February 28, 2023
Injuries happen when we least expect them and often - where we least expect them. No one expects to be seriously hurt while working, shopping, traveling or spending time with friends or loved ones. It doesn’t matter where you were injured. If your injuries resulted from the negligence of a property owner or business owner and the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition, you may be entitled to compensation under Texas law.
This article will discuss Texas premises liability cases, who may be held liable in a Texas premises liability claim, and the importance of hiring a reputable Texas personal injury attorney.
When a person is injured on a public or private property, or at a business, the area of law that holds the property owner, tenant, or business owner liable is called premises liability. The duty of care to keep a property safe can vary depending on the property, the unique circumstances, and the injured person’s specific activities and status (customer, invited social guest, trespasser, etc.)
Premises liability claims can arise when a property owner or business owner fails to maintain a property, and somebody is injured. For example, if a condition on a property poses an unreasonable risk of harm, the owner had actual knowledge of the condition, and the owner’s failure to repair it causes an injury to someone else, the property owner may be held responsible.
Slip and fall accidents are just one type of premises liability claim. Any accident on someone else’s property can potentially give rise to a premises liability claim:
Like many other states, Texas premises liability law is based on the theory of negligence (which requires the elements of legal duty, a breach of duty, causation, and damages). Claims arise out of conditions on the premises, but the element of a legal duty owed by property owners in Texas premises liability claims depends on the status of the victim. Typically, the injured person will fall into three categories:
People visiting a location either as paying guests, paying vendors or for business purposes (mutual benefit), are invitees. Examples of invitees include customers in a store, clients in an office building, package or mail delivery people, contractors working on repairs, or paying Airbnb guests. Business and property owners have a duty to warn invitees of unreasonable risks, including dangerous conditions or guard dogs. Duty to invitees is the highest level of duty owed to visitors.
Personal friends or others visiting your home are licensees. Licensees do not have a business or contract relationship but do have either express or implied permission to be there. As a property owner, you have a duty to fix a dangerous condition you know about and to warn licensees about dangerous conditions.
People who don’t have permission to be on your property are trespassers. Typically, property owners do not have a duty to trespassers, other than not injuring trespassers willfully or through gross negligence. An exception would be an attractive nuisance, such as a playground that attracts children, or a photo backdrop that seemingly encourages passersby to stop and take a photo.
Who can be held liable in Texas premises liability cases? Depending on the specific situation, you may bring a premises liability claim against a number of parties:
A property owner may be held responsible for injuries resulting from a wide range of hazards and dangerous conditions in, around, and near residential homes and apartment buildings. This can include landlord premises liability as well as individual homeowner liability, where the owner's negligence of a dangerous condition causes a serious injury or death.
A renter or lessee can be a business tenant or a residential renter. Anyone legally possessing or occupying a space owned by someone else may potentially be liable for an injury. For example, if you slipped in a puddle of oil at an auto mechanic shop, which was leased from a real estate conglomerate, you may have a claim against the auto mechanic. A premises liability lawyer could help you determine, depending on the circumstances, if the property owner could also be liable.
Can you sue a property management company for negligence? Property management companies are hired to manage an owner’s property. This can include leasing units, as well as doing general maintenance and maintaining common areas. If a property manager fails to maintain safe conditions or repair hazards, they may be liable for resulting injuries.
A condominium owners association functions similarly to a property manager, in that they are responsible for maintaining common areas like entryways, pool areas, parking lots, and sidewalks. A condominium owners association may be held responsible for an injury, if a dangerous condition they were aware of or should have known of, caused your accident.
Businesses that sell or serve alcohol have specific responsibilities and liabilities under Texas dram shop laws. If a business continued to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, and then later their criminal acts or negligence caused your injuries, the business may be a liable party in a premises liability claim.
Damages available for a premises liability claim are similar to any other personal injury claim, and typically include:
Punitive damages may be available in certain cases where the property owner was grossly negligent, or acted intentionally.
Take the following steps if you are injured on someone else’s property:
Call 911 and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
Document the area as best as you can. Things like clutter and spilled liquids can be removed within minutes. Photos and videos can preserve evidence of a dangerous condition before it can be repaired or removed. If you are not able to take photos and videos, ask a witness or someone else present to do it for you.
Get the names and contact information of anyone present when your accident occurred. Their version of events can be helpful should you need to file an insurance claim.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Do not wait and see if you feel better - getting care promptly is important for your own well-being as well as establishing a medical record of your injuries.
Write down, or record a voice memo, of all the details that you remember as soon as possible, while your memory is fresh. Note the time and date of your accident and request that any surveillance footage is preserved immediately. If you contact a lawyer promptly following an accident, they can assist with this.
The burden of proof in premises liability claims is on the injured person. If you are injured on someone else’s property, you must establish in your insurance claim that the property owner was aware, or reasonably should have been aware of the danger. Photos and surveillance camera footage can be valuable evidence. Other evidence may vary depending on how you were injured. If, for example, you were injured at a grocery store, report logs (or lack thereof) of reasonable inspection frequencies for hazardous conditions (floor sweeps) can establish negligence and the breach of duty of care of a property owner to customers.
In Texas and every state, there is a legal time window or deadline for filing premises liability cases against a property owner. In most cases, this is two years from the date of the accident. Once this time period passes, any claim you bring will be dismissed. It is always advisable to speak with a personal injury lawyer and file a claim as soon as possible, while evidence and witness recollections are fresh.
In most cases, a premises liability case depends on negligence - and the victim, as the plaintiff, must prove that. While it is possible to resolve premises liability claims without a lawyer, an experienced attorney may be able to help you recover far more compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages. Brooks & Radchenko offers a free consultation to evaluate your legal rights to compensation. Contact us to schedule your case evaluation today.
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