Property owners are required to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner, free of hazards and defects. If they fail to do so, and someone gets hurt on their property, the accident victim can file a premises liability lawsuit. But merely getting hurt on someone’s property isn’t enough. An injured victim has to prove four distinct elements under Illinois law. The attorneys of Hale & Monico are well-versed in premises liability lawsuits and know what it takes to build a compelling case.
The Four Elements of a Premises Liability Lawsuit
The classic example of a premises liability case is slipping on a wet floor at the grocery store. Property owners who allow customers to come into contact with unsafe conditions can be held responsible when someone gets injured. But the actual elements that have to be shown in court are more complicated. They are as follows:
Duty. This means the landowner owed a duty of care to the victim. More specifically, the landowner must have had some obligation to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. The status of the visitor (discussed below) will affect the nature of the duty owed. In general, however, the duty covers any danger the landowner knows about or should know about under the circumstances.
Breach. If the landowner violates the duty of care, it is considered a breach. Breaches can occur in many different ways. Depending on the case, the owner could have failed to take action to eliminate the hazard (such as mopping up spilled liquid on the floor) or could have failed to warn people about the hazard (for example, by roping off the dangerous area and putting up a “wet floor” sign). Breach is typically the most disputed element of a premises liability lawsuit.
Causation. The breach must directly cause the injury in question. If an intervening event of some sort caused injury to you, then the acts or omissions of the landowner are not to blame and this element fails.
Damages. Lastly, the victim must suffer injuries that cause physical, mental, financial, or emotional harm. Damages tend to include expenses such as medical bills, lost wages because of missed work, pain and suffering, and more. The nature of damages, and the amount demanded by the plaintiff to compensate for them, are typically highly disputed aspects of the lawsuit.
As mentioned above, the duty that was owed to the victim depends largely on the type of visitor he or she was at the time of the injury. Illinois has abolished the common law distinction between an invitee (someone who had express or implied permission to be on the property) and a licensee (someone who had the privilege of being on the property with the owner’s consent). For these individuals, generally, the landowner is responsible for being reasonably aware of (and fixing) any conditions that can injure a customer, job applicant, delivery person, guest at an entertainment venue, and other types of visitors.
Trespassers are afforded very little protection in the eyes of the law. If you enter property without the owner’s permission, or to commit a crime, you are considered a trespasser. The property owner only has to refrain from doing willful or wanton harm that can compromise the well-being of a trespasser.
There is a further distinction between adult trespassers and child trespassers. Children who trespass are not subject to the above rule but are protected under the attractive nuisance doctrine. That means if something is allowed to exist on the property that could invite children – like a swimming pool – the owner should place reasonable safeguards around it to prevent a child trespasser from being injured.
Contact Our Chicago Premises Liability Attorney Today
If you or a loved one were injured on someone else’s property, the time to act is rather limited. You will want to take quick action to preserve evidence and to avoid running into a statute of limitations deadline that could permanently bar your case.
Reach out to us at Hale & Monico. We will investigate the nature of your accident and let you know what your legal rights are. Give us a call today.