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An Overview of Premises Liability Claims in Texas

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Under Texas law, property owners have a responsibility to keep their premises safe and prevent injuries to visitors. Unfortunately, not every owner takes that responsibility seriously, and preventable accidents often occur.

Slip and falls and other types of incidents on dangerous premises in Houston can cause severe, life-altering injuries. You have legal recourse, but the process of getting compensation can be confusing without help from an experienced premises liability attorney. Here’s what you need to know about premises liability injury claims in Houston and throughout Texas.

What is a premises liability claim?

Premises liability law is the category of personal injury law that deals with injuries caused by unsafe conditions on property. Some examples of premises liability claims include:

  • Slip, trip, and falls: Falls may be caused by unmarked hazards, spills that are not cleaned up properly, lack of proper railings, uneven surfaces, and other dangerous conditions on the premises. Slip and falls are serious business: they are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, especially in children and elderly people, and they can also cause broken bones, spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, and more.
  • Swimming pool accidents: Failure to provide adequate fences, gates, pool coverings, and other safety devices in the vicinity of a pool can lead to drowning and near-drowning incidents. Victims of swimming pool accidents are often young children.
  • Construction site accidents: Many construction accidents are caused by unsafe conditions on the job site. Construction sites often become cluttered with materials and debris that can become trip hazards, and workers often need to use temporary stairs and walkways that may be poorly maintained or exposed to inclement weather.
  • Elevator and escalator accidents: Elevators and escalators are important for accessibility and movement between floors, but they can also create tripping hazards if not properly maintained. Many elevator accidents are caused by poor maintenance or improper signage around the elevator.
  • Negligent security: Some violent crimes, such as assault, could be prevented by adequate security on the premises. If you were attacked due to inadequate fencing, lack of security cameras, or otherwise inadequate security, you can take legal action against the owner of the unsafe premises.

Dog bite claims also fall within the broad category of premises liability, but they are subject to special rules, including the so-called “one-bite rule.”

How duties of care work in Texas premises liability claims

The core of a premises case is the duty owed by the property owner to visitors on the premises. This duty varies depending on your status as a visitor. There are three basic statuses a visitor can have: invitee, licensee, and trespasser.

  • An invitee is a visitor on the premises with the property owner’s consent for the owner’s commercial or contractual purpose. This may be an express invitation; for instance, if you have an electrician or plumber come to your house to perform some work, that person is an invitee. The invitation may also be implied; customers in a retail store that is open to the public, for instance, are considered invitees. Property owners have a legal responsibility to protect the invitee from any known risks on the premises as well as any risks they could have identified with a reasonable inspection.
  • A licensee is a visitor on the premises with the owner’s permission, but for a social purpose, or for their own business purposes. Social guests are considered licensees, as are people stopping by the premises such as door-to-door salespeople and canvassers for political campaigns. Licensees are owed a lesser duty than invitees: the owner has a duty to warn them about any known hazards.
  • A trespasser is on the premises without the owner’s permission (with or without the owner’s knowledge). Property owners’ duty of care to trespassers is minimal. However, a trespasser can still have a premises liability case in some circumstances, for instance, if the property owner actually created the hazard and failed to provide a warning.

One thing to keep in mind is that a visitor’s status can change depending on their actions while on the premises. For example, a customer in a store who wanders into an employees-only area of the store might be considered a trespasser. If the property owner (and their insurance company) can downgrade the injured person’s status at the time of the injury, their liability can be significantly reduced or even eliminated entirely. That’s one reason it’s so important to have a lawyer who fully understands Texas premises liability law.

Key evidence in premises liability cases in Texas

Like all personal injury cases, premises cases require evidence to prove that you were injured due to the negligence of the property owner. Some key evidence in premises liability claims include:

  • Reports: Be sure to save copies of any accident reports or incident reports created by the property owner or law enforcement.
  • Video footage: If there are security cameras on the premises, it is important to take action to preserve that footage before it is destroyed or overwritten.
  • Shoes and clothing: If you slipped on something, save your shoes in a plastic bag, and don’t wear them again until your case is resolved. The clothes you were wearing at the time of the accident can also be important evidence.
  • Maintenance and inspection reports: Documentation of maintenance of the premises (or lack thereof) can play a significant role in premises liability cases.
  • Photos of the premises: Take pictures of the hazard that caused the injury and the surrounding conditions, including both close-up photos and wide shots of the area. You should also take pictures of any visible injuries.
  • Witness testimony: As with all legal matters, people who saw what happened can provide powerful testimony in support of your case. It’s important to get contact information for witnesses right away so your attorney can follow up.

One reason it’s so important to talk to a premises liability lawyer right away is that your attorney can investigate to secure and preserve evidence before it is lost.

What to do if you’re injured on someone else’s premises

After any premises liability accident in Houston, you need to take three steps. First, notify the property owner to document the incident. Call law enforcement, if applicable, and ask for a copy of the police report. Gather evidence at the scene and get names and contact information for any witnesses. Again, you need all the relevant evidence to support your claim.

Second, get medical attention right away. This is important for two reasons. First, slip and falls and other premises accidents can cause injuries with delayed-onset symptoms, such as brain injuries and internal bleeding. Getting checked out by a doctor is the safest option to protect your health. In addition, getting medical attention creates documentation of your injuries in support of your claim. The sooner you go to the doctor, the harder it is for the insurance company to dispute or downplay your injuries.

Then, talk to a premises liability attorney as soon as possible before you talk to the insurance company. Premises cases require thorough investigation and a strong legal strategy. The sooner you have an experienced premises liability lawyer in your corner, the better.

Schedule a free consultation with Smith & Hassler today

When you’re dealing with an injury on someone else’s premises, the right attorney can make all the difference. Based in Houston, TX, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Smith & Hassler thoroughly understand Texas premises liability law and have a winning track record in high-stakes cases. Our attorneys also understand the sensitivity of many premises liability claims, especially if the property owner was a friend or family member. In most cases, our legal team is able to resolve these cases by dealing directly with the insurance company, so your personal relationships don’t have to get involved.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident on unsafe premises in Houston, take immediate action to protect your rights under Texas law. Give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, “An Overview of Premises Liability Claims in Texas.”

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