When you have sustained an injury on someone else’s property, whether commercial or residential, contact our Greenville slip and fall attorney at Auger & Auger, preferably before leaving the premise. We will send our team to document your accident, take statements and ensure you have the proper medical exam to determine the extent of your injuries.
Of course, we can’t see into the future to prevent these accidents from happening, but we should be able to trust that owners are maintaining their properties in a safe manner. The property owner or manager must meet a standard of reasonable care at all times.
In other words, their premises must be free of hazards such as improper lighting, collapsed decks, uneven flooring, holes in the ground, and more. When a person is legally on the property of another, there is an expectation that they will walk away from the premises in the same condition as when they arrived.
The standard of care is based upon four classifications of persons: children, licensees, invitees, and adult trespassers. In premises liability cases, an invitee is granted the highest standard of care and a trespasser the lowest. Here we’ll look at the different categories, and the way South Carolina laws about premises liability apply to them:
Invitees are typically customers or guests of a business or other organization. They are invited or allowed on the property for the benefit of the owner. For example, shoppers in a department store or guests at an amusement park would be invitees.
The property owner owes the highest “duty of care” to invitees. They are expected to make the premises reasonably safe for invitees, and this includes finding and fixing any hazards promptly. For example, the property owner has a duty to ensure spills are cleaned up so a customer doesn’t trip and fall, that the store has adequate security, that merchandise or other stored items are arranged so they won’t fall on a customer, etc. This is why you will sometimes see a store employee standing next to a spilled drink and warning customers away while a coworker goes to find a mop and bucket.
Licensees are usually on the property with the owner’s permission for their own convenience or entertainment. For example, if you were invited to a friend’s house for dinner or a party, you would be a licensee.
Property owners are expected to use reasonable care to maintain a safe property for licensees. This includes being careful to avoid dangerous activities and warning the guest of any dangerous conditions, such as a loose floor tile or a problem with a stairway. However, they aren’t required to seek out and fix potentially dangerous situations.
Trespassers are people who did not enter the property legally (they were not invited or did not have the permission of the owner). The property owner’s only duty to trespassers is to avoid intentionally harming them.
It’s important to note that a person is not usually considered a trespasser if they are required to be on the property to do their job.
The above rules about who is allowed or invited to be on a property are difficult to apply to children, who may not understand the concept of whether or not they have permission to walk on a neighbor’s lawn, etc. They also may not be able to read signs indicating they shouldn’t enter a dangerous area of the property. Even if they do understand they should stay out of a place, they might not always use their best judgment.
For all these reasons, South Carolina law features an “attractive nuisance doctrine” regarding children and premises liability. Under this doctrine, the property owner may be liable in certain circumstances where:
● A dangerous situation exists on the owner’s property.
● This dangerous situation is appealing to kids.
● The owner knows that the situation exists and that children might be interested in it.
● It’s foreseeable that a child could be injured.
One good example would be a swimming pool. Children often like to play in pools, but they may not be strong swimmers yet. If you own a home with a pool, and you have neighbors with small children, it’s reasonable to expect that the kids might wander away from their parents and jump into your pool. An unsupervised child in a swimming pool could easily drown, so an injury would be foreseeable. As a result, it would be best to erect a high fence with a gate around the pool and keep it locked, so a curious child can’t access the pool. If, however, the pool is left open and a child is injured, you could be liable as the property owner.
Other examples of attractive nuisances include trampolines, collections of sharp objects like scrap metal, or unfinished home construction projects. If your child was injured in one of these situations where the owner made no effort to keep child trespassers out, they could be liable.
You cannot assume that just because you are conscious and not bleeding that you haven’t suffered any harm. People get embarrassed when they slip and fall, trip over a hole, or otherwise lose their balance. They often look around and hope no one saw them land on the ground. They stand up and brush themselves off, and go on about their day — the next morning the pain sets in, and they realize they forgot to make an accident report.
Fortunately, Auger & Auger can still help if you contact our Greenville premises liability attorney right away. South Carolina’s statute of limitations does allow you three years from the date of your injury to file a claim. That said, the longer a victim waits to seek medical attention, the more difficult it can be to link their injury to a specific incident.
Don’t let the embarrassment of an injury prevent you from taking the appropriate steps:
● Take photos of the scene on your phone.
● Ask the manager to file a report.
● Obtain witness names if possible.
● Seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if your injuries seem mild.
Sometimes people want to know if they can simply file a claim with the property owner’s insurance company on their own. The answer is yes, you can, but filing a claim is only the beginning. In many cases, the claim is rejected because the insurance adjuster found an excuse to deny it or the property owner gave them one.
Neither party is concerned with making sure you get compensation for your damages. The insurance company representative is tasked with saving the company money by refusing claims for any and every reason possible. Meanwhile, the property owner doesn’t want their insurance rates to go up, so they will probably tell the insurer that the accident was somehow your fault.
Here are several common defenses to premises liability claims that you may have to contend with:
This is an important legal concept in tort law that is sometimes used in premises liability cases. Essentially it means that if the plaintiff (the injured party) knowingly entered into a risky situation, then the defendant didn’t owe them any duty of care after all. To use this defense, the defendant only has to prove that the plaintiff knew about the risk and voluntarily accepted it. This is why many recreational facilities ask clients to sign a waiver indicating they understand the risks of an activity like rock climbing, hang gliding, or riding in a hot air balloon.
If a company is refusing to pay your claim based on a waiver or on an implied assumption of risk, be sure to talk to a premises liability lawyer before you give up. Waivers are not ironclad and don’t cover every possible situation. For example, you may have understood the risks of rock climbing, but if the facility rented you defective safety equipment that failed during your climb, they could still be liable. Understanding the general risks of the sport is different than knowing your equipment is likely to fail while you’re climbing.
Sometimes the property owner or their insurer will claim that the dangerous situation was so obvious that the injured party should have noticed and taken steps to avoid it. For example, if you arrive at the grocery store, and notice the building is on fire, but march inside to pick up your order anyway, then it isn’t the store’s fault if you suffer from smoke inhalation. The danger was obvious and you chose to ignore it.
However, not all cases are that clear-cut. In many situations, the property owner claims a danger was open and obvious when it actually wasn’t. In these circumstances, your lawyer will be able to argue that the property owner still had a duty to warn you of the dangerous condition.
In South Carolina, personal injury cases use the concept of comparative negligence, which means that more than one party can be at fault for an accident. In a court case, a jury would give each party a percentage of the blame, and the party who is less than 50 percent responsible would collect damages from the party who is more responsible (over 50 percent). These damages are then reduced by the less-liable party’s percentage of fault. So if you are 10 percent responsible, your award would be diminished by 10 percent. While most premises liability cases settle out of court, your perceived fault is still very important in negotiations.
Comparative negligence is a very common defense, because even if the defendant can’t prove you were totally at fault, and even if they are mostly at fault, they can still save some money by claiming you were partly responsible. This is another situation where having an experienced attorney is crucial. Your lawyer will investigate the accident and compile evidence that the property owner was at fault, not you. They may also be able to refute some of the other party’s claims about your responsibility.
This is not a legal concept, but it is a strategy some insurance companies will use in situations where they don’t have a strong defense and they know it. If it’s clear they have no reasonable grounds for refusing your claim, they might extend an offer quickly. This sounds like good news, but be very careful. Often the insurance company’s first offer is not sufficient to cover all your damages, and if you accept, you will be agreeing that the matter is finished and the insurance company owes you nothing further. For this reason, we recommend that you discuss any offer you receive with a lawyer before making a decision. If it’s a good offer, you can go ahead and accept it. If it fails to address all your damages, your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and fight to get you the settlement you deserve.
Call a Greenville premises liability attorney passionate about victims’ rights. The law firm of Auger & Auger works tirelessly on behalf of our clients across a broad range of personal injury law. If you have been injured on someone’s property, you have no reason to be embarrassed. Property owners have a legal duty to ensure the safety of anyone who steps onto their grounds or into their buildings. You have done nothing wrong.
Call our office today and begin the process of claiming compensation for medical payments, lost wages, and more. Our Greenville slip and fall attorney is dedicated to advocating for accident victims and will speak with you at no cost to you or your family. Additionally, our zero-fee guarantee means that you do not pay for our services unless we win your case.
Call (864) 991-3532 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!