Every winter in Illinois we see an uptick in calls for people injured in a slip and fall. Those can be tough cases to win, but ultimately the case facts determine the result. These cases happen year round and are covered under an area called premises liability.
Premises liability rules encourage landowners to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. The rules also compensate people who are injured as a result of the landowners’ negligence. The key is that they have to be negligent. Premises liability rules also apply to businesses who rent commercial property (in other words, occupants). For example, Jewel-Osco may rent space in a strip mall and not own the property the store sits on. However, they are still required to keep their store in a reasonably safe condition. (To keep things simple, we will use the term “landowner,” assuming it includes occupants/businesses that rent space.)
There are different duties or standards required of landowners based on the type of visitors who are on the premises. The two types or visitors are invitees and trespassers.
Invitee: If a person if invited or welcomed on the premises for business, the landowner has a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. This does not mean the customer has to have a formal invitation, of course. Walmart, for example, wants people to come into their store and buy food, clothing, etc. Most people are invitees in most situations.
Trespasser: If a person is not welcome on a landowner’s property, the landowner still has a responsibility to refrain from a reckless disregard of the safety of others. In other words, they can’t intentionally be careless or cause harm. A trespasser isn’t always someone committing a crime. It could be as simple as a kid who runs on to your property to get the ball they accidentally threw in to your yard.
If an invitee or trespasser is injured on a landowner’s property, and they can prove that the landowner failed to meet the duty required, that landowner may be on the hook to pay for their medical bills, lost wages, future medical care, etc. For example, if they knew there was a hole in their yard and covered it with leaves, they could be responsible. If Jewel knows that a freezer is leaking and you slip on a wet floor as a result, they could be held responsible.
Typically, the landowner has insurance and the insurance company will make the payout. Insurance companies, however, are not usually eager to cooperate and meet all of the injured person’s demands and will look for ways to deny your claim. Quite often they will turn you down without justification. That’s where a premises liability attorney comes into play.
Slip and falls aren’t the only type of premises liability lawsuit out there. Others include:
- Porch Collapses – Especially in Chicago, there are a lot of older buildings with porches, many that were poorly designed or are not maintained. Every year people get seriously injured when the porches collapse. We find a lot that the wood has rotted and nobody did anything about it.
- Inadequate Security – Some buildings have doormen who let people in the building that shouldn’t be there. Other times there are broken gates or locks that don’t work. If you get attacked or injured due to this negligence, you could have a case.
- Dog Bites – While most dogs are great, some are dangerous. Property owners can be liable for bites and attacks by their animals.
- Fires – Not every fire is the fault of a building owner. But if it happens due to poor electrical wiring or an injury occurs because there are no smoke detectors, then it’s really likely the building owner is negligent and can be sued.
Hiring a reputable and experienced premises liability lawyer can make a huge difference on whether the insurance company will pay, how much the settlement will be, and how quickly the injured person can receive a settlement. These attorneys work on a contingency basis, so the client pays them nothing upfront. The attorney receives a portion of the settlement that they obtain for their client. The typical fee is 1/3 of what is recovered.
One unique point about premises liability law in Illinois addresses ice and snow. The owner or occupant of a property is not required to remove ice or snow resulting from natural accumulations. It is not realistic to expect property owners to keep all areas where people walk clear from ice and snow constantly during the winter months. In order to have a successful ice and snow injury claim, the plaintiff has to prove they were injured as a result of unnatural accumulations. An example of that would be if ice gathered in an area that fell off of an awning or downspout.
We know that Illinois premises liability law can be a bit confusing. If you have any questions, contact us and we would be happy to hear about your unique situation and offer you some free advice. And if needed, we will refer you to a lawyer with a track record of success in winning these cases. All calls are free and confidential.