If you’re injured on someone else’s property, you might be entitled to compensation — and if you’re a property owner, you’re responsible for maintaining safe conditions to prevent those injuries from happening. This is all part of what’s known as premises liability.
“In premise liability cases, a person is hurt and alleges that their injuries were caused by a property owner’s failure to maintain his or her property in a reasonably safe condition, including warning of any hidden or lurking dangers,” says Michael McLean, a lawyer at Wall, McLean & Gallagher LLC, a law firm with offices in Helena and Anaconda. They’ve helped hundreds of people through personal injury cases and have tried cases in state and federal court and have argued cases before the Montana Supreme Court.
Here’s everything you need to know about premises liability.
What Exactly is Premises Liability?
“Premises liability is an area of the law in personal injury cases where a person is injured due to an unsafe condition on someone’s property,” McLean says. The property owner will be held responsible if he or she has not maintained “reasonably safe” conditions — and Montana courts determine what that means by considering what the property is used for and who will visit, use, and occupy the property. Property owners are generally not liable for injuries caused by activities or conditions whose dangers are open and obvious.
What Are the Most Common Types of Premises Liability Cases?
Slip and falls are a very common example of premises liability cases. They also include dog bites, failure to perform maintenance to repair dangerous conditions (e.g. cracked sidewalk or loose banister), fires, flooding, and carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty appliances or heaters, McLean says.
What Does This Mean for Me as a Property Owner?
A major way for Montanans to maintain safe conditions on their property is to deal with snow and ice.
“Property owners cannot simply let snow and ice accumulate and take the position that ‘everyone knows snow and ice are slippery’ and thus attempt to avoid legal responsibility,” McLean says. “If it snows or is icy, the property owner should take steps to make the property safe.”
Business owners have the same responsibility to make sure their property is reasonably safe for the public.
Does Insurance Cover Premises Liability Cases?
It’s important to have property insurance, whether it’s homeowners’ insurance or commercial general liability insurance. These policies typically will cover injuries that occur on the property. If the property owner is indeed found to be negligent (i.e., they failed to make the property safe), the insurance will cover the injured person’s damages. That usually includes medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering.
What Should I do if I’m the One Who Was Injured on Someone Else’s Property?
Consult an attorney right away to determine whether you’re entitled to compensation.
“If you don’t talk to an attorney with premises liability experience right away, conditions on the property may be hard to identify or recreate,” McLean says. “Engaging an attorney that knows premises liability gives you a better chance of dealing with your injuries the best way possible.”
With offices in Helena and Anaconda, the trial lawyers at Wall, McLean & Gallagher LLC have over 60 years of combined legal experience and are passionate about representing hometown Montanans. They specialize in personal injury, car accidents, employment cases, wage claims, real estate disputes, dissolution, estates, and estate planning. For more information, visit them at MlfPllc.com or call (406) 442-1054.