Houston Premises Liability Attorney
How Can a Houston Premises Liability Attorney Help You?
Our Texan readers may be familiar with the 2013 Austin v. Kroger case. We’ll summarize the court case if you don’t know.
An employee named Austin took legal action against grocery store chain Kroger due to injuries suffered while at work. He argued Kroger’s had a legal obligation to ensure his safety at work – which he says they failed to do.
Austin’s case is the kind you’d hire a Houston premises liability attorney to handle. If you’re injured while on someone else’s property, you can’t hire just any legal help.
But what is premises liability, and how does it relate to personal injury law? What do these specialized attorneys do, and how can they help you during your time of need?
Read further before you hire an attorney for your injury case. We will discuss premises liability and what these lawyers do to help their clients.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a variation of personal injury law. Premises liability focuses on where you were injured as opposed to how. We’ll use the Austin v. Kroger case to demonstrate what we mean.
Austin was suing his workplace because he said they didn’t ensure he’d be safe while performing his duties. This case qualifies as premises liability because Austin was hurt while working.
The basis behind these cases is that the landowner (or non-owner resident) is responsible for safety-proofing their property. The property owner is liable for injuries when they don’t provide reasonable safety measures.
Premises Liability Vs. Personal Liability
While on the subject, we should explain the differences between premises and personal liability. As mentioned earlier, premises liability focuses on where you’re injured and if it’s the property owner’s fault.
Personal liability focuses on who hurt you rather than where the injury happened. These incidents don’t need to occur at a specific location. “Lack of care” is also not an issue in personal liability cases.
Getting accidentally hit in the face with a baseball would be a personal liability case. It doesn’t matter where you were when you suffered the injury, just that the ball hurt you.
Invitees, Social Guests, and Trespassers
Invitees come onto properties with the owner’s knowledge for commercial or professional reasons. Austin would be an invitee.
Social guests (or licensees) visit without commercial or mutually beneficial purposes. Your friends from the next town over would be social guests.
Trespassers may have been easy to figure out. These are people illegally and non-consentingly on your property. Some states distinguish between levels of care necessary for invitees and social guests.
Other states require both to be given equally high standards of care. In Texas, the highest level of care goes to invitees.
Property owners are obligated to defend them from reasonable risks they’re aware of. This isn’t the case with social guests. It’s why landlords aren’t typically responsible for a tenant’s guests’ injuries.
Your friends and family are considered social guests, and you’re supposed to make their residence safe. One exception includes hazardous, hidden issues before the owner takes control of the property.
The other exception happens when the landlord fails to make repairs in a competent, non-negligent manner.
Texan trespassers are entitled to a warning about non-obvious dangers if the property owner knows they’re on the premises.
Children on Property
Children are owed a higher duty of care, whether invitees or social guests. This is because they’re more vulnerable and less aware of dangers than adults.
A court will review a case involving a child to see if they can recover damages. A Houston premises liability attorney may easily prove liability when a child is invited to a potentially hazardous property.
As with trespassing adults, children are owed a lesser duty of care. You still must warn them of danger if you know they’re on the property. You also have to accommodate “attractive nuisances.”
What Are Attractive Nuisances?
Attractive nuisance states you can be found responsible for an injured child even if they’re trespassers. People living in “dangerous surroundings” should be aware it might attract children.
You have to actively warn kids away from the hazard and take steps to ensure they don’t come to harm. Natural elements like creeks, rivers, and ponds aren’t considered attractive nuisances.
The landowner must have cultivated or maintained the potential danger themselves. Pets like dogs and cats count as nuisances. Many young children don’t know how to act around animals.
It’s up to the pet’s owner to ensure they don’t harm anyone. Furthermore, children won’t be held to “contributory and comparative negligence” standards.
This kind of negligence measures how much fault each party shares. We’ll go into further detail later. Just know that very young children under seven don’t apply for consideration.
An incredibly young child could gain restitution even if they were bitten after trespassing. However, kids actively breaking the law cannot seek legal compensation.
For example, a young girl vandalizing her neighbor’s home kicks in the screen door and is injured by the glass. The homeowner may not be liable, considering the injury happened during a crime.
What Is Neglect?
“Neglect,” in this instance, means “failure to care for.” Essentially, the property has been left to its own devices and is rendered unsafe. Broken stairway railings may count as neglect if they’re left unrepaired.
Any potential danger you know about that could lead to harm, and you refuse to take care of counts as neglect. Many property liability cases are the result of negligence.
Anyone seeking to win a property liability case must prove the property owner neglected their responsibility to maintain the location. Here’s an example of what neglect looks like:
You’re getting your home painted next week, but your wooden steps are in poor condition. The bottom plank isn’t adequately nailed down, leading to multiple close calls.
You’re aware the steps are a hazard, but visitors can’t spot the faulty step so easily. People have told you multiple times (after almost tripping) you should do something before someone is hurt.
The responsible thing would be to repair the faulty bottom step to ensure the painting crew doesn’t fall. However, you don’t replace the step, and a painter seriously hurts themselves.
That worker can hold you responsible for the injury. The logic is that you knew the step was broken and failed to fix it before the painters came to your home.
You didn’t make repairs, so the painter’s injury is your fault. This example is you neglecting your duty of care to provide a safe environment for workers or visitors.
Types of Negligence
Negligence isn’t a “one size fits all” form of failure. It can take various forms depending on the situation. Below are a few examples.
“Ordinary” negligence is garden variety carelessness. Not paying attention to the traffic light or leaving a tripping hazard until it’s too late counts as carelessness.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
This form of negligence examines how much fault you share for the incident. How much your involvement matters depends on the state.
A pure comparative fault state reduces how much the plaintiff (you) receives by a percentage proportional to your degree of fault.
In non-pure comparative fault states like Texas, you must share a specific percentage of fault. Texas has a 51% rule. This means plaintiffs don’t receive an injury claim if they’re 51% or more responsible for the accident.
Vicarious negligence (or vicarious liability) occurs when someone’s negligence can be passed onto another party. This is common in businesses.
Let’s say a worker is mopping the floor and forgetting to put up a sign results in a customer falling. The store owner can be held responsible even though the incident is technically the worker’s fault.
Gross negligence is extreme in its application. Typically, these cases involve a blatant disregard for people’s safety. Deliberately showing off your shooting skills in a highly populated area is gross negligence.
Burden of Proof
Getting hurt at a specific location doesn’t mean the owner was negligent. The property being dangerous or in disrepair when you were injured doesn’t mean the owner neglected their duties either.
You can’t just claim negligence because you suffer a broken arm or leg. You bear the burden of proof. There are four things you have to prove to win your case.
Firstly, you have to prove the landowner knew or should reasonably have known the area was unsafe. Secondly, you also must provide evidence they made no moves to resolve the danger before you got hurt.
The third condition is the injured party also has to demonstrate the situation that caused the injury was unreasonable. For example, you’d never expect to walk into a normal-looking house, fall through the floor, and break your leg.
The residence in this hypothetical scenario looks habitable, and you had no warning there was a threat inside. You couldn’t expect the floor to collapse when you walk through the door.
The homeowner has a reasonable expectation to ensure people can safely enter their home.
Your last piece of evidence must show that the landowner’s failure to act directly caused your injury. Continuing with the example above, the homeowner’s failure to make repairs directly caused your broken leg.
The Burden of Proof Regarding Children
The child’s parents should hire an attorney to help with their case. They’ve got to gather factual information about the dangerous situation. A child’s parents need information if the problem would cause unreasonable harm.
Parents should know if their kids are likely to trespass and that they wouldn’t understand the danger it would bring. The argument against the property owner would be they didn’t care about protecting neighborhood children.
Someone could say the solution was as easy as putting fencing off a pool or dangerous machinery. The neighborhood junkyard could be held liable for injured trespassing children.
Cases with children still need evidence that the landowner is responsible for the injury. You still have to meet the four criteria to prove their negligence is why the injury occurred.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
- Inadequate premises maintenance
- Defective safety gear and fixtures
- Slip and fall cases
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Snow and ice incidents
- Bad security leads to assault or injury
- Swimming pool accidents
- Amusement park accidents
- Dog bites
- Leaks or flooding
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Fires Premises liability has a wide range of scenarios because negligence can result in various unsafe conditions. A hospital worker may have legitimate cause to pursue a liability case if injured in a robbery.
What Would A Houston Premises Liability Attorney Do For You?
A premises liability attorney assists with injuries sustained on owned property. These legal aids are also called “slip and fall attorneys.” The name comes from the fact that slip and fall cases are among the most common.
A Houston slip and all attorneys go to bat for you when you must prove the property owner’s negligence harmed you. Slip and fall cases are a perfect example of this.
Your legal help can be the difference between getting paid for a nasty fall inside your local grocery store. We’ll explain exactly how your attorney helps you later.
You’re searching for a negotiator when you hire an attorney to help with your liability case. Your legal help is supposed to advocate and mediate with the courts and the defendant’s insurers.
Here’s what you should expect from your Houston slip and fall attorney:
The lawyer should review evidence of fault provided by all parties during the discovery phase. Your lawyer may hire investigators and accident reconstruction specialists to strengthen your position in court.
A liability lawyer may also interview witnesses and other experts.
Planning a Strategy
Next, your attorney assembles a plan to get you the most money possible. An effective way to do this is to minimize your role (if you had one) in causing your injury.
How little responsibility you bear depends on your state’s fault system. Regardless, the goal is to show you’re not to blame for your injury or provide other important information regarding the settlement.
Assessing Your Demand
- Medical fees
- Lost wages during recovery Serious, more permanent injuries, lifelong disabilities, and continued lost wages are more challenging to calculate. These complications will require more money to make ends meet.
Negotiating a Settlement
Ideally, your legal help will settle before going to trial. Many lawyers consider cases settled without their client entering a courtroom their biggest successes.
Trials are expensive and messy. You cannot predict how a jury will react to your case. Trials can drag on for years before any resolution occurs.
Why You Should Hire An Attorney
You can pursue legal matters yourself, but typically it’s not advised you do so. You should leave the work to professionals unless you have explicit knowledge of the field.
You Need Emotional Detachment
You want someone with experience and knowledge about your lawsuit or claim. It’s not uncommon for lawyers to hire a fellow attorney to handle their cases.
Part of the reason you want to hire a lawyer is that they’ll be less emotional than you. Legal aid should be objective so that they can see the larger picture.
It can be hard to distance yourself from an injury. A slip and fall attorney is more focused on winning your case than anything else. They recognize getting your claim is the best way to help you.
An Attorney Can Challenge Evidence
Premises liability cases favor whoever has the best evidence. Sometimes there’s an issue with how the plaintiff’s side gathers information. You may not know how to spot ill-gotten proof, but an attorney can.
A competent lawyer can suppress improperly obtained evidence. The less opposition you have against you, the smoother your case will proceed.
Poor Filing and Bad Procedures Can Ruin Your Case
- What files to fill out
- When to file them
- What legal procedures to employ Misplaced paperwork and broken procedural operations can extend your case by years. The worst-case scenario is having your case pitted against you or thrown out.
You'll Likely Spend More Money Without Legal Aid
Before, we’d mentioned how going to trial could be costly and tedious. If you hire a lawyer, you could avoid a trial altogether. Your lawyer can maneuver around any expensive fees and help you save money.
You Can Prevent Future Issues
An agreement with the defense could still come with a disadvantageous fine print. Spotting the legalities doesn’t mean they’re easy to understand.
You may have issues deciphering what the fine print means alone. Hiring a lawyer ensures you have someone to stop you from accepting bad deals. They’ll work to get you the proper claim you deserve.
An Attorney Has A Dedicated Network
The wonderful thing about professionals is they know people that make their jobs easier. Bailiffs and forensics experts are only some of the people who help with legal matters.
A non-attorney likely wouldn’t know the people you need to advance your claims case. A lawyer can also help you skip steps in the claims process. Here’s an example: lawyers can sign paperwork without a notary.
These people are partly why lawyers can challenge evidence or testimony. Some of the evidentiary challenge process involves skill. But networking helps your lawyer weed out information harmful to your case.
A Lawyer Best Knows How to Handle Your Case
Skilled legal help can guess how your case may get resolved. This “future sight” allows them to best advise you on how to proceed. Often, an out-of-court settlement is the best option.
But, there are those cases that are better resolved in court. Hiring an attorney means you’re likely to receive a fair settlement. They’ll know how to push for the best financial return.
Are You Looking for Legal Help?
Hopefully, you’ve learned what a Houston premises liability attorney can do for you. The best reason to seek legal help is they can aid with getting you the money you deserve.
Slip and fall attorneys look out for your best interests. They save you time, money, and the monotony of lengthy trials.
Luckily, you’ve got us on your side. Choosing O’Hara Law Firm means you have your pick of experienced premises liability lawyers.
Contact us today if you or a loved one has suffered due to a property owner’s negligence. We’ll help you through the claims process one step at a time.
Premises Liability Attorneys in Houston, Texas
The term “premises liability” refers to a property owner’s implied responsibility to make their property safe for visitors, as well as themselves. When a property owner fails to do that — for instance, a business fails to shovel snow from its walkway or a construction crew fails to put appropriate signage in place to warn pedestrians of danger — they can be held liable for any injuries caused as a result.
There are, of course, many factors that affect the outcome of a personal injury case. For instance, if a person is trespassing on someone else’s property and gets hurt, that person is unlikely to receive any compensation for their injuries. If, however, the property owner had reason to believe trespassers would be common on their property, they could be held responsible for not taking necessary precautions to warn those persons of danger.
For example, let’s say a skate park is being renovated over the summer. The park owners can expect that a few curious teenagers might sneak onto the property to see what changes are being made — or even to fulfill a dare. In anticipation of such behavior, the management involved in this scenario should give ample warning about any and all dangerous areas on the property.
There are four elements that must be met in order for an injured person to have a claim against a landowner. First, the landowner must have actual or constructive knowledge of the injury causing condition on the premises (in some instances only actual knowledge is sufficient). Second, the condition that caused the injury posed an unreasonable risk of harm. Third, the landowner did not exercise reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the risk. Fourth, the landowner’s failure proximately caused the injured person’s injuries. If any one of the four elements are not met, the injured person does not have a claim against the landowner under premise liability.
Your safety is our priority
Common Premise Claims
Trip and fall and slip and fall claims are the most common claims that people think of when discussing premise liability. However, these are not the only type of premise liability claims. Depending on the facts, injury from heavy objects falling, cuts from sharp objects, injuries from dangerous machines and even dog bites may fall under premise liability law. The common thread in all of these fact patterns is that there is a dangerous condition on the property that the owner knew about or should have known about.
Another important factor that affects many personal injury cases is the concept of shared fault or comparative fault. These terms refer to both parties — the visitor and the property owner — being partially responsible for the injuries sustained on the property. As a general rule, people are expected to care enough about their own well-being to try and avoid getting hurt. That’s why, if a visitor seems to have behaved in a foolhardy way that resulted in an injury, their claim to compensation is likely to be reduced.
In Texas, the comparative fault rule is applied by percentage. For instance, let’s say an injury has occurred and the damages have amounted to $10,000. If, after examining the details of the case, the judge determines that the property owner is 75% responsible for the visitor’s injury and the visitor is 25% responsible for getting themselves hurt, the injured person can only receive up to 75% of the compensation — in this case, $7,500. If on the other hand, the injured person is deemed to be 51% or more responsible for their injury, they cannot claim any compensation.
The Importance of Consulting with an Attorney
Comparative fault and trespassing are just two of many unique factors that can affect the outcome of a premises liability case. A seasoned personal injury lawyer can offer much more in the way of expertise, which could mean the difference between collecting your compensation and walking away empty-handed. If you or a loved one has been injured on someone else’s property, your next step should be consulting with an attorney to determine what your case may be worth.
WHY CHOOSE O’HARA LAW FIRM?
Since we began practicing law, we have taken on a wide variety of personal injury cases and faced all manner of opposition. There is no case too big for the O’Hara Law Firm. Our team has successfully resolved trip and fall claims on behalf of clients against defendants such as a car wash, grocery store, landlord, and other retail stores. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to someone else’s negligent facility care or upkeep, give our team a call. We would be happy to walk you through your next steps.