If you or a loved one has been injured on someone else’s property, you may be able to collect monetary damages from the property owner or whoever else is currently using the property to help pay for your injuries. You may also be due compensation for lost wages and more. Working with an experienced Charlotte premises liability lawyer can help you ensure that you take the correct steps to protect your rights and receive the compensation you deserve.
Simply getting injured on someone’s property isn’t enough to hold them legally responsible for your injuries. In Charlotte, you have to prove that the property owner or whoever is currently using the property knew or should have known that there was a dangerous condition on the property and that they ignored it and didn’t repair it. Some typical situations where a property owner may be legally accountable for an injury on their property could include situations that involve:
Since changes to North Carolina property law were made in 1998, premises liability statutes treat all lawful visitors to a property the same. Lawful means that the visitor in question wasn’t trespassing, breaking and entering, or otherwise on the property in some illegal way. Property owners have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to avoid endangering a lawful visitor or at least warn visitors of a dangerous condition on the property.
Under North Carolina law, reasonable care can include regular maintenance on the property, removing or cleaning up any hazardous situations (such as cleaning up a puddle or spilled drink, removing debris after doing maintenance or renovations, etc.), providing warning signs on any hazards that can’t be removed (such as, “Watch your step, sharp drop,” or “No lifeguard on duty after 9 PM,” etc.), and providing appropriate security. The last one is most often an issue with businesses that are open to the public. If the business doesn’t have enough security, visitors may be at higher risk of being victims of a crime.
To collect damages, you will need to prove that the property owner caused a dangerous situation through their own negligence or failed to address a hazard by either fixing it or warning about it.
The property owner has no real responsibility except to avoid intentionally hurting the unlawful visitor. They don’t have to correct hazardous conditions or put up a warning sign for anyone who isn’t supposed to be there. This is also true of situations where a building or place is generally open to the public, but specific areas are blocked off with “no entry” signs. For example, in the back of a store, you might see a sign that says, “Employees only.” Let’s say that a customer ignores the sign and goes through this door into the back room. There may be some hazardous equipment here that the employees are trained to handle safely, but the average person shopping in the store is not. A baler or a pallet jack could easily be harmful to someone who isn’t trained in using one. If this unlawful visitor starts poking around in the baler and gets their arm crushed, that isn’t the store’s responsibility because the sign instructed non-employees to stay out of the back room.
There are sometimes issues with determining whether a visitor was a lawful or unlawful one, because, in some situations, a person might believe they have “implied permission” to be somewhere. For example, a building might be open during certain hours, and the visitor might enter at this time. If they are still there after hours, in some situations, they might not realize the building has closed (especially if the building staff did not make an announcement over the loudspeakers about closing).
In other cases, the “attractive nuisance” doctrine may be an issue. This doctrine says that property owners may be held liable in trespassing situations where the trespasser/s are minors, and the hazardous area could be very attractive to children. For example, let’s say that Frank and Irene have an old swing set in their yard. Maybe they were keeping it around for their grandkids, but they’re older now and don’t play on the swings anymore. The swing set is now rusted, and some of the chains look like they could come loose. Frank and Irene don’t feel like paying the fee to have it hauled off, so they put up a “no trespassing” sign in the yard to keep the neighborhood kids out.
The problem here is threefold:
In this situation, if a child wandered into Frank and Irene’s yard, played on the swings, and one of the chains snapped, they could fall to the ground and get hurt. Frank and Irene might be liable for their injury, even with the “no trespassing” sign.
Here are some common situations where a property owner may be liable, and the general framework for proving liability in these cases. This is not an all-inclusive list, so if you have been injured in another situation, we encourage you to speak with a Charlotte premises liability lawyer to determine your options.
Slip And Fall Cases
These usually happen in stores, restaurants, or other businesses open to the public. Occasionally they also occur on boats or cruise ships where a slippery spot on the floor can lead to a bad fall. The major concern in proving liability in these cases is how long the wet or slippery condition had existed. Should an employee of the business or public place have noticed in that amount of time and taken steps to keep visitors safe? Were they notified of the problem, and did they have time to address it by cleaning up the area or placing a “wet floor” sign?
For example, let’s say you’re shopping in the grocery store and slip on something. The next thing you know, you’re flat on your back and in pain. You’re also covered in what looks like tomato sauce. Eventually, you figure out that someone must have dropped a jar of pasta sauce, and that’s what you slipped on. If surveillance videos show that another customer dropped the jar three hours earlier and several employees walked by the aisle and did nothing, the store may have been negligent. Or, if an employee states that a customer reported the spill and they told a manager, who did nothing, the store may have been negligent.
On the other hand, if surveillance videos show the other customer dropped the pasta sauce and walked off two minutes before you entered the aisle, it’s unrealistic to think the store workers should have known about the spill and fixed it before you arrived. It’s possible the other customer told a manager, and they were on their way to grab a “wet floor” sign when you fell. In this situation, the store staff had no opportunity to fix the hazardous condition before it harmed you, so it’s unlikely you will be able to prove they were negligent.
Property Defects or Maintenance Issues
These may include situations where you were injured when an improperly built deck or other part of a building collapsed suddenly, you tripped on a broken stair, a railing gave way and sent you tumbling to the ground, or a similar condition led to your injury. Again, the key to proving your case will be demonstrating how long the dangerous condition existed without repair work or at least a warning.
As mentioned earlier, this typically involves a business failing in its duty to keep visitors and employees safe from crime. For example, if a local store has a poorly lit parking lot with no security cameras, you might be assaulted walking to your car. Additionally, there could be little evidence for the police to find the perpetrator afterward. In other cases, employees may not have been properly trained on how to handle potentially dangerous situations, such as a belligerent customer making threats. Often these conditions existed for a considerable amount of time before someone was hurt. Another issue to consider is whether previous crimes occurred at the same location, and the owner/management did little or nothing to prevent further problems.
Here the main issue is whether the dog’s owner or handler was aware that the dog was previously dangerous or aggressive and if they took steps to keep others safe, such as confining the dog to the house or a fenced yard or muzzling it in public. If the dog had any previous history of biting or concerning behavior, that would be important information to your case.
In most cases, you’ll make a claim with the property owner’s insurer, as these kinds of claims are often covered by homeowner’s or business liability insurance. However, it’s common for the insurance carrier, the property owner, or both to claim they have no responsibility because your injuries were your fault.
One common argument is that a hazard was an obvious problem, and you would have seen it if you were watching where you were going. North Carolina law does allow that property owners have no duty to warn of a hazard if it should be clearly obvious to a visitor. Sometimes the two sides of a claim disagree about what should be obvious. In some circumstances, a property owner may make the case that you didn’t notice a hazard or warning sign because you were busy staring at your phone or otherwise not paying attention.
If you’re getting pushback from the insurer or responsible party for this or any other reason, don’t attempt to argue it out with them yourself. Call a lawyer right away and have no contact with the other party or insurance company until you do. Under North Carolina’s contributory negligence laws, if you are found to have even contributed to the accident by as little as one percent, you will not be able to collect any damages. Speaking with an experienced attorney as soon as possible is your best chance at protecting your legal rights.
By hiring one of our talented Charlotte Premises Liability lawyers at Auger & Auger to handle your case, you will be taking the proper steps to ensure that your case will be treated with the utmost care and receive the best possible legal outcome.
Our Charlotte Premises Liability lawyers can help you recover financial compensation for your injuries and any expenses related to those injuries, including:
If you or a loved one has been injured on another person’s property in Charlotte, you want a caring, interested attorney focused and working on your case. Call us today to explore your options and learn more about how we can help you put this unfortunate situation behind you. We offer free, no-obligation consultations and are happy to answer any questions you might have about the process. Call us now, and let us begin working on your case today.