Public and private property owners are legally responsible for maintaining a safe property in order to minimize accidents and injuries. This includes any hazardous conditions on both the interior and exterior of buildings as well as on the property itself. If property owners fail to uphold safe conditions that cause injury to a visitor, they can be held financially accountable for damages that are a direct result of that negligence.
While slip and fall cases are the most widely recognized type of premises liability, this area of tort law covers a broad range of incidents that can stem from negligence surrounding a number of factors including snow and ice hazards, inadequate security, and sinkholes.
Determining Liability in a Premises Liability Claim
Premises liability holds a property owner accountable for injury or death that occurs on their property due to negligence or unsafe conditions. However, not every accident that occurs on another person’s property is eligible for legal compensation. In order for the property owner to be considered liable, the claimant must be able to prove:
- The defendant owns, leases, or occupies the property.
- The plaintiff was a lawful visitor.
- The defendant acted with negligence or did not uphold their duty of care.
- The plaintiff was injured on the property
- The defendant’s negligence directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
There are numerous legal nuances that any single premises liability case can include. In the event of an incident, it is important to speak to an experienced premises liability accident attorney immediately to help you determine where the fault lies and how to proceed with your potential claim.
Like many personal injury cases, there is always the potential to have multiple defendants in a premises liability case. In Illinois, shared liability plays a role in many instances of share responsibility on a single property. Renters of privately-owned residential properties can potentially share the responsibility of ensuring safe conditions on the property and the negligence of unresolved hazards that result in injury. Likewise, accidents such as slip and falls or snow and ice cases on commercial properties such as apartment complexes, strip malls, or office parks, may involve the negligence of third-party management or maintenance companies. Depending on the specifics of each case, these third-party groups may absorb some or all of the fault.
Illinois premises liability law is also unique in the fact that a property owner can be doing all the right things, and still lose a premises liability claim.
What is a Property Owner’s Duty?
Property owners are responsible for maintaining their property in a reasonably safe condition for visitors including family, friends, and neighbors as well as people who have the property owner’s implied permission to enter the property for their own purposes such as sales representatives or utility workers. In premises liability cases it can be difficult to determine if this responsibility was breached without careful consideration of the specific circumstances of the incident.
Proof of Notice
Premises liability cases are formed on the basis of negligence, meaning injured parties must prove that a property owner failed to exercise reasonable care through notice of known hazards and defects.
A premises liability case can be presented by two types of notice:
- Actual notice refers to direct knowledge of a defect or hazard such as a spill that the property owner or an employee knew about because they saw it or were told about it. Negligence exists if they acknowledge the issue but take no action to fix it.
- Constructive notice refers to indirect knowledge of a defect or hazard that can be proven by issues that have been apparent for a sufficient amount of time, or happen routinely, such as a leak that occurs when it rains and causes a slippery surface, and would have been found if the property owner or employees were correctly monitoring the property and doing their job.
- If the hazard was created by the defendant, there is no need to prove notice.
Illinois Attractive Nuisance Laws
In Illinois, property owners must be aware of structures or items on their property that might appeal to a child yet present safety concerns that a child might not recognize. Attractive nuisances such as unfenced swimming pools, broken playground equipment, or construction equipment are all examples of hazards that might entice a child to play. If a child accesses property and is injured, the property owner may be liable for damages.
Common Causes of Premises Liability Accidents
Serious premises liability cases are unfortunately all too common and arise from a lack of proper warning signage, defective designs in buildings, and property owner’s failure to maintain dangerous areas, among many other scenarios. Each case is unique and requires an investigation of the property, a detailed exploration of evidence, and interviewing witnesses.
Some common situations that may give rise to premises liability lawsuits include:
- Broken staircases or porches
- Uneven sidewalks, mats, or rugs
- Cluttered walking paths
- Damaged thresholds
- Dangerous property
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Ice and snow accumulation
- Inadequate maintenance
- Injury in a swimming pool
- Negligent or inadequate security
- Restaurant liability
- Slip and fall accidents
- Store liability
- Tripping hazards like unsecured floorboards, carpets, stairs, or steps
- Unmarked wet floors
Contact Our Illinois Premises Liability Attorneys
Injuries resulting from property hazards can be serious and have devastating repercussions for those involved. The personal injury attorneys at Clifford Law Offices have decades of experience helping people recover damages for injuries and wrongful death claims resulting from the actions of negligent property owners. Our attorneys have experience in all types of personal injury cases and premises liability lawsuits, and we know how to handle your case efficiently.
If you’ve suffered an injury due to a property owner’s failure to maintain their premises, contact Clifford Law Offices to discuss the details of your case with one of our attorneys and learn what options are available to you. It is our goal to help you receive the highest possible compensation for your injuries.