Property Claims: More Complex Than Meets the Eye

If you were walking across a store parking lot, stepped into a hole and broke your ankle, would the property owner have to pay for your injury? Maybe. How big was the hole – 8 inches wide or 8 feet wide? Was the area well lit? Were there warning signs or barriers around it? Were you under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Had other people been injured in the same spot? These and other questions would help a South Carolina premises liability lawyer determine whether you have a viable claim against the property owner.

The Louthian Law Firm of Columbia, South Carolina, has been helping injured people secure justice since 1959. When you consult the personal injury attorneys of the Louthian Law Firm about an accident you had on someone else’s property, you can count on reasoned advice from seasoned professionals. Call (803) 454-1200 for a free consultation.

Where are premises liability claims likely to arise?

In addition to parking lots, as in the scenario above, injuries can happen in many locations where you normally transact business or visit, including these:

  • A grocery store
  • A shopping center or mall
  • An office building
  • Your church
  • A city park or other public property
  • A public or private swimming pool
  • The home of a neighbor or friend.

What determines whether the injuries are compensable?

The key issue is whether the property owner was negligent; that is, did he or she fail to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the same circumstances? The essential elements in a negligence action are: (1) a duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) that duty was breached by a negligent act or omission; and (3) the breach of duty was the proximate cause of the injury. The specific details of your situation will need to be carefully analyzed to determine whether the injury you suffered on someone else’s property was due to their negligence.

In addition, South Carolina has adopted the comparative negligence theory of liability. If you were partly at fault for your own injuries, the amount you may recover will be reduced. In our state, if you were 51% or more responsible for your injuries, you cannot recover from the property owner. The situation becomes even more complex if there were multiple parties at fault.

Their many years of experience practicing law in South Carolina give Herb and Bert Louthian a deep knowledge of premises liability law. Allow them to use it to your advantage if you have suffered an injury while on someone else’s property.

Causes of Premises Liability Claims

Most of the premises liability claims seen by the Louthian Law Firm fall into one of these categories:

  • Dangerous physical conditions
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Inadequate security.

Property Liability: Dangerous Conditions

Dangerous conditions which can lead to injury include slippery floors, icy sidewalks, tree limbs or debris, cracked sidewalks, loose stair treads or railings, spills, and construction hazards. Slips, trips and falls can cause sprains, fractures, head and back injuries, cuts and contusions. A property owner who knows about, or should know about, a dangerous condition on his property must remedy it or provide adequate warning that it exists, otherwise their negligence can make them responsible for the outcome.

Inadequate Lighting & Property Injuries

Inadequate lighting can cause accidents both inside and outside. Stairwells that are poorly lit can cause a person to miss a step or come down on the edge of it, resulting in a fall to a hard surface, perhaps even for an entire flight of steps. Parking lots, especially in the nighttime hours, must be well lit to ensure customer safety, and parking garages at any time can be dim and hazardous places. When assessing whether or not inadequate lighting has contributed to an injury, we look to see not only whether there were light fixtures installed, but also whether they were functional, with burning bulbs. Some businesses, like movie theaters and nightclubs, purposely dim the lights, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a duty to provide enough lighting for patrons to walk around safely. Another issue concerning adequacy of lighting is whether a business has generator-powered emergency lighting in case of a power outage.

When lighting is inadequate, it can lead to another form of premises injury: that caused by a failure to protect or provide security. In some situations, a business, landlord, or homeowner may be held legally liable for failing to protect customers, renters or visitors from violent crime.

If the owner has installed inadequate lighting, failed to provide security guards or adopt reasonable security practices, he may be liable if found to be negligent, especially if it is known from previous experience that such a danger exists.

Who is protected by premises liability law?

In South Carolina, there are four general classifications of persons whose interests may be protected while on the property of another: invitees, licensees, adult trespassers and children. Each one of these classes imposes a different standard of care upon the property owner.

A property owner has the highest duty of care for those he invites onto his property. This would be true of restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and the like. Licensees are those who are allowed to be on the property, although they may not have been specifically invited, such as meter readers and social guests, and they are owed a reasonable standard of care. Generally, a property owner is not liable for injury to an adult trespasser caused by a failure to exercise reasonable care. But in South Carolina, children, even if they are trespassing, are owed a heightened duty of care because of their failure to understand risk.

Hands-on help, exceptional results . . .

This is what you can expect when you contact The Louthian Law Firm about a slip and fall, parking lot injury, store accident, or other incident that occurred on someone else’s property. Use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation and find out how a premises liability claim may compensate you for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and impaired earning ability.