It's a fact of life that accidents happen sometimes, and sometimes people get hurt. When this happens many people are quick to file an insurance claim or sue a business or individual for premises liability. But just because a person files a premises liability personal injury case doesn't mean they are automatically going to win. Insurance companies, individuals, small and large businesses are able to fight back with a solid defense if they believe they were not negligent and had taken the necessary precautions aimed at preventing injuries from happening on their premises. If they can win these cases, it will mean that their insurance company will either not need to pay a claim or the claim may be settled for a lower amount, limiting any increase in their premium.
One of the biggest defenses in a premises liability case is that the plaintiff was injured because they did not practice due care. Due care says that individuals have a certain level of responsibility to keep themselves safe and be aware of their surroundings. It requires that they exercise a certain amount of common sense. For example, they should understand that sidewalks may be slippery after an ice storm, or that hot coffee may be hot. A certain amount of maintenance is expect to keep areas safe where visitors might access, but those visitors need to watch where they are going as well. In someone falls down an open flight of stairs that has been maintained and has no defect, simply because they were not paying attention, or because they were running or otherwise moving in a reckless manner, the defendant will likely have a strong premises liability case.
Is Their Presence Legitimate?
When a premises liability case is being considered, there are three basic scenarios where the injured person may find themselves in a situation where they are hurt on someone else's property. They could be invited onto the property, a licensee, or a trespasser. The level of responsibility that a defendant can be charged with will vary depending on how the plaintiff is classified. Generally, a property owner or manager is most responsible for those who are invited onto the property, and least responsible when someone has been trespassing. If there is something potentially dangerous on the property, the owner and/or manager should give proper warning and fix the problem in a reasonable amount of time if possible. If someone is trespassing in an area where no one is allowed and injure themselves, the owner should not be sued in most cases. The main exception is if the property was somehow "enticing," and the trespasser was a child.
A Good Offense
The best defense for a property owner or manager is a good offense. This means doing regular maintenance checks and putting up warning signs when temporary dangers are present, such as a "wet floor" sign after mopping. If the property owner has taken reasonable steps to keep others safe, this can be used to help them defend themselves against being sued.
The Insurance Company's Side
Premises liability cases are not just between property owners and people who have been injured on that property. The insurance company is a major player in the case, because if the plaintiff does win the case, it is usually the insurance company who is expected to write the check. This is not always appropriate either. If a property owner has been obviously negligent and has not followed the rules of their insurance policy, the insurance company may have a legitimate argument for not paying a claim.
In either case, the insurance company or property owner are often seen as the underdog in premises liability cases, but it is important that all sides be given the opportunity to present their side of the argument in order to reach a fair outcome. If you find yourself being sued in a premises liability case an attorney who is experienced in premises liability defense, like Truitt Law Firm with offices in Covington and Metairie, Louisiana, can look at the case objectively and provide the necessary representation for the best chance at a fair outcome. Contact us to learn more about how we can stand up for you.