Have you been injured on someone else’s property in or near the Austin area? Were you injured because that property owner was negligent? If so – or if you’re not sure – it’s important to discuss your case and your rights as soon as possible with an Austin premises liability lawyer.
Let’s say you are injured by slipping or tripping and falling. Slip- or trip-and-fall accidents frequently cause head and brain injuries, back and neck injuries, spinal cord damage, contusions, broken bones, and other injuries.
It could happen on a staircase or escalator, on a damp or slippery floor, in a parking lot, or on a sidewalk. The most severe slip- or trip-and-fall injuries, as you might guess, are suffered by the elderly. Shoppers are also sometimes injured at retail locations by shopping carts or falling merchandise.
If you are injured on private property, can you recover compensation? Can you prove that a property owner’s negligence was a direct cause of your injuries? Keep reading for answers to these questions and for a brief discussion of premises liability in Texas and your rights.
What Does Texas Law Require?
Premises liability laws attempt to balance a property owner’s responsibilities with the responsibility of visitors to act cautiously and look out for themselves.
By law, homeowners, landlords, and businesses in Texas must keep their premises reasonably free of possible hazards to customers, employees, residents, and the public at large. You’ll frequently see the word “reasonable” in almost every discussion of premises liability law.
Employees who sustain job-related injuries may be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, if you are injured on private property and your injury is not work-related, the law in Texas entitles you to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and more if:
- You’re injured on someone else’s private property.
- You’re injured because that property owner was negligent.
- You and your premises liability attorney can prove both #1 and #2.
If You Are Injured on Private Property, Take These Steps
Some injuries may be hard to detect; others may remain latent and emerge days or weeks later as serious medical conditions. If there is any possibility whatsoever that you’ve been injured in a trip-and-fall or slip-and-fall incident, you should be seen by a healthcare provider at once.
A prompt medical exam also creates the documentation you need for a premises liability claim. But if you aren’t examined promptly, a property owner may claim that you must not be seriously injured if you did not seek immediate treatment, and a premises liability trial jury might agree.
If you are not incapacitated, take photographs of the location where you tripped or slipped. Also, if you can, ask any eyewitnesses for their names and contact information. If you decide to take legal action, you and your attorney may need the testimony and statements of those witnesses.
Keep the clothes you were wearing when you were injured and anything else that might be considered “physical evidence.” Don’t wash the clothes, because you don’t want to lose blood evidence, scuff marks, or anything else those items might reveal about your accident and injury.
How Do You Handle the Property Owner’s Insurance Company?
If you’re injured on private property, the owner’s insurance company may contact you. Refer the call to your lawyer. Make no statement to the insurance company, sign no insurance document, and accept no settlement offer.
Focus on regaining your health, and let your Austin premises liability lawyer do the talking and negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf. Premises liability attorneys routinely negotiate these cases, and they’re familiar with the negotiating tactics of insurance companies.
How Is Liability Determined in Premises Liability Cases?
Most premises liability cases focus on what a property owner knew or should have known and whether the owner took “reasonable” steps to repair a hazard on the premises. These questions will need to be answered:
- When did the hazard emerge?
- How long was the hazard there before the victim was injured?
- Did the owner have a “reasonable” amount of time to repair or eliminate the problem?
When a property owner learns about a leak, a cracked sidewalk, or any other potential hazard, it may reasonably take a few days to find the right repair person and schedule the repair work. At any location that’s open to the public, warning signs should be posted until that work is done.
How Are Most Premises Liability Claims Settled?
The majority of Texas premises liability cases are settled privately and out-of-court before a trial can begin. If liability is disputed, or if the extent of your injuries is disputed, and if no reasonable settlement offer is made privately, your premises liability attorney will take your case to trial.
At trial, your attorney will explain to the jurors what happened, and the jurors will determine if the property’s owner was negligent when that owner failed to repair the hazard that injured you.
How Do Property Owners Defend Themselves in These Cases?
If you bring a premises liability claim after you’ve been injured on someone’s else’s property, the owner may try to place the fault back on you by making one or more of these allegations in his or her defense:
- You weren’t paying attention to where you were going.
- You were trespassing, or you were injured in a location that’s not open to the public.
- The hazard area was clearly marked with warning signs and/or yellow cones.
- A “reasonable” person would have noticed and avoided such an “obvious” hazard.
When Should You Contact a Premises Liability Lawyer?
The statute of limitations for premises liability claims in Texas – the deadline for initiating legal action – is two years from the day you were injured. If you don’t act within that two years, you lose the right to have a court hear your case, and you lose the right to compensation.
But if you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, do not wait two years and then scramble to file an injury claim at the last minute. Don’t even wait two weeks. Your lawyer needs to examine the evidence while it’s fresh and question the witnesses before their memories fade.
After you’ve been seen, treated, and released by a medical provider, make the call to a premises liability attorney. Your first consultation with an Austin premises liability attorney is provided with no cost or obligation, and you’ll receive the personalized, specific legal advice you need.
Furthermore, because premises liability lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, you will pay no attorney’s fee until and unless your attorney recovers the compensation you are entitled to, need, and deserve.