When you are invited or allowed onto a property for a legitimate purpose, you expect that property to be in safe, functional condition. Unfortunately, though, there are often safety hazards you may be unaware of.
Failure to repair an issue, warn people of slipping hazards, or provide sufficient security can lead to someone suffering an injury. If this has happened to you, it’s likely that you could benefit from the help of a Norfolk premises liability lawyer.
There are a variety of parties who could be at fault for the injuries you suffered. It may be the owner of the property, the manager, or someone else who is responsible for the care and upkeep of the property.
Whoever is liable owes you compensation for the costs you’ve incurred from a premises liability injury. In a practical sense, that means that you’ll likely be seeking compensation from their insurance provider.
However, obtaining what you’re owed could require the use, or at least the credible threat, of a civil claim against them. The Norfolk premises liability team at Whitlock Law, LLC, can help with insurance and personal injury claims. We fight for the compensation our clients deserve after a devastating accident.
Premises liability is a broad term that covers a variety of issues, but it generally constitutes an issue with the safety of property for legitimate guests and visitors. Some of the more common premises liability problems include:
Proving fault in a premises liability claim follows the same general process as with any personal injury claim. This process involves a burden of proof for the plaintiff’s side—they must prove that a preponderance of the evidence shows negligence on the part of the defendant.
This process will rely heavily on a variety of evidence collected in investigating the circumstances of your premises liability issue. This evidence is used to demonstrate the elements of negligence on the part of the defendant. For instance, documentation from a medical exam could prove the injuries you suffered.
The first thing your lawyer will need to show is that the defendant had a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to prevent others from being put at excess risk because of their actions. This responsibility is known as a “duty of care.” In the case of a premises liability, there is a duty to offer some level of security and safety to those on one’s property.
For instance, business owners have a duty to keep their floors safe and dry. Homeowners have a duty to fix a broken handrail for guests going downstairs. Property owners who maintain dangerous premises are breaching their duty.
However, this duty generally only extends to those who have a valid reason to be on the property in the first place. Invited guests and those with an authorized reason to be there are considered legitimate guests. This could include people like utilities workers or mailmen. However, trespassers are not likely to be given full protection.
After the duty to provide a safe and secure location has been shown, the plaintiff’s lawyers in Norfolk must next show how the defendant failed to provide that. This is called a breach of duty. Generally, the standard is that something could have been reasonably foreseen.
For instance, it’s not likely that failure to construct overhead protection from falling meteors would be a breach because no one could have reasonably foreseen it. However, a piece of sidewalk that’s been dislodged by a tree root could have been reasonably foreseen to be a tripping risk, so failure to correct that may be a breach.
To prove this breach, your lawyer will need to prove exactly what was done by the defendant through evidence and even possible witness testimony. Next, they will need to explain to the court why this behavior was a breach.
In some cases, when there may be less familiarity with a property owner’s duty, it may be helpful to bring in an expert witness who understands the standard expectation in similar circumstances. They may help explain to the court why the behavior was a breach of duty.
Finally, the last element of negligence the plaintiff will need to prove is that the breach of duty led directly to the injuries they suffered. In most situations, this will mean first proving a connection between the breach and some kind of accident or incident.
For instance, in a trip and fall, the breach of a dislodged sidewalk must be shown to have caused the fall rather than someone tripping over their own feet in the backyard.
If there is a direct link between the breach and the incident, that incident must then be shown to be the direct cause of the injuries the plaintiff suffered. At times, people will attempt to present pre-existing conditions or injuries suffered after the accident as being the result of the accident. In other cases, someone may attempt to exaggerate the extent of their injuries.
Therefore, it’s important that your lawyer is able to prove the nature and source of your injuries in a way that connects them back to the breach. This is what establishes negligence and liability on the part of the defendant.
The compensation in a premises liability case is paid through damages. The costs that are covered must be shown to be the direct result of the injuries you suffered. This connects them with the causal link that was previously established. The costs will generally be compensated in two forms of damages and sometimes a third.
The costs you incur with a clear financial component are addressed through economic damages. This includes things like medical bills and lost wages if you needed to miss work as a result of your injuries. Lost future earning capacity can be compensated for as well.
If you have a particularly serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury from a trip and fall, then you may have ongoing treatment and may never be able to return to work in the same capacity. If that’s the case, then future medical bills and lost earning capacity will also be addressed.
There are also a number of less tangible costs that may be due to your injuries. These psychological and emotional costs are addressed through non-economic damages. Things like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and mental anguish may potentially be addressed through these damages. While the money won’t, of course, solve these issues, it may make them a bit more manageable.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded in a premises liability claim. They act as a punishment for egregious behavior, so unless there was something malicious about the defendant’s action in your case, they aren’t likely to be awarded.
One of the most important things to recognize in any personal injury claim in Virginia, including premises liability, is the effect that contributory negligence could have on your damage award. Under this system, the defendant’s team will be given the opportunity to argue that you were, in some way, negligent as well, which contributed to your injuries.
The defendant’s team will have the burden of proof and need to prove the elements of negligence with regard to you and your behavior. If they are successful, it’s possible that you may be barred from collecting any damages at all. That’s why defending against these claims is one of the most important things your lawyer will do.
Being injured because of the negligence of a property owner, manager, or someone else responsible for the upkeep of a property can be challenging. There are many costs that might arise from the situation, depending on the severity of the injury.
You may have medical bills, lost wages from needing to miss work, and psychological or emotional impacts. The fact that these burdens are placed on you because of someone else’s negligence is fundamentally unjust. Fortunately, the law allows them to be held liable for your expenses.
You’re legally owed compensation by those responsible for the injuries you suffered as a result of their failure to keep the premises safe and secure. Typically, this will mean seeking sufficient payment from an insurance company. They often aren’t eager to pay claims in full, which means you may need to leverage the possibility of a civil claim against them.
If that’s the case, you can better your chances of a successful claim by working with a Norfolk premises liability lawyer at Whitlock Law, LLC. We are ready to protect your rights and make the case for the full compensation that you deserve. Contact us today if you have been hurt in a premises liability issue.
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