Property owners owe their guests and visitors a legal duty of care: they must keep their property reasonably safe and warn visitors of any known hazards. If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property in Kansas City, you may be able to seek compensation from the negligent property owner with the help of a premises liability lawyer.
Pursuing compensation usually entails filing a claim with the property owner’s insurance company. If the insurer disputes your claim or won’t agree to a fair settlement, you may need to file a lawsuit and try the case in court.
Premises liability claims can be more challenging to win than other kinds of personal injury claims. An experienced premises liability attorney is almost always required to achieve a favorable outcome, especially when significant complications or damages are involved.
Once hired, a lawyer can investigate the accident, calculate your damages, gather evidence to prove the validity of your claim, negotiate with the insurance company, and represent you in court if necessary. At the outset, they can help you understand exactly how the property owner breached their duty of care toward you.
Holding Property Owners Accountable for Slip-and-Fall Injuries
In upholding their legal duty of care, a property owner must take all reasonable steps to maintain the property in a reasonably safe state. In doing so, they must have procedures in place to check for hazards and repair them promptly. They must also adequately warn visitors of any dangerous conditions they know about.
You Must Prove That the Duty of Care Was Breached
In order for a Kansas City premises liability claim to succeed, the injured victim needs to prove several factors. You must first prove that a hazardous condition existed on the premises.
You must prove that the property owner knew about the dangerous condition or should have known about it. And you must prove that the property owner failed to remedy or warn you of the dangerous condition, thereby breaching their duty of care toward you.
You then need to prove that you were injured by the dangerous condition. And finally, you must prove the full value of the damages you’re seeking to recover.
A property owner may dispute any of these factors in an attempt to escape liability or at least reduce the damages they have to pay. Proving each component of a premises liability claim often requires a great deal of evidence and the attention of an experienced premises liability lawyer.
Common Hazardous Conditions in Premises Liability Claims
All kinds of dangerous conditions can develop in a poorly maintained property. Uneven, broken, wet, or overly slick patches of flooring can cause slip-and-fall accidents. Broken stairways, poor lighting, loose railing, and uncleared ice may also pose a threat.
Other common safety hazards in property liability cases include exposed wiring, faulty appliances, malfunctioning escalators and elevators, and exposure to toxic substances. Serious swimming pool accidents sometimes result from slippery surfaces, entrapping drain covers, leaked chemicals, broken fences, or insufficient lifeguards.
Inadequate security on a premises can also leave visitors exposed to unreasonable risk from criminal activity. Inadequate security is a particularly important factor in dangerous areas or properties with prior experience of criminal activity.
If you’ve been injured by any of these hazards or any other kind of dangerous condition, the property owner may be held liable for injuries. To pursue compensation, you’ll first need to establish the nature and value of your damages.
Common Damages in Premises Liability Cases
Damages are sums of money sought for the losses you’ve suffered as a result of your injury. In order to recover fair compensation, your attorney will first calculate your damages in full.
They’ll then gather evidence to prove the value of those damages to the other party. Most premises liability cases include economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, punitive damages may also be on the table.
Damages with a clear and objective price are called economic damages. Medical expenses are the most common type of economic damages. You may seek to recover anything you’ve been forced to pay in hospital bills, doctor’s fees, rehabilitation costs, and any other medical costs.
In cases with severe or catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries, the victim may require damages for ongoing or lifelong medical treatment. Your attorney can predict these future medical bills with the help of specialist medical experts.
You may also seek to recover money for lost wages. Most common injuries from slip-and-fall accidents require at least a short recovery period in a hospital or at home. This is time away from work, missing out on income you would otherwise have received.
If you’ve lost wages because of your injury, the at-fault party should recompense you. Severe injuries sometimes permanently reduce a victim’s capacity to work, in which case you could pursue damages for a lifetime of lost wages.
It’s also common for premises liability cases to include non-economic damages, which are more subjective in nature than medical bills or lost wages. Non-economic damages are losses you’ve suffered that don’t have a clear monetary value but are nevertheless extremely detrimental to your life.
For example, when a victim has suffered injuries on another person’s property, they may go through a great deal of physical pain. The entire experience may also be emotionally harmful, leading to anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scarring, disfigurement, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life are also potential non-economic damages. Determining and proving these damages will often require a skillful attorney and the help of witnesses, both known to the injured victim and experts.
The aforementioned damages are all compensatory damages. In about 5% of premises liability cases, punitive damages may also be applicable.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for grievous negligence or willful wrongdoing.
Don’t Demand Too Little From the Property Owner
Understanding which damages apply to your case can be difficult without the guidance of a seasoned personal injury attorney with in-depth knowledge of Kansas City premises liability law. One of the greatest benefits premises liability lawyers provide is helping injured victims understand how much money property owners owe them for their losses.
Without a good personal injury lawyer in their corner, injured claimants frequently demand too little and accept lowball settlement offers from insurance providers. Always remember that once you sign that release form and accept a settlement, you’ll never have another chance at recovering more compensation for the same accident, even if you later run into financial hardship because of your mounting medical bills.
The Importance of Evidence in a Premises Liability Case
As previously mentioned, to successfully hold a negligent property owner accountable for your losses, you must prove that the property owner owed you a duty of care and then breached that duty of care, causing your injuries. If any aspect of your claim is disputed by the other party, you’ll need strong evidence to prove that the hazardous condition existed, that the property owner knew about the hazard and failed to repair it or warn you about it, and that you were subsequently injured by the hazard.
Kansas City premises liability lawyers know how to obtain and present enough evidence to persuade the insurer or jury. The earlier you speak to an attorney, the sooner they can start collecting evidence to strengthen your claim.
An attorney can also advise you on precisely what steps to take following your accident. Without this initial legal guidance, accident victims often make mistakes early on that greatly hinder the strength of their claim.
Collect Evidence at the Scene of the Accident
As soon as you experience a premises liability accident, it’s important to gather evidence at the scene. Take photos and videos of the dangerous property conditions immediately; it’s not uncommon for negligent property owners to clean up hazardous conditions after the incident and then deny that the hazard ever existed. Also, take photos and videos of your injuries.
If anyone else witnessed the accident, politely ask for their contact information. Your attorney can later follow up with eyewitnesses to ask them for statements. Also, take note of any surveillance cameras that might have captured the incident.
If you’re severely injured and unable to gather evidence by yourself on the day of the accident, ask a friend, family member, or coworker to do it for you. You can also contact a Kansas City premises liability attorney, who may be able to have a special investigator visit the accident scene.
Promptly Report Your Accident
Always call the police to the scene of an accident, even if you’re not yet sure who was to blame, or you were injured on a residential property. This is just as important as calling the police to the scene of a car accident. The police report may later prove invaluable in confirming the details of the hazard, accident, and injuries caused.
It’s also important to report your accident to the property owner, manager, or business owner without delay. Most companies have special business accident reports ready for such situations.
Reporting the accident promptly will make it difficult for the responsible party to later deny that your accident and injury occurred as you say they did. Just be wary when communicating with the at-fault party; never admit to any degree of fault for your own injuries, which might later be used to invalidate your claim.
Seek Immediate Medical Care
Don’t put off seeking medical attention after a premises liability accident. Even if you feel unharmed or only mildly injured, visit the hospital or your personal physician for a checkup. The symptoms of injuries can sometimes be delayed, and adrenaline can sometimes temporarily mask pain. You never know how badly you’ve been injured.
The doctor’s report will also provide important evidence linking your injuries directly to the accident. If you fail to visit the doctor and your injuries become more severe later on, the property owner might claim that your injuries weren’t connected to the accident, in which case they shouldn’t be held liable for your medical bills. They might also claim that your injuries weren’t as serious as you say because you didn’t even need to visit the doctor until much later.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
For the same reasons, follow your doctor’s orders to the letter. Apart from being best for your health and recovery, following doctor’s orders proves that you’re taking your injuries seriously. And after an accident, in the following weeks and months, report all changes in your condition to your doctor so that everything is documented in their records.
This should include reporting any psychological changes you’re going through, such as anxiety, depression, or mood swings. If your premises liability case includes emotional distress damages, any documentation of your psychological suffering may serve as evidence to back up the value of your damages.
If necessary, also seek the help of mental health professionals, who can provide further proof of your suffering. Even keeping a detailed journal at home about the state of your physical and mental state can help in this regard.
Your Attorney Can Prepare Additional Evidence
Many premises liability cases will require even more evidence than already mentioned, especially if there were no eyewitnesses present when your accident occurred. Experienced premises liability attorneys can collect a mountain of alternative and supplementary evidence, including evidence that would be difficult for you to obtain alone.
For example, an attorney may obtain communication records that prove the property owner knew about the dangerous condition prior to your accident. Your attorney could also get hold of the property’s historical safety records, which may show that the property owner has breached their duty of care several times in the past, causing other premises liability accidents.
Tap Into Your Attorney’s Network of Expert Witnesses
Your Kansas City premises liability attorney can also retain expert witnesses to help prove the property owner’s failure to adequately maintain their premises. Expert witness testimony might be provided by building inspectors, flooring experts, structural engineers, and accident reconstruction experts, who can all help prove the property owner’s liability.
Medical experts, vocational experts, and mental health experts may also be hired to prove the extent of your damages. Expert witness testimony often proves invaluable in premises liability cases. A seasoned Kansas City premises liability lawyer will have an entire network of useful local expert witnesses to call on.
Challenges Faced in Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability claims can be more challenging than another type of personal injury lawsuit or claim. One reason for this is that premises accidents often happen when there are no eyewitnesses or surveillance cameras to count on for evidence.
Even if the existence of a hazardous condition is proven, it’s often hard to prove negligence. For example, a wet floor may have caused a slip-and-fall accident before the owner had a chance to notice and dry the floor. At least, property owners may claim this to be the case.
Property owners tend to fight hard to avoid being held liable for any injuries. They frequently have well-funded and combative insurers and legal defense teams with an abundance of legal resources.
When To Hire a Premises Liability Lawyer
Premises liability attorneys know how to overcome these obstacles. With a deep understanding of premises liability law and plenty of similar premises liability cases under their belt, your personal injury lawyer can start building a strong case from the get-go.
In almost every premises liability case, the earlier a lawyer is hired, the better. When you have proper legal counsel and understand your legal rights under personal injury law, you can immediately start gathering evidence to prove the property owner’s negligence and avoid making costly mistakes.
Even the initial free consultation and free case evaluation that most lawyers offer can be valuable, not to mention morale-boosting. Personal injury lawyers only represent clients they feel reasonably certain they can help. They work on a contingency fee basis, so they don’t take on personal injury cases they think they’re likely to lose. This means that if an experienced lawyer or law firm agrees to represent you, you can feel confident in the strength of your claim.
The best time to hire an attorney is immediately after you’ve been injured on someone else’s property. This way, you can hit the ground running. So if you’ve been injured today, consider speaking to a premises liability law firm today. There’s no time to lose.
Get a Free Consultation With an Attorney
If you’d like the immediate assistance of an experienced Kansas City premises liability lawyer, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC at 816-399-5149 for a free consultation.