pillows actually cause? The answer is, probably none.
On the other hand, let’s say it was a microwave that came crashing down. You took a big bang on the head and had to go to the ER. Maybe you’ve had to miss some time from work due to a concussion, and the effects of that concussion are still lingering. It’s not safe for you to drive a car, which means family and friends have been driving you everywhere.
You now have both economic damages and non-economic damages. The economic damages can be tabulated in the form of medical expenses and lost wages (including vacation time if you had to take that to recover). The non-economic damages–the loss of enjoyment, the inconvenience, any depression or trauma–don’t have a hard dollar figure that’s attached to them. But a court can still try and quantify the damages and give you something to help make you whole.
Whether you were injured in a commercial or residential setting, you have rights. Our Houston premises liability lawyer can advise if those rights have been violated and how to proceed. Call Carter Law at (713) 597-6562or contact us onlinetoday.
Now, let’s consider an example on residential property. You’re at a house party where there’s a big yard and people decide to play a game of volleyball. In the course of playing, you badly injure your ankle. Do you have a case?
The homeowner likely does owe you a duty of care. You were presumably an invited guest, which establishes that duty. Even if you crashed the party, there’s a good chance the court will still find that a duty of care is owed. After all, the homeowner could have asked you to leave, but did not.
But the homeowner can defend themselves on the grounds of the assumption of risk principle, which holds that by voluntarily participating in the volleyball game, you assume the risks that a reasonable person would know come with playing a competitive sport. Serious ankle injuries certainly fall into that category .
Your lawyer responds by pointing out the circumstances of your injury. They say that there was a gopher hole, covered by grass, in the field of play that you stepped into. Had your injury been caused by going up for a spike and coming down wrong, that could be an assumption of risk on your part. But simply hustling in the middle of a playing area? A reasonable person would not assume they’re about to step into a gopher hole.
The homeowner has a return volley of their own–they told you–and all the other players–that you might want to set up the net at a different point in the yard because of the gopher hole. Are they really responsible for the fact you and everyone else ignored them?
All of these mitigating factors will be taken into account in this type of premises liability case. In a scenario that plays out like this one, the homeowner will probably be on safe ground. They have the responsibility to either eliminate dangers on their property or to provide reasonable warning that the dangers exist. That was done in this case.
Not all cases have this kind of neat and clean ending. What if you were an uninvited neighbor who only came over when you saw the game going on and the homeowner never had any idea you were even there? The duty of care could be back to being questioned?
Or, what if your injury is a sprain that hurts like heck, but the swelling dies down after you sit back with a beer and an ice pack for a couple hours? You walk back to your car and go home in fine shape. At this point, even if the homeowner is completely at fault, the necessary damages don’t exist. Then again, if you wake up the next morning and your ankle has completely stiffened up and is unable to move, you might be back in legal business.
These are basic examples, but they are meant to illustrate all the nuance that’s involved with a premises liability claim. Every case is different, and your lawyer has to diligently fight for your interests, combing over every detail with a fine-tooth comb to help advance your case.
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