Who is Responsible for Premises Liability Injury?
Being injured on someone else's property or place of business is scary. Houston premises liability attorney Neal Davis provides answers on what Texas law says about holding property owners liable for damages.
Any person who is injured on another person's property due to negligence invokes the law of premises liability. Property owners have an obligation to maintain a relatively safe environment for visitors and guests, and they can be held responsible for injuries that occur on their property due to slip and fall, animal attack or a swimming pool accident.
Besides property owners, other parties that can be held liable in a premises liability case include:
- Renters or Tenants
- Property Managers
- Condominium Owners
- Businesses & Business Owners
- Dram Shops
When filing a premises liability claim, it's important to discuss your case with an expert attorney who is knowledgeable of liability laws in the state where your accident occurred. While the general legal theory behind premises liability is standard across the board, each state determines liability differently depending on the legal status of the injured visitor and the condition of the property.
If you've suffered a premises accident injury in Texas, make sure you talk to the best.
Discuss your rights with Houston premises liability attorney Neal Davis.
Legal Status of Visitor
One of the ways Texas law determines liability in premises accident cases is by categorizing the plaintiff into one of three categories based on their legal status at the time of injury:
- Invitee. Individuals who enter a property with the owner's knowledge or approval for the mutual benefit of both parties is considered an "invitee." Invitees include customers in a store, restaurant or other public establishment. The property or land owner has a duty to take reasonable care in providing a safe environment and protect invitees from unnecessary dangers or harm that have been discovered.
- Licensee. A person who enters a property for his/her own benefit at the consent of the owner, or as a social guest, is considered a "licensee." Property or land owners can be held liable for injuries occurring on their property if the licensee is harmed willfully, wantonly, or through gross negligence. Owners have a duty to warn licensees of any known dangerous conditions.
- Trespasser. A trespasser, or someone who enters a property without the consent or approval of the owner, has the least lawful authority to receive compensation for injuries that befall them while trespassing. Only in rare cases are property owners held liable for injuries to trespassers, such as if the trespasser was injured willfully or through gross negligence.
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Condition of Property
In states such as Texas, a reasonable standard of care must be met in order to protect invitees and licensees from experiencing harm or injury while on a landowner's property.
Whether or not the property owner met this standard of care for visitors, other than a trespasser, is dependant on a number of different factors and is determined on a case-by-case basis. These factors can include:
- Existence of a premises defect
- Negligent activity or instrumentality
- Foreseeability of the cause of injury or accident
- Purpose of the property
Comparative Fault Rule in Texas Premises Liability Cases
Texas, along with a majority of states, recognizes the Modified Comparative Fault Rule in personal injury and premises liability cases. This means that the injured or damaged party can only recover damages if they are determined to be less than 51% at fault, and their compensation will be reduced based on the percentage of fault they are held liable for.
For instance, in many premises liability cases, a property owner will argue that the plaintiff is partly responsible for the accident and their resulting injuries. In such cases, if the court determines that the plaintiff was 75% responsible for an accident, their claim will be dismissed. However, if the plaintiff is found to be 25% liable, and the total damages equal $50,000, then they are only eligible for $37,500 in compensation.
Open or Obvious Defect
Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Texas, it is easier for businesses and property owners to defend against premises injury cases like slip and fall accidents, specifically dangers that are deemed "known or obvious."
In Austin v. Kroger Texas LP, a Kroger grocery store employee injured himself while attempting to clean up a spill in the store's restrooms. The plaintiff argued that his employer did not provide him with an appropriate substance that would have aided him with safely cleaning up the spills. However, the court ruled in favor of the store, saying that property owner liability "does not impose a duty to warn about known or obvious dangers."
Two notable exceptions to this rule include:
- Foreseeable criminal liability; and
- Necessary use, or when a plaintiff is forced to expose himself/herself to a known danger.
Landlords and Tenants
Special liability rules may apply to landlords when a tenant is injured due to a condition on the property. While Texas law does hold landlords responsible for the condition of the property when they turn it over to tenants and maintain a duty for lessors to warn tenants of concealed dangers, the landlord is typically not deemed liable for the condition of the property or premises defects that occur while the property is being leased. This rule is in part due to the landlord's lack of control over the property once a tenant inhabits it.
In other cases, a tenant may be held accountable for injuries that occur to visitors, even though they do not own the property. For example, an apartment renter may be considered responsible for failing to warn visitors of concealed dangers and held liable for any damages that result, just like a landowner would.
Seek Expert Legal Help for a Premises Liability Claim
As you can see, determining who is responsible in your premises liability case is a complex matter. The outcomes of each case vary greatly depending on the specific factors that attributed to that particular incident. To ensure your case has the best possible chance of success, it is important you meet with a deeply knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case.
Our Houston premises liability lawyers can skillfully determine who was responsible in your accident case by proving your legal status and whether the property owner met the reasonable standard care as required under Texas law.
Furthermore, our in-depth knowledge of Texas' comparative negligence law will help ensure you receive the best possible compensation amount to help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property loss and other damages.
To begin your case, contact us today and schedule your free consultation. Neal Davis is an aggressive litigator with 20 years of legal experience. He understands what it takes to have a valid claim and will work at no cost to you until your case is settled. That's our No Fee Unless We Win Guarantee.