When someone gets hurt while on the property of another party, they may be entitled to compensation under the legal theory known as “premises liability”. Many people get injured when they are out shopping, at a restaurant, at a neighbor’s house, or just walking in the park. Most of the time, these injuries are minor, but there are a lot of cases when the injuries are moderate to severe.
Whether you will be able to recover damages or not for your injury depends largely on what you were doing on the property, the nature of the accident and injury, and other specific circumstances of the case. Property owners and caretakers will often assume that your premises liability claim is frivolous, and they will push back hard against having to pay out compensation. For this reason, it is very important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident, so you fully understand your rights and legal options.
At the Zach Peagler Law Firm, we have several years of experience helping Alabama clients who have been injured through no fault of their own obtain the just compensation they deserve. We have extensive knowledge of personal injury law, and we know what is needed to successfully prove a premises liability case. We work closely with our clients, and we take the time to thoroughly analyze the specifics of each case, so we can develop the most effective legal strategy toward recovering maximum compensation.
We can handle any type of premises liability case, including but not limited to:
Slip and fall accidents;
Dog bites and animal attacks;
Fires and explosions;
Escalator and elevator accidents;
Swimming pool accidents;
Amusement park accidents;
Accidents due to poor lighting;
Accidents due to defective conditions or inadequate maintenance;
Accidents due to uneven sidewalks, walkways, and parking lots;
Illnesses resulting from exposure to toxic substances;
Assaults that happen because of inadequate security.
Alabama Premises Liability Laws
Simply being injured on someone else’s property does not automatically entitle you to damages. To be successful with your claim, you need to prove negligence on the part of the property owner or caretaker. Specifically, you will need to prove the following elements:
A duty of care existed (e.g., a grocery store is supposed to keep their aisles free of clutter and slippery substances);
The duty of care was breached (e.g., a slippery substance was spilled in one of the aisles and there were no warning signs posted after a reasonable amount of time);
This breach was the proximate cause of your accident (e.g., you slipped and fell after walking over the slippery substance);
This accident resulted in compensable damages (e.g., your slip and fall accident resulted in a head and back injury).
This all seems pretty simple and straightforward, but in practice, it is a lot more complicated. First of all, it is important to understand that a property owner or caretaker’s duty of care is different depending on the type of visitor you were when you were injured on the property.
There are three general categories of visitors:
Invitees: An invitee is a visitor who has explicit permission to enter a property, generally for the benefit of the property owner or lessor. Those in the category of invitee would include customers of grocery stores, restaurants, and various other types of shops and stores, hotel guests, employees, tenants, hospital patients, students, and subcontractors who are doing work on the property. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care, and those in charge of the property are required to take reasonable measures to uncover and effectively address all potential hazards that may harm them.
Licensees: A licensee is a visitor who has implied permission to be on a property, usually for their own benefit. Examples of licensees may include neighbors, social guests, mail carriers, and unsolicited salespeople. Licensees are owed a slightly lower duty of care. A property owner must address any open and obvious potential hazards, but they are not necessarily required to inspect the property for dangers that are hidden.
Trespassers: Trespassers do not have explicit or implied permission to enter a property, and for this reason, they are owed the lowest duty of care. Owners are only required to refrain from willful or malicious conduct or entrapment that might cause a trespasser harm.
If you were an invitee when you get injured, you have the best chance of successfully pursuing a premises liability claim. Your chances are not quite as good if you were a licensee, but you might still have a case depending on the circumstances. If you are a trespasser, you will unfortunately be facing an uphill battle.
How Long Could A Slip And Fall Case Potentially Last?
This is hard to say. The length of the case can depend on who the defendant is, whether or not litigation is necessary and what are the extent of the victim’s injuries.
The victim or injured party should reach maximum medical improvement before discussing case settlement. This way, all parties know the extent of the person’s injuries and medical bills.
Could This Case Take Months or Years?
The case could take months or years. It just depends.
For example, if you fell down and broke your ankle in three places, and you required several surgeries with pins and screws that had to be removed or reset, your case could take years. We would want to make sure you’re feeling as close to pre-injury status prior to contemplating case settlement.
Therefore, the length of the case depends largely on your treatment, on who the defendant is, and whether or not the defendant will force litigation.
How Could You Possibly Expedite the Process?
The only possible thing to do is continuously update your attorney. You’ll state which doctors and which specialists you’re going to see, how your treatment is progressing and how your injuries are healing.
Other than that, you should simply follow your health care provider’s directives. If someone tells you to get physical therapy three times per week and you only go once a week, your case might drag on.
Beyond this, you can’t do anything to expedite your case. This is completely dependent on your treatment and your particular case. The length further depends on if the case is litigated or if it’s handled through the insurance adjuster.
Pursuing a Premises Liability Claim in Alabama
If you suffered a significant injury on someone else’s property and you can prove that it happened because they breached their duty of care, you are entitled to damages. Compensatory damages can be recovered not only for direct monetary losses such as necessary medical costs and lost earnings, but also for noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment.
As mentioned previously, premises liability claims can be complicated and difficult to pursue. This is especially true in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal standard to personal injury cases. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to have contributed at all (even 1%) to the underlying accident or event.
This is a high bar to clear, and you can be sure the other side will try to avoid paying damages by pinning at least some of the blame on you. Some possible defenses they might use include:
The hazard that caused the injury was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person;
The defendant was not aware or could not have reasonably known about the hazard;
The injury happened because the plaintiff was not watching where they were going;
The plaintiff was in a restricted area of the property or an area where visitors do not usually go.
To increase your chances of success with a legal claim, it is very important to obtain as much documentation as possible. Take multiple photos of the accident scene from various angles in order to clearly show the hazard that caused the accident. If you are unable to take the photos yourself because of your injury, have someone else do that for you.
If there were any individuals nearby who saw what happened, obtain their contact information and try to get them to provide a statement while at the scene if possible. Some witnesses will allow you to record a video or audio statement using your smartphone. If that is possible, get a statement from them while everything is still fresh in their minds.
Finally, get in touch with an experienced attorney at your earliest convenience. Evidence has a tendency to disappear over time, memories fade, and witnesses can be difficult to track down. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the better your chances of securing a favorable outcome in your case.
Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Birmingham, AL Premises Liability Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered injury while on someone else’s property, you need strong legal counsel by your side working hard to recover the full and fair compensation you are entitled to.
At the Zach Peagler Law Firm, we are here to help. Message us online or call our office today at (205) 871-9990 to schedule a free no obligation consultation and case assessment.
The following language is required pursuant to Rule 7.2, Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct. No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.