Premises Liability Frequently Asked Questions
Houston personal injury lawyers Neal Davis and Jed Silverman answer the most common questions about filing a premises liability claim in Texas.
Premises liability is a particularly complex area of personal injury law. Premises liability litigants often find themselves up against the property owner of a business or landowner who refuses to pay for injuries resulting from an accident caused by negligent management of their property. Before long, it becomes a case of "he said, she said," leading to drawn-out legal battles and messy negotiations.
Houston premises liability attorneys Neal Davis and Jed Silverman get down in the trenches for their clients, fighting to get the compensation they deserve without charging a penny unless they secure a positive outcome. Premises liability cases can take their toll and we want to prepare you for what's in store should you choose to file a claim, which is why this page provides answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding premises liability in Texas.
If you have additional questions about your unique case, feel free to contact our Houston premises liability attorneys for expert answers.
General Premises Liability FAQs
Premises liability is defined as an area of personal injury law that applies to accidents occurring on another person's property. In Texas, accidents that occur on someone else's property or land fall into one of two categories: a negligent act claim or a premises liability claim. Understanding which area of law your case falls into is important for anticipating the burden of proof required.
The four elements of premises liability are as follows:
- The property or land owner had prior knowledge of a dangerous or harmful property condition.
- The condition posed an unreasonable level of danger or risk to others.
- The property or land owner failed to adequately warn visitors of the dangerous condition, or did not reasonably reduce or eliminate the condition.
- The injuries sustained by the plaintiff were directly caused by the property or land owner's negligence.
Premises liability is a broad category of personal injury law that encompasses various different types of accidents. This area of law can apply to injuries occurring to individuals as well as property damage. Common types of premises liability claims include:
- Swimming pool accidents
- Slip and falls
- Dog bites & animal attacks
- Staircase falls
- Amusement park accidents
- Elevator & escalator mishaps
- Gym injuries
- Negligent security
Typically, any person injured on another person's property is eligible for filing a premises liability claim if they suspect negligence played a role. The exception to this rule is if the person was trespassing at the time of injury. Even then, trespassers may have a right to compensation if the property owner willfully acted to harm them or displayed gross negligence.
In cases where a child or adult was killed on someone else's property due to a failure to provide reasonable protection to visitors, the deceased's family members may file a wrongful death claim to secure compensation for funeral expenses, loss of future earnings, loss of companionship, and other damages.
To secure compensation in a Texas premises liability case, the plaintiff must establish negligence by proving the four elements of a premises liability claim list above: that there was a defective condition on the property that caused your injuries, and the property owner (defendant) should have known about the defect or warned you of the danger.
A property owner may be released of liability if they can prove one of the following scenarios: that you were aware of the defect before you were injured, the defect was "open and obvious," misuse of the property led to your injury, or the property owner didn't know about the defect and reasonable shouldn't have known.
Property defects that are considered "open and obvious" are conditions which the court believes a reasonable person should have seen and avoided to prevent injury.
This concept is often one of the most difficult obstacles for premises liability plaintiffs to overcome and property owners frequently use it as a defense. Beating the claim that the defect was open and obvious requires a lawyer with a high level of experience and knowledge.
No! You should never give a statement to the owner's insurance company without first talking to an experienced personal injury attorney. Also, do not sign any paperwork an insurer sends you until you consult with your lawyer.
Insurance companies are known for employing sneaky tactics to deny a claim or convince injured individuals to settle for less compensation than they deserve.
Whether or not you will have to file a lawsuit and go to court to fight for your right for compensation in a premises liability claim depends on if the property owner or the owner's insurance company is willing to settle. Regardless, your first step is to submit a premises liability claim.
To select the right attorney, make a list of lawyers in your area with the right background, experience and knowledge in premises liability cases. Be sure they have a good reputation for resolving cases just like yours, positive client reviews, and industry certifications. Also, eliminate any attorneys who don't offer a free consultation.
Once you have narrowed down the list to the final few, give each a call and set up a consultation.
Meeting the attorneys in person will help you decide if they are the right person to trust with your case.
By hiring a personal injury lawyer to oversee your premises liability claim, you can ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Skilled attorneys have years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and can build a strong portfolio of evidence to support your claim.
While you have the right to try to handle the claim on your own, it is not recommended because insurance companies can easily take advantage of you. For fair resolution, consult with a premises liability lawyer to make sure you are properly represented.
Although the cost of not hiring an attorney to handle your premises liability case is typically much higher than the alternative, we understand that you may not be comfortable spending money to pursue your claim just yet.
We offer a free initial consultation, so you can discuss your case with one of our expert Texas premises liability attorneys and get expert legal advice at no cost and no obligation. Furthermore, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won't pay us a penny unless we win your case.
Swimming Pool Accident FAQs
The seconds, minutes and hours following a swimming pool accident are the most crucial moments. What you do (and don't do) in this situation can make a big difference in the compensation you are able to claim in your future premises liability case. Here are the steps to take in the event you or a loved one are involved in a swimming pool accident:
1. Ensure the safety of others. Have everyone exit the pool and call 911. Wait for emergency services to arrive.
2. Take pictures of the area. The more photographs the better - both inside and outside of the pool area. If you are too injured to take pictures yourself, ask a friend, family member or witness to take some for you.
3. Gather witness information. Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of the other people who were there when the accident occurred. Their version of events could be very helpful should you choose to file a claim.
4. Seek medical help. Ensure that you or your loved one visits a doctor and obeys their treatment suggestions. You don't want the defense claiming that you did not try to get well.
5. Protect the evidence. Make sure any defective pool equipment or other evidence is kept safe and away from others. Talk to your attorney about filing a preliminary injunction to prevent the property owner from destroying the evidence.
6. Document everything. In addition to saving all bills, letters of correspondence and reports surrounding your accident, write down what you remember as soon as possible while the memory is still fresh to ensure important details aren't lost.
7. Consult an attorney. Last but not least, talk to a qualified swimming pool accident lawyer about your case. This attorney will help protect your rights and make sure you obtain the maximum possible recovery.
Swimming pool accidents can happen for a number of different reasons. If the cause of injury is due to negligence or failure to provide a reasonably safe environment, various parties can be held accountable under Texas premises liability law, including:
- Homeowners of a residential swimming pool
- Government entities that own community, school or public pools
- Property owners of a commercial or private pool located in gyms, apartment complexes, hotels, campgrounds, etc.
While it is possible to sue a local government or government agency for an injury that occurred at a public, community or school pool, these cases are rare and difficult due to tort immunity that protects the government from civil lawsuits.
Proving negligence in these types of cases is particularly complicated and the time period during which a claim can be filed against a government entity is smaller. You should discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible to explore your legal options in this scenario.
As with all personal injury cases, evidence to prove a swimming pool premises liability case can come in many shapes and forms.
Common types of evidence used to establish fault and calculate damages include photographs and videos of the accident scene, police reports, eyewitness statements, medical bills, health records, pay stubs, tax returns, insurance policies and correspondence with insurers.