Slip, Trips, Falls: What is Premises liability?

If you’ve slipped, tripped, fallen or been injured in any way while on someone else’s property, you should know about your legal rights. You may be able to pursue a premises liability case against the owner or other parties.

What is premises liability? Massachusetts statutes require property owners to use “…a reasonable standard of care..” when it comes to protecting lawful visitors from injury on their premises. Failure to do so may render the owner legally liable for any resultant injuries on their premises.

 A “lawful visitor”

If you were on someone’s premises as an invited guest; or you were under a reasonable assumption that you were permitted on the premises– such as a mailman delivering the mail– you were a lawful visitor. If you were on a business premises as a customer, supplier, or in any other legitimate capacity related to the business, you were considered lawful.

If you were a trespasser who had been explicitly banned from entering the premises, or you were committing a crime or other unlawful act, you would not have been considered “lawful” at the time of your injury. Under most circumstances an unlawful visitor would not have a valid premises liability case, even if they could prove that the owner was negligent.

How do you prove the owner was negligent?

Assuming you were a lawful visitor when you slipped, tripped or fell down, you or your legal representative must be able to show that there was a negligent condition on the premises, that the condition contributed to the incident that caused your injuries, and that your injuries were a direct result. The damages you claim– medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, other economic losses– must also be a direct consequence of the incident.

Like any situation where a person is injured, things can get a little complicated when you try to prove who did what. Negligence might be difficult to confirm if you rely on the property owner admitting that he did something wrong. Fortunately some negligent premises conditions lend themselves to easy documentation.

A fall caused by poorly maintained steps, worn sidewalks or a buildup of ice and snow may be proven with timely photos. If injuries were caused by a dog, an owner has few defenses to liability under Massachusetts laws. To show liability for a dog bite, an injured party need only prove that the owner owned or kept the dog on the premises. They must also show that they weren’t trespassing or taunting the dog at the time.

An attorney who is experienced in handling premises liability cases is the best person to explain how Massachusetts law may apply to the injuries you sustained on someone else’s property. If you believe you have a premises liability case contact us directly for a free case evaluation.