The victim of an accident on someone else’s property will often want to know who is responsible. Under Illinois law, land owners may be liable for certain injuries suffered by people who are on the property legally either as guests or as business invitees. This liability comes from a legal principle called the “duty of care,” which is part of premise liability laws.
Private and public locations often contain numerous hazards. These hazards may seem trivial to the property owner, but a visitor unfamiliar with the terrain could suffer a seriously injury. People often fall due to broken or improperly de-iced sidewalks, insufficiently cleared snow, wet floors, broken steps, and hidden drop-offs. In addition, improper lighting and security systems may encourage criminal attacks. Deteriorating electrical wiring can cause an electric shock or even result in electrocution.
An injury that may not seem severe at the time may end up being extremely painful or even life-threatening. The victim may have high medical expenses, especially if he or she needed to spend time in the hospital. If the victim has an absence from work due to an injury, job loss might become a very real possibility. And with no way to pay rent, a victim could lose his or her home. An accident victim could end up with several hundred thousand dollars or more in debt.
If someone suffers an injury while on someone else’s property, the owner’s insurance company may try to settle with the victim for a small amount of money. The insurer may offer very little or nothing at all. A personal injury attorney may be able to handle negotiations with the insurance company and help victims with obtaining fair and proper compensation.
The Premises Liability Act
In Illinois, the Premises Liability Act establishes that the owners and caretakers of real property must show “reasonable care under the circumstances” toward anyone who is legally on their property. The “reasonable care” principle requires that owners follow safety standards, inspect the property frequently and make repairs where indicated. However, reasonable care does not include a duty to warn or protect guests from hazardous conditions that the owner could have reasonably expected the guests to know about. Reasonable care also does not require an owner to warn guests about unknown dangers.
The Premises Liability Act tends to favor the property owner. An accident victim seeking compensation will generally need to prove that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard. The victim must also prove that the owner acted negligently by failing to repair the hazard, put up a sign, or otherwise warn about the hazard. A plaintiff can expect both sides to question the definition of the word “reasonable” repeatedly in premises liability cases, which is one reason why a personal injury attorney can be extremely helpful.
How Can A Personal Injury Attorney Help?
An accident victim is entitled to take the property owner to court, which will decide whether the property owner is liable for the victim’s injuries. The court’s decision will likely depend on whether the property owner owed the victim a duty of care and whether breach of that care caused the accident which led to the victim’s injuries.
A personal injury attorney can help with court papers and legal procedures for premise liability cases. A lawyer will often need to examine the place where the injury occurred and take photographs. An attorney will likely interview the victim and the witnesses, if any, to build up a case based on detailed facts of the actual events. Accordingly, the victim will have a greater chance of recovering a substantial amount of money to pay bills and rebuild his or her life.