Charleston Premises Liability Attorney
In our current society, daily activities consume our days and nights without a second thought. A sudden incident can bring the normalcy of those everyday activities to a devastating halt. A slight stumble on the loose concrete of a sidewalk entry can send your patron sailing to the ground. Pushing a grocery cart over an unmarked water spill can land you on your knees, causing a life-long debilitating injury. Unfortunately, we cannot foretell these types of accidents, but we expect shop owners and big box stores with surveillance cameras to at least keep an eye out for anything that may harm us.
Auger & Auger, a Charleston premises liability attorney practice, has spent decades holding parties answerable to the negligent behavior that harmed their clients. Property owners, or those accountable for maintaining the establishment, must be diligent in protecting their customers from dangerous or unsafe situations. Once aware, the proprietor has a legal obligation to repair the unsafe condition and to alert visitors if repairs are not immediate.
Charleston Slip and Fall Accidents: What You Need to Know
As a law firm offering Charleston slip and fall attorney services to the community, Auger & Auger knows that victims often neglect to file a claim because they are not experiencing immediate discomfort — and they may not opt to seek immediate medical attention if they can get up off the ground and walk.
In fact, it is common for customers to hesitate to make a big deal of an incident that seems minuscule at the moment — only to have a painful injury become evident days later. At that point, it may be more challenging to connect your current discomfort to a past accident, so you should always take photos on your cell phone and have the manager on-site file an accident report (providing you with a copy).
Many people are hesitant to cause a scene or inconvenience the store’s staff, especially if they are regulars and like the people who work there. It’s understandable – you don’t want to cause them problems. However, it is their job to fill out a report whenever an accident happens in the store, and in fact, their corporate office probably requires it even if you tell them it’s unnecessary. You might as well help them by answering questions and explaining what happened because doing this will assist the store in identifying issues and preventing future accidents. Take pictures of any injuries, and see a doctor immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort afterward.
You’ll be glad to know that Charleston’s statute of limitations under the South Carolina Title 15 code law gives a victim up to 3 years to file suit against a property owner for damages.
What if I Don’t Want to Sue the Nice People Who Run My Grocery Store?
We often hear this question – it’s another common reason why accident victims are sometimes reluctant to pursue a claim for damages. Some clients tell us they wouldn’t even be thinking about it if they could afford the medical bills themselves. But the fact is that slips and falls and other accidents can be costly in multiple ways – healthcare costs, lost income if you miss time at work, accommodations for your injuries, and more – and you shouldn’t be saddled with the financial burden.
Additionally, it’s helpful to understand that the friendly people at your local store aren’t going to be paying your claim out of pocket. Anyone who runs a business open to the public should have liability insurance for this kind of situation. In most cases, we’re able to negotiate a settlement with the insurance carrier, and the store owner or manager has little to do with it. Liability insurance is intended to help injured people get their damages paid for, without bankrupting a business in the process.
There are a few situations where we may consider suing the business itself – if they don’t have insurance coverage or if the damages far exceed the limits of their insurance policy. A large corporation can generally afford to pay a judgment in a lawsuit without difficulty – it’s a cost of doing business. If the store is a small, family-owned place that truly can’t afford to pay the potential judgment, we generally advise against a lawsuit – it simply isn’t in the client’s best interests to invest time and money going to trial if they can’t collect at the end. However, there may be other options, such as suing third parties who contributed to the accident. For example, if a vendor set up a display that collapsed and injured you, that vendor may have been negligent.
Types of Premises Liability
Unfortunately, there are many ways to get hurt on someone else’s property. Some are more or less likely to happen depending on the premises. Every business owner should consider potential dangerous conditions on their property and take reasonable steps to prevent accidents. For example, if you’re going to open a water park, you know that your guests will get off rides soaking wet and walk around dripping water everywhere. This isn’t a situation where you can just clean up spills as they happen, the way you might in a grocery store or shopping mall. For this reason, water parks are usually designed with non-slippery pavement to reduce the risk of guests taking a fall.
Here are some of the more common ways accidents may happen on private or public property:
- Slip and falls or trip and falls. These can occur because of a spilled drink or puddle, but also because of items left lying on the ground, like a rake or hose stretched across a pathway. Loose tiles or structural issues with steps, stairs, or sidewalks may also be a problem. Falls from a significant height are less common but may happen if the building has a faulty railing or other structural defect.
- Elevator or escalator accidents.
- Dog bite incidents. Liability usually depends on whether the injured person “provoked” the dog. South Carolina has strict liability laws regarding dog bites, so if you were legally on the property and did not provoke the animal, the owner is liable. The property owner and the dog’s owner are not always the same person, so it may take some time to find the right party.
- Building code violations. This may apply to your own home if you live in a rented apartment or house. When a landlord violates building code law and someone is injured, whether the injured party is a renter or a guest of a renter, the landlord may have been negligent.
- Negligent security. This one is often the most surprising. Frequently people who have been attacked or assaulted want to sue the perpetrator, especially if they feel the criminal courts didn’t do enough to punish this person. Additionally, they may have a lot of medical bills they can’t afford resulting from the attack. But the attacker won’t have any liability insurance to cover this situation, and unless they’re very wealthy, a lawsuit may be a waste of time and money. However, if you were attacked in a public place with poor security, the property owner or manager may have been negligent, creating a situation that made it easier for the attacker to commit a crime. For example, a poorly lit parking lot without video surveillance may attract muggers or other criminals. If you suffered injuries as the victim of a crime on someone else’s property, a premises liability attorney can help you determine if you have a case against the property owner or their insurance company.
- Swimming pool or drowning accidents. These may be situations where a pool wasn’t sufficiently secured, or where there was no lifeguard on duty and no signs warning people of the dangers.
- Burns or smoke inhalation from fires. Here the issue of concern is whether the building had appropriate safety measures like fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and easily identifiable exits so guests could quickly leave in an emergency.
- Regardless of how it happened, if you’ve had an accident in a store or other public place that injured you, you may have a premises liability case. While slip and falls are the most common, there are many other ways to get hurt in a store. For example, an object falling off a high shelf at a hardware store could hit you and cause a serious injury. If you’re not sure if the property owner was negligent, speak with a lawyer to better understand the situation and your options.
Proving Premises Liability in South Carolina
Once you’ve decided to seek compensation for your injuries, we recommend contacting a Charleston premises liability attorney as soon as possible. You may have three years to pursue your claim, but it can take time to prepare and build a case. In South Carolina, there are three points you need to prove in a premises liability claim:
- The defendant, or negligent party, had a duty of care to you, the plaintiff. A store (or any place open to the public) must provide a safe environment for shoppers/guests and workers.
- The defendant failed in that duty.
- This failure led to your injuries or damages. In other words, they did not provide a safe environment, and you were hurt as a result.
The defendant’s duty changes in a legal sense depending on who was hurt and how they came to be on the property. South Carolina recognizes four types of people who may be on another’s private property:
- Adult trespassers. In South Carolina, the property owner has no duty to someone who isn’t legally on the property in the first place. If you’re not expecting someone to be in your building, you can’t be expected to warn them of hazards.
- These guests of a business can be shoppers in a store, guests in a hotel or spa, people who go to an amusement park, etc. By opening their doors to the public, the business is essentially inviting people onto its grounds. As a result, the business has a high level of responsibility – they need to take all reasonable steps to keep the property safe, addressing hazards or providing some warning about them.
- These included businesses, entities, or individuals with legal permission to conduct business on the property, such as a repairman. The property owner must take reasonable steps to warn licensees about any dangerous conditions on the property that aren’t immediately obvious – for example, telling someone to watch their step because a tile is loose, etc.
- Unlike adult trespassers, children may not be aware of obvious dangers, or understand that they are trespassing. The property owner’s duty is usually determined by the child’s age and mental capacity. A teenager, for example, can be expected to read a “Keep out” sign and know to stay off the property. A three-year-old, however, might not be able to read or understand the need to stay off the grounds. Sometimes this becomes an issue when a child wanders onto a dangerous area of someone else’s property and gets injured. For example, if a hotel has a pool, a young child might walk into the pool and drown while their parents are distracted getting their luggage out of the car. A “Keep out” sign probably won’t prevent this situation, but erecting a fence around the pool and requiring guests to use a keycard to get in might be “reasonable” steps to keep kids safe on the premises.
Auger & Auger Premises Liability Lawyers
Our Charleston premises liability attorney practice covers a wide range of injuries, including slip and fall accidents, dog bites, and criminal assault. Whenever you or a loved one has been harmed by a hazardous condition while on private property, Auger & Auger will pursue a claim for compensation for your injuries and financial losses. With over 50 years of combined experience in personal injury law, you couldn’t ask for a more passionate team to advocate on your behalf.
Call (843) 751-4690 for your free consultation today, with no fees due until recovery!