Premises liability cases usually involve injuries to people who visit places like stores, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers or other businesses. Potential clients sometimes ask ‘do I need a lawyer to bring a premises liability lawsuit in Maryland?’
You don’t absolutely need a lawyer to bring any personal injury lawsuit, but it can be essential to winning your case to seek legal guidance through the process. Premises liability cases are rarer and more tricky than car accident cases. While the insurance companies have a tried and tested method of dealing with car accidents, albeit one that can leave you failing to recover what you deserve, the same cannot be said of premises liability cases.
Even if you suffer serious and even life-threatening injuries in a slip and fall, there’s no guarantee your lawsuit will be successful. Hiring a lawyer increases your chances of a better outcome.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we have filed many lawsuits against businesses, landowners, subcontractors, and others in premises liability cases. Talk to our Baltimore slip and fall lawyers as soon as possible if you were hurt by a hazard on someone else’s property. We will gather evidence on your behalf and build up a case against a property owner, manager, subcontractor or maintenance company.
The Elements of a Slip and Fall Premises Liability Lawsuit in Maryland
Premises liability cases are slightly different from car accidents. While all drivers have a duty to look out for others on the road, business owners do not always have a duty to the person who ends up hurt on the premises.
The elements of a premises liability lawsuit in Maryland are duty, breach, cause, and harm. A Baltimore premises liability attorney will explore all of these issues in building up your case.
Duty of Care
The visitor who ends up injured in a building or on land owned by the property owner must show he or she owed him a duty of care. When a shopper goes into a store when it’s open to the public, the store owner or another entity like a management company owes him a duty of care. The store relies on its shoppers. They are invited into the building. They should be protected from unforeseen trip hazards like boxes in the aisles, holes in the floor, or other things that may caused a slip and fall in a grocery store. At the other end of the spectrum, a store owner does not owe any duty to a burglar who breaks in at night and is hit on the head and injured by a heavy box that falls on him in the storeroom. There are shades of gray between these two examples.
People who are encouraged to visit premises such as shoppers at a store or guests at a hotel are invitees. The business has invited them onto the property. Businesses have a duty to run a safe establishment and to warn visitors about potential dangers. People who mop floors should always place warning signs around the slip hazard.
The law also recognizes the rights of licensees. These are people who enter premises with the implied or express permission of the owner for their own purposes. For example, a delivery driver who unloads drinks at a gas station is a licensee. The gas station owner owes a duty of care to the licensee but it is not as onerous as the duty owed to an invitee. The store owner is not expected to keep the backroom as safe as the public areas. However, the owner can be held liable for unforeseen hazards that injure the delivery driver.
The third category of person who gets injured on a property is a trespasser. Typically, trespassers have no right to bring a lawsuit because they have no right to be on the property. However, the law makes certain exceptions. For example, children who are injured after trespassing in a poorly secured swimming pool area, a rail yard or an electricity substation may be able to sue the property owner.
Property owners, managers, subcontractors, and others have a duty to maintain safe premises. A property owner could breach his duty of care by failing to mop up spilled substances, leaving trip hazards around a pool, and failing to repair rotten fences, decks or balconies. The property owner must provide warnings of wet areas after cleaning. A landowner or a property owner can also breach his duty if properties fail to comply with building codes. In some cases, people have fallen on stairs that failed to comply with Maryland codes. Owners of apartment complexes must maintain public areas like stairways in a safe manner. Owners and operators of places such as malls and movie theaters have a duty to provide an environment that is as safe as possible. They should employ security to mitigate crime threats.
You must have suffered harm to bring a premises liability lawsuit in Maryland. You should show that the harm was caused by the negligence of the property owner or another responsible party. It’s understandable to be angry if you slip and fall in a store or a restaurant, but hurt feelings won’t sustain a premises liability lawsuit. Typically, the victim should have suffered significant injuries to bring a lawsuit. Falls often result in fractures, particularly in older people. They are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury. However, it’s probably not worth bringing a lawsuit over a minor sprain or a twisted ankle.
Factors to Consider When Hiring a Maryland Slip and Fall Lawyer
Premises liability cases are complex. The property owner will often claim you contributed to your accident or he is not even in control of the premises.
The defendant must have exclusive control of a property to be held liable. This is relevant in situations like apartment complexes. Landlords have argued they do not have exclusive control inside apartments where tenants can create dangerous situations. However, the 1971 case of Blankenship v Wagner established outside back steps to a home were in exclusive control of the landlord even though many people used them.
Under Maryland law, you are barred from making a recovery if you were at all to blame for your accident. This is the strict law of contributory negligence. Maryland is one of just four states along with the District of Columbia that follows this unfair rule. Contributory negligence can be particularly difficult in cases involving snow and ice. In the winter, people who slip on snow and ice usually see it. They should be aware of the slip risk. Lawsuits against store owners who failed to clear the pavements or parking lots may be unsuccessful. Cases in Maryland suggest the situation with black ice is different. A visitor to a store or other business often fails to notice black ice. If the property owner is aware of it, he or she can be held liable. In cases involving tenants, the rights of an injured tenant may depend on the terms of the lease as they relate to snow and ice removal.
Who Can I Sue for a Slip and Fall in Maryland?
People who are hurt on land or in commercial businesses can bring premises liability actions against defendants including;
- The owners of big box stores like Walmart and Target;
- The owners, operators, and managers of malls;
- Parking garage owners and operators;
- Hotel, motel, and guest house owners;
- Restaurant owners and operators;
- Swimming pool owners, operators and managers;
- Daycare owners, and managers;
- Nursing home management and proprietors;
- Healthcare companies;
- Bar owners and managers;
- Vacation rental property owners;
- Resort managers;
- Owners of amusement parks;
- Apartment complex landlords;
- Owners of commercial buildings;
- Railroad and bus operators.
Consult an Experienced Baltimore Lawyer for Your Maryland Slip and Fall Lawsuit
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we are aware of the complexities of premises liability cases. The lawyers and insurance companies that represent stores or hotels often fight these cases hard. Although you don’t need a lawyer to bring a premises liability case it’s advisable. People hurt in slip and fall accidents often struggle to build a case. A Baltimore personal injury lawyer can request video evidence before it is destroyed and take witness statements. Hire a lawyer with a long track record in these cases in Maryland. Please contact us today for a free consultation.