BASIS OF LIABILITY. Property owners may be responsible for personal injuries, wrongful death and property damage that results from a slip, trip or fall on their property. In order for a property owner to be responsible for an injury, there generally needs to be a dangerous condition which the owner knew or should have known existed. Further, it must be a condition which the injured person would not realize or would fail to realize after exercising ordinary care. Owners are not responsible for open and obvious defects.
COMMON MISUNDERSTANDING. Many clients contact our office and believe they have a case just by the very fact that they fell at someone’s property or business. This is not true. There must be negligence (failure to act as a reasonable person) on the part of the owner.
COMMON DEFENSE. One of the most common defenses in a premises liability case is that the defect was “open and obvious.” For example, a statue in a walkway might be dangerous, but it is open and obvious to anyone walking towards it. To the contrary, a hole in a walkway is also dangerous, and may not be obvious to a pedestrian. There are exceptions to the open and obvious rule, but as one can understand, people also need to take responsibility for their actions.
COMPARATIVE FAULT. Jury verdicts in Illinois and Missouri are reduced for the comparative fault of the Plaintiff. Under Illinois law, if a Plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, there is no recovery. There will be no need for a jury to assess damages because there is no liability. If the Plaintiff is 50% or less at fault, the damages are reduced for the percentage of fault of the Plaintiff.
The State of Missouri is a pure comparative fault state. Unlike Illinois, a Plaintiff is not barred from recovery if he/she is more than 50% at fault. Under Missouri law, any verdict is reduced for the percentage of fault of the Plaintiff. Even if a Plaintiff is 90% at fault, the Plaintiff will still recover 10% of the assessed damages. This can be an important advantage in Missouri because a Plaintiff with significant damages can still recover a significant verdict whereas they may be barred from recovery in the State of Illinois.
SLIP AND FALL ON ICE AND SNOW. A particular area of premises liability that is often litigated are slip and fall injuries as a result of ice and snow. Generally, property owners are not liable for accidents that occur as a result of natural accumulation of ice and snow. In other words, people do not have a duty to shovel their sidewalks and driveways, nor do business owners. However, if a property owner negligently attempts snow removal, causing a more dangerous condition, there can be liability. Most businesses attempt snow removal as a business gesture and in doing so, need to protect the safety of their patrons, but this is not always the case. Often times businesses hire snow removal companies that do not have customer interests as a priority.
INSURANCE COMPANIES AND PREMISES LIABILITY. Property owners and business owners are usually covered for premises liability through homeowners insurance, general liability insurance or other applicable insurances. Insurance companies are at a distinct advantage when an accident occurs. They know the law and you do not. Insurance companies will contact you and ask you to give a written or recorded statement concerning the incident. DO NOT GIVE STATEMENTS. These statements will be used against you in settlement and ultimately at trial.
TIME LIMITATIONS. Under Illinois and Missouri law there are limitations on the amount of time you have to bring or file your claim. When municipalities (governmental entities like parks, schools, cities…) are a defendant, which is often the case with sidewalks, streets and other similar areas, the statute of limitations can be one year or less. Further, there are even instances where municipalities must be put on notice of claims within a short period of time. This is another reason why you should contact our office or another attorney immediately to assist with your claim.
OUR FIRM. Over the years, WWF&G has developed an excellent network of contacts and expert witnesses who will assist us in representing you and prosecuting your claim. We regularly handle cases against gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, taverns, homeowners and other businesses (ie. Walmart, McDonald’s,…) with a high volume of patrons.
Often times there are safety codes which a property owner should follow. In addition to those, we are familiar with standards and codes which reasonable property owners should use to ensure safe walking surfaces.
WWF&G takes a hard stance on these types of cases. Neglect by property owners can lead to permanent injuries to people of all walks of life, including the elderly, children and disabled. Often times property owners can remedy the situation inexpensively, but do not until a serious accident occurs. Williamson, Webster, Falb & Glisson has recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for innocent victims in premises liability situations. We have handled cases in most venues throughout the States of Illinois and Missouri. Please feel free to review our verdicts and settlements in this area of law on our home page, and contact us for a free consultation at 618-462-1077.