Premises Liability (“Slip and Fall” Lawsuits)
We’ve all heard of (or known) someone who slipped and fell in a store or tripped over something in someone’s lawn and suffered an injury.
Both of these things could be cause for a lawsuit.
But the truth is, premises liability cases are complex. If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, you need an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer on your side. Call Justinian and Associates today for a free consultation.
Injuries On Someone Else’ Property Are Covered Under the Laws of Negligence
There are two areas of law covering such injuries and both are related to negligence. Negligence is the legal term for carelessness.
When a person or company is not careful enough, the law requires the person or company to pay for the damages that carelessness caused.
For example, if a building manager ignored signs that an elevator was not working correctly (noises, abrupt stops), anyone injured in that elevator might be able to recover from the building owner.
Two Types of Negligence Law
There are two types of negligence law that apply when someone is injured on or by another’s property. It’s important to know the difference as each area has different elements that you have to prove in order to win your case.
To receive compensation in a regular negligence case, there has to be an ongoing, negligent act by the defendant.
For example: You’re putting a new roof on your home and a case of shingles slides off the roof and hits someone, causing them to be hurt.
Your ongoing careless act (not securing the shingle case) might be negligence. Under Texas law, you might have to pay damages to the person who was hit.Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Garza, is an ongoing activity and would be a regular negligence case.
To prove a premises liability negligence case, the person’s injury must be caused by a “condition on the land.”
For example, a store owner who mops the floor may not have done anything careless. But leaving it slippery is a dangerous condition on the land.
Customers who are injured while walking on it might be able to sue for negligence under a premises liability theory.
The easiest way for a landowner to deal with a dangerous condition is often simply to include a warning so that everyone can avoid the danger.
The Duty to Warn in Premises Liability Negligence Lawsuits in Texas
Landlords Have a Duty to Warn Invitees About Hidden Dangers
Someone who comes onto the land with the owner’s knowledge and benefit is called an invitee. For example, customers shopping at a store or dining at a restaurant are invitees.
Under Texas statutory and case law:
|When there is an unreasonably dangerous condition|
|That is concealed (not open or obvious – for example, a wobbly step), and|
|The invitee does not know about the condition or risk of harm, but|
|If the landowner knows or should know about it,|
|Then the landowner has a duty to make the condition safe, or warn the invitee.|
Landlords May Still Be Responsible, Even When the Invitee Knows About the Danger
There are two exceptions to the general Duty to Warn in Premises Liability lawsuits under Texas law. Under these exceptions, the Landlord still has a duty to warn of danger and reduce the risk of injury, even when the invitee actually knew about the dangerous condition.
Under the necessary-use exception:
|When an Invitee has no choice but to use unsafe premises,|
|If the Landlord should have guessed the Invitee might need to use the unsafe premises,|
|Then Landlord is responsible if the Invitee is hurt.|
For example, in the case of Parker v. Highland Park, Inc., a person had to use the stairs to exit an apartment. The stairs were dark because the lights were on a timer that had not been set properly.
The landowner should have known someone might use the stairs to exit the apartment. The person leaving knew it was dangerous to walk down the darkened stairs. But there was no other exit.
So the landowner’s carelessness in setting the timer was negligence.
No Duty to Protect From Other’s Criminal Behavior
In general, a premises owner does not have to protect invitees from criminal acts by other people.
For example: You’re at the convenience store and there’s a robbery and shootout. You can probably sue the robber, but you usually cannot sue the store owner.
Except When the Landowner Should Expect It
Under the criminal-activity exception, the landowner might still be responsible if the landowner knew or had reason to know there would possibly be a risk to invitees.
For example: A holiday resort keeps having to break up bar fights among a group of college students visiting for the weekend.
This means the hotel owners know or have reason to know that when those students are at the bar, other hotel patrons (invitees) might be in danger.
The next day, the students who were fighting show up at the bar again, and there is tension. The hotel bar staff does nothing. If there is a fight and a bystander is hurt, the bystander can sometimes sue the hotel owners.
In fact this case really happened.
Slip-And Fall / Premises Liability For Renters in Texas
What if I’m renting and someone gets hurt on my property?
- If someone gets hurt on your property, even if you are a tenant, you may be legally responsible.
- It depends on whether the injury was a result of your being careless. The legal term for carelessness is negligence.
Let’s say you’ve just mopped the hardwood floors in your rented apartment when a social guest or utility worker arrives.
You should warn that person that the floors are wet when inviting them in.
Because under Texas law, if you don’t warn them of a dangerous condition like wet floors, you might be liable for their injuries if they slip and fall.
- That’s why many tenants in Austin choose to purchase personal liability renter’s insurance coverage.
- A renter’s personal liability policy will often pay for other peoples’ injuries on the property, even if the renter was somewhat negligent (careless).
- Not all renter’s insurance policies are the same. Speak to your insurance agent to find out what coverage is available.
There Are No Slam Dunks in Premises Liability Law
Now, just because the owners in both exceptions failed to perform their duties, doesn’t mean it’s an automatic win for the injured parties.
Under Texas law, if you are partly at fault for an accident, the amount of money you receive for your injuries may be reduced, or you may not recover at all.
So if a jury could find that the people injured should have known to leave the bar before the fight, they might receive less money. Someone who decided to get involved in the fight might not recover anything.
An Austin Personal Injury Firm That Knows What You’re Up Against
These are complex matters, and suing to recover for injuries caused by an unsafe condition on someone else’s property can be extremely challenging without an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to help.
Warriors For The Injured
Justinian & Associates has over a decade of experience and knowledge of how to successfully resolve a lawsuit involving premises liability, in Austin, Texas or nationally.
Our Austin slip and fall attorneys, investigators and support teams painstakingly gather and examine the facts relevant to every case, including finding expert witnesses, visual aids and other technology to demonstrate what caused your injury and who was at fault, so that the real victim can recover.
As our record demonstrates, we have the legal knowledge, the experience, the resources, experience and trained investigators to take on adversaries of any size.
Talking To An Austin Personal Injury Attorney At Justinian & Associates Costs Nothing
Our dedicated roster of Austin personal injury lawyers are well-trained in these areas of law, and offer an absolutely free consultation to hear the specific details of your case and let you know your options.
You Don’t Pay Unless We Win Your Case
We do not accept defeat. That means unless we get you money for your injuries, you don’t pay us a dime.
We work on a contingency-fee basis, our pay is contingent upon whether we recover money for you or not. So if we work on your case and fail, you won’t owe a dime.
The important thing is to make the phone call, and start explaining your side of the story.
Your Rights Can Be Lost If You Wait
Statutes of limitation are laws that limit how much time you have to file a lawsuit after being injured. Texas statutes of limitation may apply to your boating accident lawsuit. Don’t let your rights expire.
All We Do Is Fight For Injured Victims
Our only goal is justice for our clients, whatever that means for them.
We understand that the well-being and livelihood of you and your loved ones may be at stake.
Call, text or email us for a free consultation, with no obligation. Speak to an Austin personal injury attorney from Justinian & Associates (not a “screener” or paralegal) to understand your rights.