When you enter someone else’s property, you expect to be safe while you’re visiting. Property owners and managers must ensure their property is free of hazards that can cause injury. When injuries do happen because there was a hazard on a property, the owner or manager can be held liable.
Hazards come in many shapes and forms. There may be a puddle of water in a store that causes someone to slip and fall, a dog may bite a visitor to a property, or a visitor to an amusement park could get hurt due to unsturdy railing. No matter the cause, hazards on a property that aren’t addressed properly are the cause of thousands of lawsuits every year.
At Auger & Auger, our experienced premises liability attorneys understand how stressful life becomes after you have been injured. You may be facing mountains of medical bills and other expenses, you might be unable to work, and your injury could cause you not to be able to enjoy life as you once did. Our lawyers are here to ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
We’re always here to talk with you, even on weekends and holidays. Call us at (855) 969-5671 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation today.
The legal team at Auger and Auger has represented victims of premises liability injuries for over 26 years. In that time, we’ve seen cases worth thousands and cases worth millions. But to determine how much your specific case is worth, we have to review the details of it and evaluate what types of compensation you may be entitled to.
Compensatory damages are generally divided into two categories: economic and noneconomic. As the name suggests, economic damages are intended to compensate you for the monetary (economic) losses you suffered because of an injury. These include medical bills, both past, and present; lost wages; out-of-pocket expenses; property damage; and more. Economic damages are typically proven by receipts, invoices, and other physical evidence.
On the other hand, noneconomic damages compensate you for losses that have nothing to do with money. These are more intangible losses, and premises liability attorneys often call on psychologists and other experts to prove you suffered such losses. Noneconomic damages may include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment in life, and more.
In rare instances, punitive damages may also be assessed. These damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. In North Carolina, punitive damages may only be awarded in fraud, malice, willful, or wanton conduct. Punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $250,000, whichever is greater.
In South Carolina, punitive damages are only awarded if it’s proven the defendant’s actions constitute “willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.” Punitive damages are generally capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater. However, there are exceptions that may allow you to recover greater punitive damages.
There are three general types of visitors that may enter a property. Each one is granted different levels of protection under state law. North Carolina and South Carolina may have minor nuanced differences in these protections, but they are similar enough to be grouped together. The three different visitors to a property include:
As you may know, trespassers are those who enter a property illegally or without permission. However, they may also include people who enter areas of a property that are off-limits. For instance, someone may enter a store lawfully, but if they enter an employees-only area, they are now trespassing. Property owners have a general duty to not intentionally cause harm to trespassers.
Licensees are people who are allowed to be on a property but aren’t there for the property owner’s financial gain. Examples of licensees include delivery drivers, people passing through a store to get to another one, repairmen, and more. Property owners typically have to take reasonable steps to either eliminate or cordon off hazards that could cause injury to licensees.
Invitees are the group that is granted the most protection. They are on the property for the financial gain of the owner or manager. Invitees can include shoppers in a retail store, people visiting an amusement park, visitors to a library, and more. Property owners and managers have an express duty to examine their property for hazards and either eliminate them or put out clear warning signs of the danger.
There are too many different situations where a property owner may be liable to list them all, but here are some common kinds of accidents that may result in significant damages:
Slip And Fall Or Trip And Fall Cases
These can happen on private property or in a public building like a store. Falling is a common way that people get hurt, and sometimes it’s due to a hazard on the property. Puddles or any wet or slippery area can be a problem, especially if they aren’t taken care of promptly. But we also see issues of people tripping over items that were carelessly left out, including wires, hoses, tools, rakes, brooms, etc. There may also be structural problems like damaged or defective walkways or railings that lead to injury.
In order to show negligence in these cases, it’s important to demonstrate how long the hazardous condition existed before you were hurt. In some situations, we may also find evidence that the property owner or manager knew about the situation, but didn’t act to correct it. For example, let’s say that you were on your way to enter a business when you tripped over a loose brick in their walkway, fell, and broke your arm. In investigating your case, we might learn that several other people noticed the loose brick and complained to the property owner, as long as two or three months prior to your accident. If we can provide evidence in the form of testimony from others or emails sent to the property owner, we may be able to show the owner was negligent in addressing this dangerous situation.
Negligent Or Inadequate Security
Many premises liability cases involve accidents, but they can also be about deliberate acts. If you were the victim of a crime, such as a mugging or assault, on someone else’s property, you may have a premises liability claim. Here the issue is whether the owner provided sufficient security to prevent crimes like the one that happened to you. If your attorney can demonstrate that the business’ security negligence led to your injuries, you may have a case for compensation. Some examples of weak security practices include:
Why Can’t I Just Sue The Person Who’s Responsible For The Crime?
Many people ask this question. You can sue a person who committed a crime against you for damages, assuming they’ve been identified. However, in most cases, there is no good path to recovering any award you might be given by a jury. Criminals don’t carry liability insurance in case they hurt someone while committing a crime, and without insurance, all you can hope to recover are the perpetrator’s personal assets. Often whatever assets the criminal had go to paying legal costs for their criminal trial, leaving you out of luck for collecting damages. However, it is still possible to seek compensation from any property owner whose negligence favored the crime, as property owners are typically covered by homeowner’s or business insurance.
Swimming Pool Accidents Or Drownings
Any potentially dangerous condition on a property should be marked as such, and that includes pools. These may not seem inherently dangerous at first glance, but they can be to someone who can’t swim. Water around the pool may also pose a slip-and-fall hazard. This is why most businesses with pools – such as hotels or parks – keep the pool area fenced off, have a lifeguard on duty during business hours, and post multiple signs like the following:
What about a person who has a pool in their yard? If they know the pool could be attractive to neighborhood children who could get hurt, they have a responsibility to fence off the yard where the pool is and keep the gate locked to discourage kids from playing in the pool. If they didn’t do this, and a neighbor’s child was hurt playing in or near the pool, the homeowner may be liable. In these cases, it’s important to show that the property owner did not take reasonable steps to keep people out of the pool.
There may be other areas of a public place that contain dangerous items or substances. As long as the property owner marks these as off-limits, then they are unlikely to have much liability if someone is hurt. For example, a motel may have a shed they keep pool chemicals, garden shears, and other items in. If this shed is locked and has a “Keep out” sign on the door, and someone breaks in, gets into the pool chemicals and suffers burns, the property owner likely won’t be found liable. The injured party, in this case, was trespassing, and the property owner’s responsibility only goes as far as not intentionally hurting the trespasser. On the other hand, if the motel staff routinely leaves the shed unlocked for long periods and there is no sign on the door warning people to keep out, the motel may be liable for the injured person’s damages.
If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, there will likely be a legal process before you get the total compensation you deserve. The property owner or manager will have their team of lawyers that will do everything they can to prove you caused your injuries, and therefore don’t deserve any sort of settlement. In addition, the insurance company that covers the property will do what it can to pay out as little as possible.
At Auger & Auger, we know these tricks, and we have over 26 years of fighting against them on behalf of our clients. We encourage anyone who has received any settlement offer to contact us as soon as possible. Once you accept the settlement offer, you forfeit the right to file a lawsuit for greater compensation.
Our premises liability lawyers are always here to help. We never charge a dime unless we win your case. Call (855) 969-5671 or contact us online for your free, no-obligation consultation.