In the state of Missouri, property owners can be held legally responsible for serious injuries resulting from negligent maintenance as well as a failure to warn visitors about hazardous conditions on their property. When a property isn’t cared for and damage occurs, the victim can file a lawsuit against the owner with help from our Columbia, MO premises liability lawyers.
The term premises liability essentially refers to the fact that any property owner is held fully liable for properly maintaining their property and keeping it safe. Failure to keep the property or premises safe means they might be held financially responsible for any injuries or accidents that occur, including medical treatment costs, recovery treatment, and any lost wages or emotional and physical suffering.
If you believe you have grounds for a claim, it’s essential to understand your legal rights and options. Let’s take a look at the premises liability laws in Missouri and what steps you should take if you’re looking to recover as fully as possible from an accident that never should have happened.
Premises Liability Laws in Missouri
Personal injury laws are typically established at the state level. Because of that, it’s essential to understand the specific laws that apply to the case you’ll be filing in Columbia, Missouri. To start, let’s take a look at the level of care a property owner owes to a visitor based on their classification:
- Invitee. This is someone who is invited onto the property, typically for business purposes.
- Licensee. A licensee is someone who is invited onto the property for social purposes.
- Trespasser. If someone is trespassing, they have not been invited onto the property, and they are present without permission.
In Missouri, invitees and licensees are owed a duty of reasonable care for safety for their visit. That duty is a legal obligation to fix or clean up hazards before allowing anyone to enter the area. If a fix cannot be made within a reasonable amount of time, adequate signs, or a way to block off the dangerous area must be in place. Adequate lighting must also be in place to ensure the hazard is visible even in poor lighting conditions. A lesser duty is owed to a trespasser.
In addition to understanding your visitor classification, it’s also crucial to be aware of the statute of limitations that applies to your claim. A statute of limitations puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in the state’s civil court system.
According to Missouri Revised Statutes section 516.0120, legal action has to be taken within five years of the accident date. This applies to claims for physical injuries, as well as property damage. If you fail to file within the time frame, it’s likely your case will be dismissed without review, and you’ll be ineligible for any amount of compensation.
Types of Premises Liability Claims
There’s a wide range of possible hazards and dangerous conditions that could cause a premises owner to be held liable for an accident on their property.
Some of the most common unsafe conditions and hazards include loose pavement, lighting issues, overgrown tree branches, broken steps, loose rugs and flooring, elevator malfunctions, cluttered walkways, unfinished construction sites, dangerous spills and leaks that could cause a fall, and the existence of hazardous chemicals on the premises.
If you’re considering filing a claim, it may fall into one of the following categories:
- Slip and Fall Accidents. A slip and fall accident happens when someone trips, stumbles, or slips on uneven ground or a hazard and seriously injures themselves on someone else’s property. Slip and fall lawsuits are one of the most common types of premises liability cases.
- Swimming Pool Accidents. Swimming pools present an inherent danger, which is why property owners that have them need to take the proper precautions to mitigate those hazards. This typically means having a fence around the area, cleaning up slippery or wet spots, supervising children, and covering the pool properly in the offseason.
- Uneven Walkways. When the floor you’re standing on isn’t taken care of, many things could go wrong. Property owners are responsible for ensuring their stairs are stable, carpets are tacked down properly, cracks in sidewalks are filled or smoothed out, and tile or wood floors are level. Uneven and damaged walkways or staircases can quickly result in an accident.
- Elevator or Escalator Defects. Not all premises liability claims happen at peoples’ homes. They can also occur in public spaces, like shopping malls, grocery stores, and banks. While elevators and escalators are useful pieces of machinery, a poorly maintained one can cause a severe or even fatal accident.
- Animal Attacks. While you might not consider getting bit by a dog an area of premises liability, it is. When a property owner has a dog, they must ensure the animal is appropriately contained. In the event a dog gets out and bites someone, the victim has the right to take legal action.
- Inadequate Building Security. If you’re injured or assaulted on a property you do not own, you can bring charges against the assailant and file a claim against the property owner. These types of cases can occur on any property that’s open to the public. Property owners need to be aware of the crime rate in their area, so they can address potential safety concerns and secure their property.
In the event your accident is not described above, it does not mean you do not have a valid claim. A Columbia premises liability attorney can evaluate what you’ve been through and determine how best to proceed to secure your future and hold the negligent property owner accountable for your losses.
Proving a Premises Liability Claim
Premises liability lawsuits can be incredibly complicated—especially when it comes to building and providing evidence to support your claim.
As your lawyer will tell you, the term “reasonable” will often come up when a case is taken to litigation because property owners can’t be expected to immediately fix every property hazard. Property owners are given a reasonable amount of time to apply fixes, place warning signs or blockades, or use other preventive measures such as installing a drainage grate instead of repairing an entire roof right away.
The judge or jury will also look at other aspects of the accident scene. Was the victim given a reasonable amount of time to notice the posted signs before approaching the hazardous area? Is the lighting in the room adequate? Did the victim have a legitimate reason for being there? Is it possible that the victim was distracted while walking? In the end, it will be up to the court to decide what’s reasonable to expect of that specific property owner and that particular victim. Every case will vary for this reason, and every decision will be made using every available piece of evidence and witness testimony.
Regardless of the situation, a successful claim will prove the following:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises.
- The property owner knew or should have known about the danger.
- The property owner failed to use ordinary care to remove, fix, or warn of the hazard.
- You were injured.
To improve your chances of filing a claim that results in the compensation you need, make sure you work with a Columbia premises liability lawyer.
A Columbia, MO Law Firm You Can Trust
Due to the complicated nature of premises liability and slip and fall accident lawsuits, if you feel you have a possible case on your hands, it’s in your best interest to speak to a personal injury lawyer you can trust as soon as possible after the accident occurs. The sooner evidence can be gathered appropriately, the better your case’s chance of success will be.
An experienced Columbia, MO premises liability lawyer from Thomas Law Offices will do everything they can to help you and your loved ones receive the financial compensation you need and deserve to get back on your feet again. Contact our firm today to schedule your case evaluation.