What Is Premises Liability and When Should I Hire a Lawyer?

What Is Premises Liability and When Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you’re like most people, you spend a good amount of time on other people’s property: at the grocery store, your friends’ houses, doing fun things with the family, and even in your own apartment building. But if you’re injured in one of these familiar places, your viewpoint can change. That’s when you start seeing the hidden dangers – and asking yourself whether you might need an Oklahoma premises liability attorney.

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is a legal doctrine that requires property owners to maintain a safe environment for visitors. It applies to commercial, industrial, residential, and private property owners. In Oklahoma, they have a responsibility to:

  • Remove obstructions and hazards that could cause injury
  • Provide proper lighting, signage, and security
  • Properly secure anything that might attract children, like pools or playgrounds

Put simply, if someone slips, trips, falls, or is injured on their property, the owner could be held responsible under premises liability doctrine if they:

  • Intentionally caused the hazard
  • Knew about the hazard and didn’t warn visitors
  • Reasonably should have known about the hazard

Do You Have a Premises Liability Claim?

Being injured on someone else’s property doesn’t automatically mean you can bring a lawsuit against them under premises liability. An Oklahoma premises liability attorney can help you determine if you have a claim for damages, but we’ll go over some of the basics here.

Most premises liability cases are negligence torts, which means causing harm by failing to provide “reasonable care.” That means you need to prove the property owner failed to prevent a situation that directly led to your injury. You also need to prove that:

  • You were an invited guest on the property (trespassers usually don’t have a claim).
  • The hazard wasn’t something you should have noticed (known as “open and obvious danger”).
  • There was no “inherent risk” in the activity that led to your injury (meaning you weren’t doing something you knew was risky, such as an extreme recreational activity).

You must also have suffered harm from the accident. If you were seriously injured, piled up a lot of medical and rehabilitation bills, or experienced mental health issues, those all count as harm. Finally, under Oklahoma’s statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, you need to file your claim within two years of the date of the injury.

Examples of Premises Liability Claims

To better understand this legal concept, let’s look at some examples. Experienced premises liability attorneys in Oklahoma will be familiar with these types of claims.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip, trip, and fall accidents are one of the most common types of claims. Under premises liability, it’s up to property owners to find and fix hazards like wet floors, loose rugs, damaged stairs, uneven sidewalks, and missing light bulbs. If they know about a hazard and don’t fix it, or if they reasonably should have known about it, they could be liable for an injury.

Falling Objects

Property hazards aren’t always near your feet – they can be up above, too. In fact, this type of hazard is nearly as common as slipping and falling. For example, if a property owner doesn’t trim heavy branches on a tree, and one of them falls and injures you, they could be liable. Another example is if you’re visiting a construction site, aren’t provided with the proper protective equipment, and are injured by a falling tool.

Animal Bites

Property owners are also responsible for restraining their animals and keeping visitors safe while they’re on the property. Oklahoma has a “strict liability” law for dog bites that applies to all dog owners, regardless of where the bite takes place: “The owner of any dog shall be liable for damages … when his dog, without provocation, bites or injures any person while such person is in a place where he has a lawful right to be.”

Swimming Pool Accidents

Oklahoma recognizes what’s known as the “attractive nuisance doctrine.” This means property owners are responsible for fencing off and placing signs in any areas that might be attractive to children or teenagers. Swimming pool accidents are one of the most common premises liability claims that stem from this policy. If the pool isn’t properly fenced off and a child decides to go for a swim and is injured or killed, the property owner can be held liable even if they didn’t know the child was there.

Assault and Personal Attacks

This one might surprise you: Property owners also need to take reasonable measures to keep visitors safe from assaults and other attacks. If a business owner doesn’t conduct a proper background check and an employee assaults a customer, they could be liable. The same for an owner of a parking garage that isn’t properly lit or secured. This one is most likely to apply to commercial property owners, not private homeowners.

When Should You Hire an Oklahoma Premises Liability Attorney?

If you meet the requirements above, you should contact an experienced premises liability attorney who can evaluate your case and make a plan for moving forward. But it can also be difficult to know for sure whether you have a claim: Oklahoma law is always evolving, and premises liability can get confusing.

How can you know if the hazard was “open and obvious”? Or if you were taking an “inherent risk”? At first, you might think that your injury was no big deal – but then it results in chronic pain or disability. On top of that, insurance companies don’t want to pay up for these kinds of accidents. They’ll always try to downplay your injury and the property owner’s liability to protect their bottom line.

The Bottom Line

If you were injured on someone else’s property, it’s worth it to have an attorney evaluate your case. The experienced team at Oklahoma Injury Guy will give you straightforward, practical advice without beating around the bush. And if you have a claim, we’ll fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.