We often receive calls from potential clients who have fallen and been injured while on someone else’s property wanting to know if they have a legal claim against the owner of the property. Like many other issues in the law, the answer isn’t always clear cut.
Under Alabama law, it is not always clear whether you can hold the property owner liable. First, the standard to which the property owner will be held depends on why you were on the property. Were you there as a guest or invitee of the owner? Were you trespassing? Or, were you there for your own benefit? The property owner is held to a higher standard for someone he or she invites to the property versus someone who does not have permission to be on the property.
Owners do not owe an absolute duty to prevent someone from being injured on their property. The law simply requires that they act reasonably, prevent or cure a know danger, such as a spill in a grocery store or to warn customers or other individuals on the owner’s property if there is a dangerous situation of which the owner is aware.
Where the owner fails to act reasonably under the circumstances, he, she or it, if it is a corporation, can be held liable for the injuries suffered by someone on their property. We have previously discussed what you should do in regards to treatment and documenting your injuries in a previous article. You can review it by clicking here.
If you are injured, you should immediately contact the property owner to make them aware of the incident and the dangerous condition. You should also ask to fill out an injury report and request a copy. Additionally, look at what you slipped or tripped on so that you can later describe it. It will be important for you to be able to prove that the owner had knowledge of the dangerous condition. Unless the owner admits to it, you will have to prove that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the owner should have been aware of it and either fixed or warned of the danger. And, finally, if there are any witnesses, have someone get their contact information. At some point down the road, it will be your word against the owner’s and it will help you to have someone back up your story.
One last note, many of the larger stores have 24/7 video survelliance both inside and outside the store. If you are injured, you should either in writing (remember to keep a signed copy if you send a letter) or when you are filling out the injury report put the store manager on notice not to destroy or alter the video as this may be your only documentation later to back up what happened.
In short, if you have been injured while on someone else’s property, you may be legally entitled to compensation. However, you should consult an attorney to find out if you have a case or claim against the property owner.