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Who Is Liable if You’re Injured in a Public Setting

Pride goes before the fall. But a lot comes afterward. 684,000 people die after falls each year.

Many people think about falls in old people’s homes. Yet hundreds of thousands of falls occur in public settings. If you sustain a fall injury in a public setting, you need to know what to do.

How do courts determine who is liable after a fall? How do the property conditions impact liability? What exactly does negligence mean?

Answer these questions and you can regain the pride you lost after a fall. Here is your quick guide.

Definitions of a Public Setting

A public setting is a location that the public has access to based on a legal right or an invitation from an organization. Post offices and city halls are two examples of public settings.

There is no one definition of “public setting” that all lawyers agree upon. Some lawyers limit a public setting to indoor locations. This means that parks and playgrounds would not count as public settings.

Other lawyers adopt broader definitions. A space owned by a private individual may count as a public setting because people can come and go as they please. The vestibule of an office building can count, especially one connected to a popular street.

Even if a government runs a public space, private individuals may be the ones who are liable for a public injury. Some cities require residents to plow the sidewalks in front of their homes after a snowstorm. If you slip and fall on one, the resident may be more responsible than the government.

Don’t assume right away that the government has premises liability after a public injury. Hire a lawyer who can investigate who exactly is responsible. Click this link to learn about slip and fall attorneys and compare different services to each other.

Legal Statuses

Some states have laws that impact liability based on the status of the visitor. Visitors who are invited onto the property are not liable for injuries. Extending an invitation is a gesture that implies that the property owner has taken steps to promote safety.

Social guests and licensees are individuals who go on the property without formal invitations. A friend of the owner is a social guest while someone shopping at a store for a product is a licensee. They are there for a good reason, and the owner gives them consent to be there.

These individuals may be liable. There is no implied promise from the owner that they assured the safety of their property. Yet an owner who is extremely reckless can face penalties.

Trespassers enter properties without any right or consent to do so. These people are completely liable for their own injuries.

Visitor Actions

The actions of a visitor do matter. A court will consider how the visitor entered the property. Someone walking through the front door may not be liable for their injury, but someone sneaking in through a back window may be.

How they use the property is just as important. Someone shopping while walking slowly is not creating a risk to themselves. But someone running around and knocking into things is.

Property Conditions

Most states take into account the condition of the property. They impose standards requiring owners to take steps to improve property conditions. One step is removing objects that people can trip on.

It is impossible to eliminate all threats. But owners should make a reasonable effort to remove the threats. If dripping water is a threat, an owner should repair the pipes that are allowing the water to leak.

Owners should also foresee potential dangers. A damaged pipe may leak or burst within a short period of time. An owner should inspect their pipes and repair them when they notice the pipes are damaged.

Negligence

Negligence is perhaps the most essential concept in public injury cases. It refers to a failure to act with the level of care that an ordinary person would have acted with.

Negligence has a few elements that a plaintiff must prove. A duty of care is one of them. A plaintiff must show that an owner had a responsibility to care for them, providing a safe space for shopping or walking.

The plaintiff then must show a breach of duty. The owner may have exposed the plaintiff to a risk that was unwarranted. Leaving objects on the floor so someone can trip over them counts as a breach.

Causation is the connection between a breach of duty and an injury. By leaving an object on the floor, the owner caused someone to trip and hit their head. A plaintiff must prove they sustained an injury, one that resulted in a monetary loss.

Deadlines

Even if you can prove negligence in all four of its elements, you can lose your trial because of deadlines. You need to file a lawsuit within a few years of your injury.

You must file a notice that describes your claim. You then need to take your claim to court after the plaintiff has had time to respond.

Make sure your claim is going to the right place. If it goes to the wrong office, your lawsuit cannot move forward.

The Essentials of Falls in a Public Setting

Several legal concepts impact falls in a public setting. Government and public-facing properties are public settings, yet privately owned locations may count.

Someone who is not invited to enter a place receives fewer legal protections. Their actions matter and can affect how much money they receive.

Yet owners have duties of care to create safe spaces to be in. Any lawsuit can also get thrown out if the papers go to the wrong person or are not filed on time.

Personal injury laws can be complicated. Read more personal injury guides by following our coverage.

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