There’s one thing absolutely every homeowner, landlord and commercial property owner wants to avoid – and it’s not just a mold infestation, flood or fire – it’s a premises liability lawsuit. There are many scary things that can happen to you in life, but the thought of being served a complaint by a plaintiff who alleges that your negligently maintained property caused their injury or – even worse – the death of a loved one, is enough to give anyone nightmares.
There are some steps you, as a property owner, can take to help insulate yourself from the dangers of personal injury and premises liability lawsuits.
Carry Adequate Insurance
Having the right kind of property insurance coverage and an umbrella policy isn’t really a step you take to prevent an injury accident from occurring, but it can help ensure you are not financially ruined if you get sued in a premises liability personal injury case.
An umbrella insurance policy supplements your normal liability insurance and provides a much higher coverage limit. Many umbrella policies also cover types of claims that may not be covered under your normal liability coverage.
A traditional homeowners policy, for example, may cover your home’s rebuild cost if it were to burn down in a fire, but only provide minimal coverage if someone trips and suffers a spinal injury or head trauma on your property. An umbrella policy can provide a large amount of additional liability protection for a relatively low cost. These policies are usually an addon, or rider, for your property insurance policy, meaning you can’t purchase a standalone umbrella policy.
If you’re not sure an umbrella policy is necessary, consider this – even the highest liability coverage limits for standard home or auto insurance policies cap out at around $300,000 to $500,000. Roughly 15 percent of personal injury cases result in damages in excess of $1,000,000.
If the damages exceed your coverage limit, you’ll be expected to pay the excess verdict or settlement amount out of your own pocket, which can be financially ruinous.
The Most Common Types of Premises Liability Injuries
- Slip and Falls – These types of cases are pretty self-explanatory. They occur when someone slips or trips on your property and is injured when they hit the ground. People can trip on loose steps, icy outdoor walkways, wet floors or countless other potential obstructions. Even if you’re a responsible property owner there are some slip and falls that are unavoidable.
- Sick Building Syndrome or Other Environmental Hazards – Many people have mold allergies or can develop an illness from proximity or contact with some building materials, such as asbestos. If you’re the landlord of residential building and your tenant or their child gets sick from old lead paint you didn’t know was still on your property’s exterior walls, you could be held liable.
- Dog Bites – Dogs are great, loyal friends, but they can also be dangerous, especially if provoked. Georgia does not technically have a traditional one-bite rule, but it does have a slightly modified version. A one-bite rule essentially gives dog owners protection from liability for the first time their dog bites someone. The idea is an owner doesn’t know their dog is a danger to other people until the dog proves it by biting someone. Georgia law does have this feature except for instances where a leash is legally required. If your dog bites someone for the first time and it’s not on a leash where it is legally required to be on a leash, then you can be held liable. However, if the bite occurs in your home where a leash isn’t required then you should be protected from liability for that first bite. If your dog bites a guest in your home twice, you will be liable.
- Swimming Pool Injuries – Some of the most common premises liability injuries involve swimming pools, which have risks ranging from slip and falls on wet surfaces to injuries or wrongful deaths involving children who gain access to an improperly secured pool to diving accidents where someone jumps in the shallow end and smacks their head against the side or bottom of your pool.
Defense Against Premises Liability Lawsuits
The most obvious defense against premises liability suits is to maintain a safe, healthy property. If you take necessary precautions and don’t allow your property to fall into disrepair, hopefully no one will ever be injured on it.
The other important defense is putting up warning signs and taking action to rectify issues when they arise. For example, putting up a dog warning sign on your gate, a “no diving” sign at your pool or a “wet floor” sign if there are spills or leaks in a commercial or retail property where customers may be walking.
If someone ignores warnings that injury could occur and they become injured due to their own negligence, you may be able to escape liability, at least partially.
Have You Been Injured on Someone Else’s Property?
Have you suffered a dog bite, slip and fall, illness or some other type of injury due to a property owner’s failure to maintain a safe premises or their failure to warn guests or customers of danger? You may be able to file a personal injury claim for the pain, suffering and other damages you experienced as a result of your injury.
The personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Johnny Phillips have extensive experience representing people who have been injured due to property owner negligence. Call (833) 564-6693 for a free case evaluation to discuss the details of your case with Johnny or another trial attorney on the team.