Responsible Parties in Premises Liability Cases
Were you injured at someone else’s house or business? Under premises liability law, an owner or occupier of a property may be responsible for your injuries. However, whether you have a right to compensation depends on why you were on the property and why the accident took place.
Premises liability law in Texas is complex and has a number of variables that may help or hinder your request for compensation. The Texas Supreme Court has made crucial decisions regarding the state’s premises liability law within the last few years, which is why it is important to work with a knowledgeable Houston premises liability attorney. This area of law is ever evolving. At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., we have years of experience in this area of law and keep up with all recent changes.
We are here to review your rights and legal options. Call us today at 281-283-8500 .
Understanding Texas Premises Liability
In Texas, an owner or occupier of land has a legal duty to keep their premises in a safe condition. What does a safe condition mean? It depends. A parcel of land, building, parking lot, or another type of property does not have to be in perfect condition. There can be defects and disrepair. However, if a defect is hidden and not noticeable to the casual eye, then the owner is responsible for fixing it promptly, putting up a warning, or blocking access to that area. If the accident took place because the owner or occupier did not uphold their duty to keep the property in a safe condition, then you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries.
However, property owners do not owe all individuals on their land the same legal duty. When you are on another person’s land, you are either an invitee, licensee, or trespasser:
- You were an invitee if the owner had knowledge of your coming onto the land and your presence was to your and the landowner’s mutual benefit. You are generally an invitee when you go into a store. The owner knows potential customers will come and go and you are there to potentially do business.
- You were a licensee if you entered and stayed on the land with permission, however you were there for yourself or someone else’s benefit. You are generally considered a licensee when you attend social gatherings.
- You were a trespasser if you were on the owner’s property without implicit or explicit permission. This could mean remaining in a business after hours or on a parcel of land without consent.
As an invitee or licensee, the owner or occupier owes you a duty and can be held responsible if they fail to uphold that duty and you are hurt. However, a landowner owes very little to a trespasser – only to not willfully hurt a person who is trespassing. If you were on a property without permission, it is less likely that the owner or occupier will be responsible for compensating you for your injuries.
Determining the Liable Party
Under premises liability, there are multiple parties who might be responsible for your injuries. The most obvious is the party currently responsible for the land. If you were in a residence, this would be the homeowner or renter. If you were in a business, this could be the owner, or more likely, the commercial tenant.
However, when the property on which you were hurt is rented, then there may be a division between what the tenant is responsible for and what the landlord must take care of. You may have to investigate whether the occupier/tenant was responsible for the defect or the landlord/owner was. The answer could also be that both parties had a responsible for finding and fixing the danger.
Proving a Premises Liability Claim
It can be difficult to prove a premises liability claim in court, however, it is not impossible with the help of an experienced attorney. If you choose to move forward with a premises liability claim, you will have to prove the following elements:
- You were an invitee or licensee
- The landowner or occupier had a duty of care toward you
- The landowner or occupier had known of, or reasonably should have known about, a hidden defect on the premises
- The hidden defect created an unreasonable risk of harm to you and others
- The landowner or occupier did not take reasonable steps to correct the defect or warn against the risk
- Because the landowner or occupier failed to correct the defect, they caused your injuries
When an Owner is Not Responsible: The Open and Obvious Doctrine
There are circumstances under which an owner or occupier will not be liable for your injuries even if they had a duty toward you. This is when a danger on the premises is considered open and obvious. An open and obvious defect is one that can be seen and understood as potentially dangerous. Therefore, as an adult, you would notice the potential hazard and have a responsibility to avoid it.
An example of an open and obvious danger would be a spilled, brightly colored liquid at the grocery store. You would be responsible for avoiding the spill since it was easy to see and likely easy to walk around or avoid. However, if a floor is made slick by a clear greasy substance that cannot be easy seen, then this is not an open and obvious defect.
Comparative Negligence in Texas
Another situation in which your recovery could be decreased or denied is if you contributed to the accident and your injuries. Texas follows what is known as a modified comparative negligence rule. If you are found to be 51 percent or more at fault for the accident by an insurer or court, then you cannot recover any compensation for your injuries. However, if you are 50 percent or less responsible, then you will recover compensation decreased by your percentage of fault.
Contact Our Houston Premises Liability Attorneys Today
Your premises liability claim may be straightforward, creating a high probability that you will recover compensation quickly through an insurance claim. However, this may not be your situation. Texas premises liability law can make for complicated cases that require a great deal of time, effort, and tenacity to obtain the monetary recovery you deserve, including:
- Medical costs
- Loss of earning capacity
- Physical pain
- Physical limitations
- Mental anguish