By Pendergast Law on June 17, 2016
Hazards on personal, private, or public property can cause long-lasting injuries that can be costly in terms of both your health and your finances. Understanding the law about premises liability can help you recover damages.
Types of Premises Liability
In Seattle, as in the rest of Washington State, property owners have legal obligations to keep premises properly maintained. Some of the more common premises liability cases involve structural defects such as dangerous elevators or escalators, stairs with loose railings or steps, and ceiling or balcony collapses. Poor maintenance such as wet and slippery floors is a premises liability. Premises hazards are not always indoors. Property owners are liable for outdoor maintenance to prevent hazardous situations. Snow or ice on the property, poorly maintained parking lots or sidewalks, and defective swimming pools are liabilities.
During renovation or construction, improperly marked construction areas are hazards. The most common premises liabilities are swimming pools that constitute hazards and do not enhance a property owner’s insurance costs. Drowning incidents are frequent on premises. While gates and pool coverings may give some security, swimming pools in liability situations are considered “attractive nuisances.”Children in particular are attracted to unattended swimming pools. It is up to property owners to decide if the potential costs of swimming pools, both in tragedy and financial liabilities, are worth the inherent risks.
Other premises liabilities include not securing areas against such dangers as dog attacks, and trespassing that may result in crimes against plaintiffs. Securing animals that may attack is again important when children are on the premises, since these attacks have devastating consequences. Property owners can be liable if crime is committed on the premises from inadequate security measures.
Who is Liable in a Premises Liability Claim?
Usually the premises owner is liable for any incidents resulting in injuries to the plaintiff. However, plaintiff liability is important. Premises owners are less liable if a plaintiff is intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. It is the responsibility of the plaintiff to maintain reasonable awareness of the surroundings, something not possible with intoxication. Furthermore, premises owners are not liable for injuries when plaintiffs have trespassed on the property. The exceptions to this dismissal of trespasser liabilities are children, the cognitively handicapped, or seniors with dementia who lack the maturity or ability to understand the concept of property and potential dangers. In this situation, the premises owner has the burden and liability of securing the property against those who cannot defend themselves against hazards.