Injuries on Private Property: What You Need to Know

Many people believe that if they become injured on the property of another, that party is strictly liable for their injuries.

However, that is not the law in the State of Illinois.

Before you seek damages for your injury, learn about your rights and the rights of the property owner. Know what to do if you are injured on private property. Here is some information from the attorneys at Wolter, Beeman, Lynch, and Londrigan, who specialize in personal injury cases.

Was the Property Owner Negligent?

Before you can seek compensation for injuries you suffered while on a property, you must first establish that the property owner was negligent in how he or she maintained the condition of his or her property.

In other words, the injured party must establish that the owner of the property created a condition, or allowed a condition to exist, which posed an unreasonable risk of harm to the injured party. Furthermore, the injured party must establish that the injuries received were a direct result of the condition of the property the injured party objects to.

For instance, if an injured party was invited on to the property of another, and while on that property, tripped and fell, thereby injuring themselves, the injured party would need to establish that:

  1. the cause of his or her fall was the result of some negligent condition the property owner allowed to exist on his or her property.
  2. the property owner knew or should have known the dangerous condition existed.
  3. they had sufficient opportunity to rectify or correct the condition prior to the injury having occurred.

In general, a party that owns, controls, or maintains property has a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Any dangerous condition, therefore, must be removed or corrected, or a warning to invitees, who might encounter the danger, must be provided.

Was the Danger Open and Obvious?

A property owner is generally under no obligation to guard against injury from open and obvious dangers. Open and obvious conditions are conditions and risks which are apparent to and would be recognized by reasonable people exercising ordinary perception, intelligence, and judgment in visiting the area.

Property owners are not expected to foresee an injury from open and obvious dangers because property owners are entitled to the expectation that those who enter upon their property will exercise reasonable care for their own safety.

Exceptions to Obvious Dangers: Distraction

However, Illinois courts have recognized some exceptions to this general rule. One of those exceptions is the “distraction” exception to the Open and Obvious Danger Rule grounded in foreseeability.

If a plaintiff’s attention was distracted from the obvious danger, because circumstances required him or her to focus on some other condition, such as looking for car keys, or the person’s car, or otherwise having their attention drawn away from the condition of the walkway, then the hazard may not have been obvious.

Was the Injury Foreseeable?

Under such circumstances, property owners must take reasonable care to protect invitees from harm, in spite of the open and obvious nature of the danger.

In determining whether a duty exists, courts have focused on whether the owner of the property should foresee that a patron may have their attention drawn elsewhere, and thereby overlook the condition of the walkway, which caused the injuries. In determining whether a duty exists, the focus is on the foreseeability of the injury, not whether a jury will consider the plaintiff contributorily negligent for looking elsewhere at the time of injury.

Was the Property Cared for?

All business owners must care for their property to allow users to use it in a reasonable way. If the the business owner knows of a dangerous condition of the property, a personal injury is foreseeable, and it’s relatively easy to correct, courts will often tell the property owner to repair and maintain the property.

Distractions can come in many forms and it’s not always foreseeable to predict the influence a distraction will have on hazard. All that is required is the property owner’s awareness that those close to the hazard are likely to become distracted in some way and be at risk of the hazard. Under these conditions, Courts will traditionally impose a duty upon the property owner to correct or warn of the condition. But a jury may still find that the injured party’s negligent conduct contributed to the injury.

What to Do if You’re Injured on Private Property

If you become injured while on private property, first determine the condition that caused the injury. What was the danger or hazard? If possible, take pictures of this condition. Can you find out how long that danger has been there? Was there enough time for the property owner to find the hazard and correct or repair it? You should also promptly contact an attorney, so that they can investigate the conditions on the property that led to your injury and preserve the evidence necessary to substantiate your claim.

Contact Wolter, Beeman, Lynch and Londrigan to get a free consultation regarding your personal injury case.