While tripping somewhere may feel like an act of nature, it is all too often an act of negligence. Someone should have done something before you fell and got hurt. In the aftermath, when you are injured and paying medical bills, you will want to know what to do next. One option for at least recouping your medical expenses is suing for negligence. These are often called premises liability lawsuits.
Who Is Going to Be Held Liable?
Premises liability is the same for private homes and businesses, so the following rules will apply to anyone who qualifies as a landowner. Minnesota defines a landowner, or a ‘possessor of land,’ as one of 3 things: a person who occupies the land with intent to control it, the person who occupied the land with intent to control it if it is currently empty, or the person with the immediate right to occupy and control the land if no one falling into the first 2 definitions exist. So, an owner of a restaurant, the last person who owned an empty restaurant, and the person who owns the building the restaurant was in would all fall into this category.
This can actually be a bit more complicated than it first appears. Renters might not be held liable, but if they had promised to supervise any activities and assumed enough control of the land to inspect for hazards, they might be held liable. Mostly though, an operator or owner of the premise will be held responsible.
What Sort of Conditions Would the Owner Be Held Liable For?
If you are an entrant, meaning a person with an express or implicit invitation to be on a property, the landowner has a duty of care to you. This is true regardless of your physical condition, age, or any other factor. This duty of reasonable care requires that a landowner inspect and repair the property, keeping it safe. At the very least, they have to put out a warning if they know about a hazard on their property. If a landowner fails to take steps that any reasonable person would take to make their property safe and a guest is injured because of it, the landowner will be held responsible.
Now, you will notice that this leaves out trespassers. If you have gone beyond the scope of what the owner has given you permission to do on his or her land, you will have a harder time making a case because the landowner doesn’t have a duty of care to you. There are, however, exceptions. If a child is a trespasser, then the landowner is still held liable. Also, if a landowner maintains a condition that he or she knows to be hazardous and the danger is hidden from view, the landowner may be liable for not putting up a warning.
What Steps Should I Take If I Fall?
Believe it or not, you don’t have to fill out an accident report. Many businesses may require one for their own records, and having documentation will help your case, but an official report isn’t legally required. You might want to get your own record of the circumstances of the fall, witnesses, and what people said. It helps to have pictures of the area as soon after the fall as possible.
There is a statute of limitations here: if your injury was caused by a defect in the design or construction of the property, you have 2 years to bring suit. If the owner was neglecting the place, you have 6 years to bring suit.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect?
It depends, but it can include payment of medical bills, any lost wages, and any lost potential earnings. You might recoup something for pain and suffering, too.
Most businesses have a general liability insurance policy that can cover your medical bills, and homeowner’s insurance can also carry provisos covering some of your medical expenses. You might not have to sue to get this.