It has been reported that Wal-Mart, with 3,000 or so stores, experiences an average of 1,000 customer injuries a day, either from slip-and-fall accidents or from falling merchandise. Not all of these accidents result in lawsuits, but it highlights a legal principle known as premises liability.
Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of the owner and/or occupant of a building for injuries sustained by someone due to a dangerous or defective condition, but that responsibility is generally contingent upon whether the owner/occupant created the condition or allowed it to exist.
You don’t have to be a “big box” retailer to be subject to premises liability. Someone visiting a home who slips on a wet surface and suffers injuries could file a claim against the homeowner. However, if the homeowner warned them about the slippery surface and they walked on it anyway, the homeowner could be off the hook.
If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, you may be eligible to collect damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If so, contact the Denning Law Firm, LLC for a free one-on-one consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas, including the surrounding areas of Overland Park, Johnson County, and nearby communities.
Under the law in both Kansas and Missouri, property owners or the possessor of premises have a duty to maintain premises free of dangerous conditions. This duty requires not only that dangerous conditions – such as broken steps on a stairway – be repaired, but also that others on the premises be warned of a dangerous condition that could cause an injury. This is why you’ll see those little yellow cones warning of slippery and wet surfaces or encounter whole aisles in a store that may be cordoned off.
When property owners or the possessor of the premises fail to exercise reasonable care in maintaining their property or fail to warn of a dangerous condition on the property, they may be subject to to liability for an injury sustained by a visitor based upon the owner or possessor's negligence.
The liability of the owner/possessor is generally contingent upon the classification of the person on the premises who is injured. Under Kansas law, an owner/possessor owes a duty of reasonable care to both an invitee (someone who is present on the property with the express or implied permission of the owner or possessor and is generally there for the benefit of the premise owner or occupant) and to a licensee (someone who is present on the property with the express or implied permission of the owner or possessor and is present for their own benefit). An example of an invitee may be a business customer. A licensee may be a visiting friend. In Missouri, the owner/possessor owes a duty to remove, remedy or warn an invitee of dangerous conditions on the property of which the owner/possessor was aware or should have been aware. The owner/possessor owes a licensee the duty to make safe dangers of which the possessor is aware.
In Kansas, if someone is a trespasser, a landowner's only duty is to refrain from willfully, wantonly or recklessly injuring the trespasser. In Missouri, a landowner owes no duty to a trespasser unless the trespasser is a child. Trespassers are individuals who are not authorized to be on the property.
Slip-and-fall accidents probably top the list of premises liability claims, but conditions other than wet or impeded surfaces can result in injuries, including:
Defective staircases or walkways
Dog bites and animal attacks
Negligent security that leads to injury or assault
Swimming pool accidents
Chemical or toxic fumes
Garage door accidents
Elevator or escalator defects or accidents
If you do file a claim against a property owner or possessor, you will have to show that that person’s negligence resulted in your injury. The elements of a successful negligence lawsuit are:
A dangerous condition existed on the premises you were on.
The party in possession or control of the premises knew or should have known about the condition.
The party in possession failed to use ordinary care to remove, remedy, or warn of the danger.
As a result, you, the plaintiff, were injured.
Both Kansas and Missouri adhere to the legal principle of comparative negligence, meaning that you as the plaintiff may be held partially liable for an accident. However, even if you are found to be partially at fault, it doesn't necessarily mean you are unable to recover damages.
Kansas follows a comparative fault rule which reduces a plaintiff's awarded damages by the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff. For example, if you were walking in a store while texting on your cell phone and trip on a broken floor tile you may be found partially liable. Had you been paying attention while walking, you may have seen the broken tile and avoided it. If it's determined that you were 10% liable for tripping and awarded $50,000 in damages, the total damages you receive would be reduced by 10% or $5,000.
Under this standard, if you are found to be 50% at fault or more, you will be unable to recover damages from the other at-fault party.
Missouri uses a pure comparative fault rule which works very similarly in that a plaintiff's damages may be reduced by the percentage of fault that is assigned to them. However, under pure comparative fault, even if the plaintiff's liability is 99%, they are still able to recover 1% of the damages awarded to them.
When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, in Missouri the statute of limitations is five years, but in Kansas, it is only two years. Both limitations accrue from the date of your injury.
Generally if you are injured as a result of the negligence of the property owner or possessor or premises you can recover damages for your medical expenses and lost income due to recovery time. Non-economic damages can also be covered, including pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
Having the expertise of an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner when you have been injured on someone's property is invaluable. An insurance settlement is final. Should your injuries resurface, you cannot go back and ask the insurer for more. Denning Law Firm can assist you in ensuring that you receive fair and compensation for your injuries and loss.
Proving negligence is not always easy, especially when you consider that the property owner is going to claim you caused your own injury. You definitely need the help of experienced premises liability attorneys. If you’ve been injured in or near Kansas City, Missouri, or Kansas, on another’s property, contact the Denning Law Firm, LLC. We will aggressively represent you, whether it’s with the insurance adjusters or in a court of law.