When you go shopping, out to eat, or visit a friend, you don’t expect to be seriously injured. But that’s what happens to thousands of people in central Illinois every year — at malls, restaurants, hotels, gyms, and even in homes. You expect a property or business owner to use reasonable care, so that your visit doesn’t result in a broken bone, a bad sprain, a head injury, or any other harm that results in big medical bills, loss of wages, and suffering. You should also expect to be able to recover your losses from them or their insurance company if they were irresponsible or negligent in maintaining the property, causing injury to you or a loved one. Premises Liability Law ensures that you can. It’s based on the principle that a property owner has a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe to prevent harm to their guests, customers, and visitors. But making a claim can be tricky and you’ll need an experienced premises liability attorney to get the compensation you deserve. To get started or learn more, consult with our Decatur injury team today.
Illinois Premises Liability Law
Under the old common law, a property owner’s duties depended on the status of the injured party — as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. An invitee was someone who had the owner’s express or implied permission to enter the property, usually for the owner’s benefit — such as a customer, sporting event spectator, contractor working on the premises, babysitter, etc. A licensee also had permission to enter, but was coming onto the property for their own purposes — such as social guests, a salesman, etc. A trespasser, of course, was someone who wasn’t authorized to be on the property at all. Traditionally, an owner owed the invitee a duty of reasonable care to keep the property reasonably safe for the invitee. A lesser duty was owed to a licensee. And no duty was owed to a trespasser, unless it was a child. The Illinois Premises Liability Act (740 ILCS 130) abolishes the common law distinction between duties owed to invitees and licensees, but retains the distinction for duties owed to trespassers. Under the Act, the duty owed by owners or occupiers of property to invitees or licensees is one of “reasonable care under the circumstances regarding the state of the premises or acts done or omitted on them.” A property owner may become liable because of a hazardous condition that they allow on the property if they:
- know or, with reasonable care would discover, that a condition involves an unreasonable risk of harm to those entering the property;
- should expect that a guest would not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it; and
- fails to exercise reasonable care to protect or warn them against the danger.
So, Illinois law requires owners and occupiers to take reasonable care that the property is properly maintained and free of hazards that might harm a guest. Entrants to a property are also entitled to prior knowledge by being given notice of any known defects or hazards.
Under Illinois law, it’s not always the owner of the property that’s liable. The party in possession or control of a premises, that is, the party who currently occupies and controls access, assumes liability. That means that another party, like a construction contractor or a renter, provided they are currently occupying and controlling access to a property, may be the one responsible for any negligence that leads to an injury to a guest or visitor.
Illinois property owners do not owe any duty to adult trespassers, except to refrain from willful or wanton conduct that would compromise their well-being. Such conduct might involve an activity or condition on the premises specifically designed to hurt a trespasser — such as setting a booby trap.
This situation is different for a child who comes on a property without permission. An owner might still be responsible for a trespassing child who is injured because of an “attractive nuisance” — like an unfenced swimming pool or a trampoline. A higher duty of care is owed to children who could foreseeably be harmed by certain hazards.
Illinois law provides or the recovery of damages if you’re injured because of the negligence or carelessness of a property owner or occupier. But the law is complex and there are deadlines to meet and many elements to prove in a successful claim. Early consultation with an experienced premises liability attorney is crucial for a successful outcome.
Elements of a Successful Premises Liability Claim
To make a successful premises liability claim in Illinois, you’ll have to show that:
- there was a dangerous condition on the property that presented an unreasonable risk of harm,
- the owner knew, or reasonably should have known, both the condition and the risk that it posed,
- a reasonable owner would not have expected that those coming on the property would realize the danger — the hazard wasn’t obvious,
- the owner’s actions or failure to act to discover, fix, or warn of a hazard was negligent,
- this negligence was the cause of your injury.
Of course, the person in control of the property (or their insurance company) will argue that the injury was your fault. Illinois uses a “modified comparative negligence rule” to determine relative fault. That means that any damages are reduced according to the percentage of your fault. And, if you’re deemed more than 50% at fault, under Illinois law you can’t recover anything at all from the property owner. If you were injured while acting in an unexpected, unauthorized, or dangerously careless way — the owner or occupier wouldn’t be responsible. For example if you slide down the handrail on a stair and it breaks and you fall, you have comparative fault. Similarly, you’re expected to do everything in your power to avoid injuries. If there is a large and obvious pothole on a sidewalk, you’re expected to walk around rather than through it. Other arguments insurance companies might make include:
- you entered a part of the property you weren’t authorized to be in
- you didn’t pay attention; for example, you were distracted by your phone
- the hazard was clearly marked and you didn’t heed the warning
- you weren’t wearing the proper footwear for the conditions
Another wrinkle in premises liability claims is the fact that the owner of a piece of property isn’t necessarily the one responsible. For example, a landlord may own a building, but the business or tenant that rented the property may be responsible for the hazardous condition. It can be challenging to sort out how much liability, the owner has, versus how much the occupier has. Each insurance company will point the finger at the other.
Due to the complexity of these cases, you need someone in your corner to guide you through the process and advocate on your behalf. The insurance companies defending property owners will have a lawyer or a team or lawyers working to deny injured people justice, you should have someone fighting for you.
What time limit applies to Premises Liability Cases?
Like every state, Illinois sets a time limit for making a premises liability claim. Civil actions for a personal injury generally have to be undertaken within two years after the injury. However, there may be situations where this “statute of limitations” may be paused or “tolled”, giving you more time to make your claim, like in cases where the injured party is a child. In some situations, like claims against government entities, a shorter one-year statute of limitations may apply. The best way to know what statute of limitations applies to your case is to talk to an experienced Decatur premises liability lawyer.
Examples Of Premises Liability Cases
Many types of personal injury cases and other property hazards come under the heading of premises liability:
- slip and fall accidents
- failure to properly maintain stairs, sidewalks, and pathways
- tripping on hidden ropes or power cords
- merchandise or materials falling from high shelves
- faulty doors
- shopping cart injuries
- improperly secured rugs or carpets
- dog bites and animal attacks
- open, unguarded swimming pools
- poor maintenance of fitness equipment in gyms
- elevator and escalator injuries
- injuries related to ongoing construction or repairs
- attacks resulting from inadequate security
- accidents related to inadequate lighting
- accidents related to hazardous conditions created by snow and ice removal attempts
- amusement park injuries
- toxic chemicals or substances, like lead or asbestos
- substandard construction or building materials with manufacturing defects
- building code violations
- fires resulting from hazardous conditions
- poisoning by food served on the premises
Whatever the cause, if the injury resulted because of the negligence of a property owner or occupier, you’re entitled to recover damages for whatever losses you suffered. You should have an experienced premises liability lawyer working for you to make sure that you get what you deserve for the injuries you’ve suffered.
Get Help Now
Contact us now for a no obligation, free legal consultation, so we can inform you about all your options and guile you through the process. The sooner you reach out, the faster we can get to work for you and help let you get back to your life.