If you suffer an injury on property owned by another person or business in Alabama, it is important to understand the various laws and rules that will determine whether the owner is legally responsible for your injury.
It is critical to realize that a property owner is not automatically responsible to pay compensation for an injury simply because it occurred on their property.
Premises Liability Claims in Alabama
In order for an owner to be responsible, an injured party must prove that the owner was at fault in some way for the injury. There must be evidence that the owner created the hazard or allowed a hazard or defective condition to remain on their property to establish a claim. In most cases, it is necessary to prove that the owner knew or should have known about the hazard and failed to repair the condition or warn persons of the danger it presented.
Property owners in Alabama have different responsibilities – referred to as a “legal duty” – to persons present on their property based on the reason the visitor is on the property. If a person is invited on to property for a business purpose or for a purpose that provides a “benefit” to the landowner, he or she will be legally classified as an “invitee.” A landowner owes the highest duty to an invitee since they are visiting the property for the benefit of the owner.
With regard to invitees, a landowner has a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe manner. This means that the owner must perform inspections of the property to identify hazards and defects, and fix any such problems or provide an appropriate warning – such as a wet floor sign – to prevent visitors from suffering an injury. A landowner will be responsible for injuries to an invitee if the owner had actual knowledge of the hazard or defective condition, or if they should have known about the condition.
Landowners have less responsibility or duty to persons on their property that are not present for a purpose that “benefits” the landowner. Social guests or friends who are not present on the property for a business purpose are legally referred to as “licensees.” A landowner’s responsibility to a social guest or licensee is to warn of defective conditions or hazards that are known exist on the property. Landowners must warn social guests of unique or particular hazards – such as unusually steep stairs and uneven or slippery floors – that the landowner is aware of and that presents a risk of injury to their guests.
Uninvited guests or trespassers will only be able to pursue claims if a landowner recklessly, willfully, or intentionally does something to cause an injury. A landowner will be responsible for an injury to a trespasser if they set a trap or intentionally create a hazard with the expectation that a trespasser will come on to their property.
There are several available defenses that landowners may use to respond to a claim of a person injured on their property. If a defect or a hazard is “open and obvious,” a landowner may not be responsible if it results in an injury. Open and obvious means that the defect or hazard was such that a reasonable person would have seen and appreciated the danger presented by the hazard. Likewise, if a person’s own actions contribute to their injury, they will not able to recover from the landowner.
If you are injured on property owned by another person or business, it is important that you contact an attorney that understands the landowner’s legal responsibilities and the defenses that will be presented.
At Siniard, Timberlake & League, P.C., our lawyers are experienced and skilled in pursuing premises liability claims for injured persons. If you have been injured at a business or on another person’s property, we can help.