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Who Can Be Held Responsible in a Premises Liability Lawsuit?

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Sign showing warning of caution wet floor in office building. premises liability lawsuit

Premises liability refers to the liability the owner or occupier of a building or property has when a visitor suffers an accident on his or her property. If the owner was aware of the dangerous condition or was negligent, he or she could be held liable for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages incurred. 

Sign showing warning of caution wet floor in office building. premises liability lawsuit

If you suffered an accident on someone’s property, whether it is private property or commercial property, contact Lloyd Miller Law at (773) 838-8100 to speak with an attorney. You may be able to file a premises liability claim against the owner. 

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility that property owners or occupiers have for accidents and injuries that occur on their premises. It encompasses a wide range of situations where individuals suffer harm due to unsafe or hazardous conditions on someone else’s property. Premises liability laws vary by jurisdiction, but generally impose a duty of care on property owners to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn visitors of dangers.

The concept of premises liability is based on the principle that property owners have a duty to ensure the safety of those who enter their premises, whether they are invited guests, customers, tenants, or even trespassers in some cases. This duty of care extends to both the physical condition of the property and the activities conducted on it.

There are several key elements involved in premises liability cases:

Ownership or Control

The first element in establishing premises liability is demonstrating that the defendant either owns or controls the property where the injury occurred. This can include property owners, tenants, landlords, business operators, or any party responsible for maintaining the premises.

Duty of Care

Property owners owe a duty of care to individuals who enter their premises, which typically varies depending on the visitor’s status. For example, property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees, who are individuals invited onto the property for a business or social purpose. They must take reasonable steps to ensure the invitee’s safety and address known hazards. Licensees, who enter the property for their own purposes with the owner’s permission, also warrant a duty of care, although it may be slightly lower. Trespassers, while generally owed a lesser duty of care, may still be entitled to protection from known dangers under certain circumstances.

Breaching the Duty of Care

A breach of the duty of care occurs when the property owner fails to maintain safe conditions on the premises or neglects to address known hazards. This could include failing to repair a broken handrail, neglecting to clean up spills promptly, or failing to provide adequate security measures in areas prone to criminal activity.

Causation

The plaintiff must establish a causal link between the defendant’s negligence and the injuries sustained. In other words, he or she must demonstrate that the hazardous condition or negligent actions of the property owner directly led to his or her injuries.

Damages

The plaintiff must suffer actual harm or damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence. This can include physical injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related losses.

Premises liability cases can involve a wide range of accidents and injuries, including slip and falls, trip and falls, inadequate security incidents, dog bites, and swimming pool accidents. The circumstances of each case will determine the extent of the property owner’s liability and the compensation available to the injured party.

By understanding the principles of premises liability and their obligations as property owners, individuals can take proactive measures to prevent accidents and protect themselves from liability. Similarly, those who suffer injuries on someone else’s property should seek legal advice to determine their rights and options for winning a settlement.

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Premises Liability Lawsuit?

In a premises liability lawsuit, liability can extend to various parties who have control over the property where the injury occurred. While property owners are often the primary defendants in these cases, liability can also be attributed to tenants, landlords, property managers, business operators, and other individuals or entities responsible for maintaining the premises. The determination of liability depends on ownership, control, maintenance responsibilities, and the nature of the hazardous condition that caused the injury.

Property Owners

Property owners, whether individuals or entities, are typically the first parties considered liable in premises liability cases. Owners have a legal duty to maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition and to address known hazards that could pose a risk to visitors.

Tenants and Occupiers

In cases where a property is leased or rented to tenants, the tenant may assume responsibility for maintaining certain areas of the premises. Depending on the terms of the lease agreement and state laws, tenants may be held liable for hazards within their leased space or common areas under their control.

Landlords

Landlords have a duty to ensure that rental properties meet safety standards and comply with building codes and regulations. While landlords may delegate maintenance responsibilities to tenants, they ultimately retain responsibility for maintaining common areas, structural elements, and other aspects of the property that are under their control.

Property Managers

Property management companies or individuals hired to oversee rental properties may bear liability for negligence in maintaining safe conditions on the premises. Property managers are responsible for conducting regular inspections, addressing maintenance issues, and ensuring that any hazards are promptly remedied.

Business Operators

In cases where the injury occurs on commercial or business premises, the business operator or owner may be held liable for hazards related to their operations. This includes maintaining safe conditions in areas accessible to customers, employees, and other visitors.

Contractors and Maintenance Companies

If a property owner contracts with third-party vendors or maintenance companies to perform repairs or upkeep on the premises, those entities may also be held liable if their negligence contributes to an injury-causing hazard.

Comparative Fault in Illinois

Illinois operates under the comparative negligence rule. That means victims in personal injury cases can only seek compensation if they did not contribute more than 50% of the liability in a personal injury case. In addition, the amount of compensation awarded is reduced by the percentage of negligence or liability the victim contributed to the case. For example, if the victim contributed 40%, he or she can only seek up to 60% of the damages. 

How Comparative Fault Laws Apply to Premises Liability Cases

Comparative fault laws play a role in premises liability cases by determining the extent to which each party involved shares responsibility for the accident or injury. These laws allow courts to apportion liability among the plaintiff (injured party) and the defendant (property owner or other potentially liable parties) based on their respective degrees of fault. 

Modified comparative fault states, like Illinois, follow a threshold approach where plaintiffs can only recover damages if their fault falls below a certain percentage, typically 50% or 51%. If the plaintiff’s fault exceeds the threshold, they are barred from recovering any compensation. If their fault is below the threshold, their damages are reduced proportionally to their degree of fault.

Comparative fault laws apply to premises liability cases by considering factors such as the plaintiff’s actions, level of care exercised, and awareness of the hazard, in addition to the defendant’s negligence. For instance, if a plaintiff disregards warning signs or engages in reckless behavior that contributes to his or her injury, he or she may be assigned a percentage of fault. Conversely, if the property owner fails to address known hazards or provide adequate warnings, he or she may be held liable for the portion of the damages corresponding to his or her negligence.

Comparative fault laws aim to promote fairness and accountability in premises liability cases by ensuring that each party’s contribution to the accident is fairly evaluated and reflected in the final outcome. By considering the actions and responsibilities of both the plaintiff and the defendant, courts strive to apportion liability in a manner that aligns with principles of justice and equity.

If you sustained injuries on another person’s property, contact us for an initial consultation. We will examine your case and help you determine whether you have a good basis for a lawsuit. A premises liability lawyer will be available to answer your questions and advise you on the best course of action. 

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar