Opelika, Alabama Premises Liability Lawyers
By this time in life you might figure you have walking down to a science, but then you fall in public. How embarrassing. But is it your fault? Possibly not.
Was there a substance on the floor that caused you to slip? Was there uneven pavement or a hole in the walkway? Was there an unsteady railing?
These situations can create a dangerous premise, home or business. A fall can be very serious and lead to a catastrophic head or spinal cord injury, not just a skinned knee.
At Alsobrook Law Group, we have extensive experience representing individuals in Alabama who have been injured through no fault of their own while on the property of another party. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of premises liability law, and we have a successful track record obtaining just compensation on behalf of each client we serve. We work closely with our clients, putting our experience to work to put them in the best possible position to obtain a positive outcome in their case.
What is Premises Liability Law in Alabama?
A majority of premises liability cases are based on the theory of negligence. This is important, because just simply being injured on another person’s property doesn’t necessarily mean that there was an unsafe condition present or that the property owner was negligent.
Your attorney will need to prove that the owner either ignored a condition that was unsafe or otherwise acted negligently. For negligence to exist, there must be several elements:
- A duty of care exists (ex. – a restaurant owner must avoid having slippery bathroom floors.)
- There was a breach of the duty (ex. – the bathroom floors were wet with no warning signs.)
- An accident occurred because of the breach. (ex. – you slipped and fell on the wet floor.)
- Your injuries directly resulted from the accident. (ex – you strained your back from the fall.)
How Many Different Types of Premises Liability Cases Are There?
A premises liability case can arise anytime a person is injured on another party’s property. This opens up a broad range of possibilities. Some of the most common types of these cases include:
- Slip and fall
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Swimming pool accidents
- Ice and snow accidents
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Amusement park accidents
- Toxic fume and chemical exposure
- Defective conditions on the premises
- Flooding and water leaks
- Assault due to inadequate security
- Inadequate maintenance on the property
- Missing or defective handrails on stairs
- Falling merchandise from shelving
- Poor lighting
- Uneven walkways, sidewalks, and parking lots
Duty of Care in Alabama
A homeowner or business manager or owner has a responsibility to keep their property in a safe condition. Under Alabama law, this is known as a “duty of care” and is required of all managers, property and store owners of property that others may visit.
When they fail to take reasonable steps to keep their premises free of dangerous conditions, or when they fail to adequately warn those who enter the property of any known hazards, they have breached their duty to invited visitors, and they may be held liable.
This is the basis of premises liability and it goes beyond safe sidewalks or floors.
What if you are hurt by an item falling from a shelf? An elevator may malfunction or trap you inside. In a parking lot, a lack of lighting may allow criminals to victimize you. Perhaps someone has a dangerous dog with a history of biting who is not properly contained.
When the owner fails in his duty to the public, they must be held accountable. We can help you prove the owner knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed on the property.
Is a Retail Store Responsible for my Slip & Fall?
Regarding premises liability, the owner “owes a duty to business invitees to use reasonable care and diligence to keep the premises in a safe condition, or, if the premises are in a dangerous condition, to give sufficient warning so that, by the use of ordinary care, the danger may be avoided.”
In the following scenarios, a home or place of business can be dangerous for the public:
- Perhaps there is an uneven sidewalk that causes visitors to trip or a business parking lot is inadequately lit and someone in a high crime area is assaulted on the property.
- There may be large crates hoisted on high shelves of a big box store that fall on someone.
- An unsecured handrail can prove to be a recipe for disaster to a shopper as can a slippery substance left on the floor of a store that no one has cleaned up.
- A property may be contaminated by toxins used by a previous owner which create a dangerous situation to one’s health.
In the above cases, the owner failed to do what an ordinary prudent person would do to make their property safe. When that happens, the owner is essentially negligent in his or her duty to the public.
Alabama’s premises liability law treats those bringing a claim over a defective property more favorably than a claim over a slippery floor; because the defect in the property, such as a hole in the floor, was an actual part of the property. The question of whether the owner knew there was a hazard will be decided by the court.
In a slippery floor case, you, the plaintiff, must prove that the substance was on the floor for some time and that the defendant knew (or should have known) it was there and failing to do so makes him/her negligent.
In both claims, you, the plaintiff, must show that the danger caused your injury.
Working a Premises Liability Case
In preparation for your case we might do the following:
- Check Inspection Reports – Let’s say a refrigerator has been broken for some time and as a result has been leaking liquid on the floor. An inspection report may show a pattern of neglect of the appliance.
- The store’s surveillance video might show the spill had been on the floor for some time. Tracks surrounding the spill will show whether others walked through it and yet nobody cleaned it up.
- This is one of the most important things to know in a slip and fall or any injury or accident on a property – use your cell phone to immediately begin taking pictures. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, and the pictures can be used to substantiate your story of what happened before it is cleaned up.
- Additionally, ask for the names of any witnesses. Get their phone numbers and emails so they can back up your story.
- These store surveillance videos tend to disappear rather quickly if a place of business knows it may be liable. We will send out preservation letters so that doesn’t happen.
- In a negligent security case, the owner should have known about criminal activity in the area of his place of business or parking lot. If this is known to be a high crime area, police reports may help demonstrate the owner’s negligence.
- A dangerous dog has usually been bitten before. Were you on the property? That could be cited as the dog protecting the property. But were you off the property and the dog lunged at you? We will look into that dog’s history. Has the dog owner received a citation for a previous bite?
- In a restaurant where there was grease spilled on the floor, was there a sign warning of the potential for danger? If the signage was in a visible area, it could be argued by the property owner that you should have been paying better attention to your surroundings. If not, that owner or manager was negligent in their duty to you, the public.
- Was a handrail known by workers to be loose or untethered? Had anyone else fallen? Did workers plan to “get to it” in the future but had failed to do so?
Status of the Visitor
There are three general categories of visitor to a property and there is a different standard of care for each.
Obviously, there is a lesser duty of care to a trespasser unless that person is a child. If the landowner knows children frequent the property, the property owner has the responsibility of putting up a warning at the very least. They may have to erect a fence or pool guard to keep children out.
A licensee is someone who visits a property usually for their own purposes, such as a door-to-door salesperson or party guest. The property owner must also warn of any present dangers and correct them as soon as they know to protect this category of visitor.
The standard is not as stringent as for an invitee. If the property is open for business or expects to have a stream of people, whether a store, a salon, an office, the property owner has the greatest duty of care to keep that property safe, fix any deficits, and to warn about any present dangers.
How Much is My Slip and Fall Case Worth?
No matter what the cause of the accident, if you were injured on someone else’s property you should speak to a personal injury attorney to learn if you can make a claim for damages. Now determining how much a slip and fall case is worth depends on a variety of factors, which your personal injury attorney can thoroughly outline when you meet.
Factors That Determine Slip and Fall Damages
Slip and fall cases have become more common, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting as many as 1 million Americans suffering from some form of slip and fall accident each year. Of those, up to 30% end up with moderate to severe injuries. If your slip and fall accident was due to the carelessness or negligence of another party, you may be entitled to claim different types of damages that include:
- Medical Expenses. Your damages will involve the cost of both past and future medical care related to your injuries. These expenses might consist of doctor’s visits, medication, surgeries, tests, hospital stays physical therapy, home healthcare, and any assistive devices.
- Lost Income. When you’ve been injured, you may lose time from work, and you should be able to claim those lost wages as damages. Sometimes, the injury is severe enough that you can’t return to your job so those damages will include a figure for future wages as well.
- Pain and Suffering. Suffering any type of serious injury can have lasting physical and emotional effects. The physical pain associated with injuries could lead to depression and other emotional issues. These non-economic damages are designed to provide financial compensation for the emotional anguish and physical suffering associated with an injury.
- Punitive Damages. Punitive damages are meant as “punishment” to the negligent party and are only available in certain cases. In an Alabama personal injury case, the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted with malice, gross negligence, or the “willful, wanton or reckless disregard” for other’s safety to claim punitive damages.
- Loss of Consortium. When you’ve been injured, your spouse may suffer as well and has the right to file a separate claim for loss of consortium. Specifically, these damages would reflect the loss of caring, companionship, and services due to your injuries.
The amounts associated with each of these damages varies depending on the circumstances of the case. In some instances, expert witnesses may be used to help prove damages in a personal injury case.
Were You Partially at Fault in the Accident?
Every state has different rules regarding liability, and some will bar a plaintiff from collecting damages in a lawsuit if the injured party was at all at fault for the accident. Unfortunately, Alabama is a “contributory negligence” state, which means that if the other party can prove that you contributed to the accident in any way, you may not be able to collect damages.
How Much Money Is Available For Settlement?
In the end, it might be difficult to collect a multi-million dollar settlement for a slip and fall case if the parties responsible don’t have access to those funds. The responsible party’s liability insurance coverage plays a factor in how much you may be able to collect in a lawsuit. In some cases, there may be more than one party responsible for a loss, which allows your personal injury attorney to pursue recovery from multiple sources.
Contact an Experienced Alabama Premises Liability Attorney
Premises liability accidents can result in moderate to severe injuries. Those involved can sustain serious head trauma, broken bones, back strain or break, lost wages, permanent injury, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
At trial, Alabama premises liability law requires you, the plaintiff, to show that the defect to the property caused your injury. Alabama also applies a very defendant-friendly legal standard known as “contributory negligence.”
Under contributory negligence, if an injured party is found to be even 1% at-fault for the underlying incident that caused the injury, they can be barred from recovering compensation.
This is why it is critical to retain the services of a skilled premises liability lawyer as early as possible after the accident, so you can protect your right to recover full and fair compensation.
At Alsobrook Law Group, we are here to help you obtain the just compensation you need and deserve to help you recover from your injuries. For a free consultation, call our office today at 334-345-2765.You may also contact us online or stop by our Opelika office at your convenience.