If you are hurt or injured on someone else’s premises, it seems as though everyone has an opinion about premises liability: who is responsible for how your injury occurred, whether you can claim compensation for their negligence, what happened to their cousin’s friend who was in a similar accident… In this blog post, the experienced premises liability attorneys at Cowan & Hilgeman will separate common myths from the facts, so you can be well informed if the worst should happen and you are injured through no fault of your own on someone else’s property.
“Premises Liability” is just another way of saying “slip and fall” cases
Property owners are always at fault in slip and fall accidents
Not always. For example, if someone was trespassing on another person’s property and had no legal right to be there, the property owner may not be found liable for an injury that occurs (with some limitations: see ‘attractive nuisance‘ laws)
Only property owners can be held legally and financially responsible in premises liability claims
A negligent property owner is often the only person found at-fault. However, landlords, property managers and maintenance people are just a few of the people who may also share some responsibility – and therefore, liability – for negligent injuries.
Premises liability claims are limited to commercial properties
We often think of shopping malls or grocery stores when we hear of slip and fall cases. But given the wide scope of ‘premises liability’ cases, these are frequently brought against private individuals (homeowners or landlords).
Premises liability claims are limited to physical injuries
Clients are sometimes awarded compensation for non-physical injuries, such as emotional distress, pain and suffering. Loss of potential earnings, compensation for lost work, etc.
What is a property owner’s liability?
Only an experienced attorney can tell you the answer, but in general, property owners have an obligation to keep their premises safe and secure. They are required by law to fix any hazards on their property and, at the very least, make sure that guests are adequately warned of any dangers.
When a property owner is negligent in maintaining their premises, and a visitor is injured as a result, our attorneys may be able to help the injured party recover compensation for their losses. In Ohio, a landowner can be considered negligent if they knew or should have known of a hazard and failed to repair it, or failed to provide warning about a known hazard.
Levels of Care for Property Owners
Property owners owe different levels of care depending on the type of guest they are hosting.
Invitees: Invitees are those who are invited to enter or remain on the premises for a commercial benefit of the property owner. For instance, a customer in a grocery store would be considered an invitee, as the store actively invites the public to enter onto its premises for the purchase of food and other goods. Property owners owe these invitees or guests the highest level of care. For these guests, property owners are required to inspect their premises and provide warnings about any hazards. As a result of the mandatory inspections, property owners may be liable for any hazard of which they should be aware.
Licensees: Friends, family members, and any other social guests are considered licensees. The main difference between invitees and licensees is that the latter are invited to enter or remain on the premises for non-business or commercial purposes. Property owners are required to maintain and fix any hazardous areas of the property. Unlike business invitees, property owners are only liable for dangers they know about—as opposed to what they should have known.
Trespassers: A property owner’s obligation to trespassers is significantly less than that of a business invitee or licensee. The property owner is not allowed to intentionally set up hazardous areas on their premises to guard against trespassers.
It’s a typical Tuesday. You are out grocery shopping at your favorite chain store, looking at your list, and thinking of the million or so items you want to tackle on your to-do list this evening. You come around the corner of an aisle, slip in a puddle and find yourself bewildered on the floor. You are hurting, and aren’t totally sure what is causing the pain. It’s hard to think clearly. What do you do next, if you are injured in a store?
Regardless of the type of injury you face, there are certain steps you can take to help ensure your welfare in the moment, and later on down the line. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.
The first thing you should focus on if injured is your safety – do you need immediate medical attention?
Have you hit your head? No matter what else you have facing you, making sure you are safe and well should be your top priority. Be careful moving around if you are in pain, as it may make your injuries worse. Ask for help from other patrons or store staff, and call 911 if you need it.
Once you have established what you need to do medically, try to puzzle out what happened, and obtain any evidence available.
Look around to see if the premises is safe, if you see any obvious hazards (like a wet floor) and check to see if there are any signs or warnings about these hazards. Take photos of the area where the incident happened. Premises liability lawsuits are usually contingent upon proving that the business was aware of a hazard and didn’t take proper steps to convey this warning to patrons, so if you can show evidence of this, it can truly make your case. The right evidence can help prove negligence.
If there was anyone present at the time of your accident, ask for their contact info as a witness.
If it comes to a court case between you and the store, having a third party that is impartial can be a huge aid in your favor.
One of the most important steps in this process is filing a report with the store. If you have not been approached by an employee at this point, then find one, preferably a store manager. Do your best to simply state the facts of the indecent, and withhold from responding emotionally, or speculating on why it occurred. Remember, the store wants to avoid being responsible at all costs, and will use any errant thought spoken aloud against you if they can. Whatever you do, DO NOT sign any paperwork at the store. Many managers or corporate departments will try to get you to sign a liability waiver after you have been injured in a store, and this can negate your case if you do sign.
The next step is to seek medical treatment if you haven’y already.
The most important reason to do this is to make sure you are truly well, even if you feel okay. Sometimes, back, neck, and joint injuries may not show symptoms for some time, and it is always safer to have a medical professional give you the all clear.
Beyond making sure that you are well, it is important to have a medical report if you have sustained injuries. For example, if your injury causes you to miss work, the store is responsible for paying your lost wages – if you can prove that your injuries made you miss work, rather than it seeming like a spontaneous vacation. This report can be a solid asset in your case.
The last step can also be the simplest – with all of the above steps covered, it may be time to consult with a personal injury attorney.
Being injured in a store can be awfully distressing, and if you choose to take it to court to seek compensation, overwhelming too. Depending on the size of the store, they likely have a firm on hand who is well versed on doing everything they can to clear the store of any liability – and push your claim off into obscurity. Representing yourself in these matters may cost you much more than a headache – it could cost you the compensation you deserve.
Here at Cowan & Hilgeman, we have the experience, resources, and dedication necessary to work your case. We believe that you have suffered enough, and will do everything in our power to settle your claim to satisfaction. You don’t have to handle this alone. Call us for a free consultation today at (937) 222-2030.
Summer is upon us in all of its temperate glory and it has many people seeking out a tried and true way to cool off – by a nice swim in the pool. This long held American tradition is almost an ideal image for most: beautiful blue water, a few floats or lounge chairs, and maybe even a drink or two to help enjoy the overall relation. On a scorching hot Saturday afternoon this summer, chances are high that a few neighbors will suggest gathering at your beautiful in-ground pool for shenanigans, and maybe some BBQ to boot. It all sounds like good clean fun, right? Of course! But as a homeowner or business owner in Ohio (or just as someone who enjoys a few laps at the public pools) it is important to be aware of the consequences of what can go wrong during a pool day.
According to the CDC, ten people die every day from unintentional drowning. Of these ten, two are still kids, usually aged 14 or less.
For our youngest and most vulnerable offspring, kids aged 1-4, accidental drowning becomes the number one cause of unintentional injury – and most of these children were being cared for by their parents, at home, and were left unsupervised for 5 minutes or less. What is even more concerning is that for every child that drowns, five more are hospitalized and require further care than the initial emergency room visit, and 50% of all drowning victims will suffer long term health consequences. Some all too common pool related injuries include Traumatic Brain Injury (insert link to previous article here), pneumonia, disembowelment, and even evisceration. These particular injuries typically lead to chronic care treatment that is necessary ( and expensive) for the rest of the victim’s life.
There are many factors that can reduce the risk of injury while enjoying the pool – mainly, proper supervision. The U.S. Lifesaving Association reported that lifeguards “prevented more than 564,000 water-related injuries” on average in recent years. However, most homeowners will not have a lifeguard on duty (and may not even have an adult trained in CPR present) and not all public pools will have a lifeguard either. You can also ensure that you have pool safe toys, a deck built with non-slip materials, and avoid owning a diving board. You can make sure the pool is covered when not in use, and child safe gates ( at least 4’ tall with self-closing latches that open outward) and locks prevent unsupervised entry into the pool area.
Yet even with these preventative measures in place, you may still be liable in the event of injury at your pool.
In the state of Ohio, homeowners can also be held liable under the attractive nuisance law for injuries to a child trespassing on your property. Read more about Ohio private swimming pool laws here.
Here’s what you should know:
Stay Safe; Stay Aware – Know Ohio swimming pool laws.
Supervise children at all times.
If a child goes missing while in your care, always check the pool first.
Keep proper safety equipment, such as a grab pole and a telephone, in case emergency services are needed.
Keep children away from skimmer openings, drains and other places they could get trapped.
Learn CPR for both children and adults
There are Ohio swimming pool laws and federal laws to protect your rights if you or a loved one have suffered an injury related to a swimming pool, hot tub, or spa. Don’t just assume that your homeowner’s insurance will cover a pool related injury – talk to your coverage provider and see what is actually covered, or if your plan includes an umbrella policy within it. If you or a loved one have been injured in a public or private pool, you may very well be entitled to compensation. Call us today for a free, no obligation consultation on your case – (937) 222-2030.
It is the responsibility of every landlord, tenant and property manager to ensure that their premises are free from hazardous conditions that may cause injury. When an injury does occur, however, a commonly used defense is that the hazard was blatant and unavoidable – open and obvious to all.
In other words, anyone who was paying attention would have been able to see an obvious danger in plain sight and taken steps to avoid it.
This argument takes blame away from the property owner and places it squarely on the injured victim, even if the property owner was clearly negligent.
The owner owed a ‘duty of care’ to the plaintiff – The legal obligation to prevent harm to their visitors and patrons.
They breached that duty – such as, forgetting to put out ‘wet floor’ signs after mopping.
An injury occurred as a direct result of that breach – for example, someone slipped on the wet floor.
Unfortunately, even when each element of negligence has been met, a legal case against the property owner may not exist because of the Open and Obvious defense.
Some examples of hazards that have been deemed by the courts to be open and obvious – and therefore not actionable – are:
Planters that are six feet in diameter
A sidewalk curb
A ladder on the selling floor of a store
Uneven concrete where there were no obstructions to the person’s view
Brick border around a tree
Raised joints where asphalt met concrete in a parking lot
Disassembled store shelving in an area that was clearly being redesigned.
Defendants in these cases have successfully argued that they are not responsible for injuries that occurred due to lack of proper care and attention, or the plaintiff underestimating the danger presented by a hazard.
How is the “Open and Obvious” Rule Treated in Ohio?
There are numerous ways that the open and obvious rule can be used as a defense for property owners, but it doesn’t always end in their favor. To get a better understanding of how it works, here is an actual example from Ohio courts:
In a case in which the plaintiff tripped over some exposed computer cables and fell, no obstacles were blocking her view of the cables and no previous incidents involving similar circumstances ever occurred. When you consider the facts, it is clearly apparent that the cables presented an obvious hazard for tripping.
Nonetheless, the court found that, although the cables qualified as an “open and obvious” condition and discharged the duty to warn, it did not discharge the property owner’s duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. In conclusion, the plaintiff still had a valid claim even though the danger was glaringly obvious.
Determining whether the open and obvious rule will apply to your case is a question that only an experienced premises liability attorney can answer. Premises liability law is often complicated and hiring a lawyer who is familiar with it is always in your best interest.
To find out whether your Ohio premises liability claim has merit, or whether an ‘Open and Obvious‘ defense can successfully be used by the defendant, call to schedule a free consultation with our Personal Injury attorney. Cowan & Hilgeman frequently takes cases that other law firms reject. Call (937) 222-2030 today.