There are many types of claims made as a result of injuries on another person’s property under Alabama law and they are commonly referred to as Premises Liability claims. Injuries that lead to Premises Liability claims can happen during any season; however, winter months like the Tennessee Valley is accustomed to enduring tend to be particularly hazardous, with emergency rooms often seeing an increase in the number of patients who’ve had a dangerous encounter with a patch of ice. It’s important that every property owner and/or possessor have a basic understanding of Premises Liability laws to ensure they are protected in the case of an accident or injury on their property.
Defining Premises Liability
Premises Liability refers to the responsibility a landowner and/or possessor of a property has for injuries and accidents that occur on their property. A Premises Liability claim might be filed for a wide variety of reasons; however, the most common is when a person is injured on the property of another. Alabama law states that property owners/possessors have a legal obligation to take measures to ensure that visitors on their property are kept reasonably safe from harm; however, a property owner/possessor is not necessarily responsible for an injury simply because it occurred on their property.
Classification of Visitors
When determining liability on the part of a property owner/possessor, several factors are taken in to consideration. A key factor for determining Premises Liability is the visitor’s legal classification, which is generally broken down into three classes with each class having different rights. Invitees, licensees, and trespassers are classifications of visitors in the State of Alabama.
- An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property of another, such as a customer in a store or a guest in a hotel. This invitation usually implies that the property owner/possessor has taken reasonable steps to assure the safety of the premises. An invitee is owed the highest duty of care.
- A licensee is someone who enters the property for his own purpose, or as a social guest, and is present at the consent of the owner/possessor. As a property owner/possessor, you owe a licensee a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries from a condition on the land that you knew — or should have known — of at the time of their entry. A licensee is owed a higher duty of care than a trespasser, but lesser duty of care than an invitee.
- A trespasser is someone who enters the property without the owner/possessor’s permission (either express or implied) for his own reasons — and not for the benefit of the owner/possessor. A trespasser is owed the lowest duty of care; however, a property owner/possessor has a duty not to willfully injure a trespasser.
Qualifying Conditions for a Law Suit
Once a visitor’s legal classification has been determined, four main conditions must exist to qualify for a Premises Liability suit:
- The premises where the accident occurred must be in or contain a dangerous condition.
- The dangerous condition must cause an injury.
- The parties responsible for the property were aware of the dangerous condition or should be expected to know about it.
- The parties responsible for the property must have had a reasonable opportunity to repair the dangerous condition.
Premises Liability claims can be hard to prove under Alabama law and such cases are becoming increasingly difficult to settle or win in Court. Judges and jurors typically place the burden of proof on the injured party to provide a preponderance of evidence that the property owner/possessor showed neglect, or failed to take some action which led to the injury. Property owner/possessors who are aware of the basics of Premises Liability law are better positioned to both prevent injury and limit liability under Alabama law.
What You Need to Know
As a property owner, slip-and-fall accidents are not the only types of accidents you need to be aware of. Remember, accidents can happen anywhere, anytime, and these accidents might be caused by other circumstances, such as:
- Slippery walking surfaces due to spilled liquids or food, a puddle of motor oil, or standing water, etc.
- Uneven walking surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, cracked concrete, torn carpeting, or plant roots
- Falling through unsafe surfaces, such as old steps or porches
- Falling material, broken ladders, or hazardous material
- Drowning, near-drowning causing brain damage, or diving injuries which occur in and around swimming pools
- Falling branches or trees
Be proactive and take good measures to protect yourself by taking reasonable steps to assure the safety of your property at all times. Being proactive, coupled with appropriate homeowners insurance coverage and the assistance of good legal counsel can go a long way toward reducing your exposure to potentially damaging Premises Liability suits. If you have questions about Premises Liability, please contact Rahmati Law Firm, LLC at (256) 533-2002.
* No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.