Premises Law: Understanding Premises Injuries
Property owners and occupiers of property (parties who are responsible for properties, besides the owners themselves) have a legal responsibility to keep their premises safe for visitors. A property owner must do everything from clearing a walkway of debris or snow to cautioning visitors of a wet floor. Owners and occupiers need to be proactive in preventing slips, trips, falls and any other kind of accident in order to prevent an injury on their premises.
What Makes a Premises Dangerous?
Some of the dangers that the average premises must be safeguarded against include:
- Fire hazards
- Improper lighting
- Cracked, uneven or wet flooring
- Debris and other trip/slip hazards on walking surfaces
Property owners and occupiers must ensure that their properties adhere to all safety codes and regulations. This includes professional electrical work. All areas must be free from any potential falling objects. Owning or occupying a property means shouldering a lot of responsibility to make sure that the premises is secure and regularly inspected.
Duty of Care
In Canadian tort law, the duty of care requires property owners and occupiers to uphold a reasonable standard of care. In the case of a premises, the owner/occupier must provide a safe environment. If a reasonable standard of care is not met, then the owner/occupier could be found liable for any injuries incurred on the premises. What a reasonable standard of care is determined to be will vary depending on the circumstances and may include some of the following factors, and/or others: the nature of the property, the number and type of people who would be expected to be on the property; the types of activities that would be expected to take place on the property; the gravity of the harm that could occur if an accident happened; the cost and ease (or burden) that would have been involved in taking steps to remove or reduce the likelihood of an accident; whether the owner/occupier knew or should have known about the potential danger.
Degrees of Danger
Naturally, some environments or attractions require a greater standard of care. While a movie theatre needs to be safe from dangerous conditions, it is still inherently safer than a swimming pool or a Go Kart Track. Property owners and occupiers need to consider the business or buildings under their care, as well as the amenities. Restaurants that serve alcohol, for instance, have a greater likelihood of an injury on their premises than property owners/occupiers who do not and therefore have greater responsibility in certain circumstances.
Fulfilling a property owner/occupier’s obligations requires more than just keeping floors dry and free from hazards. It also means providing adequate security, especially in high risk areas like an underground parking garage. Failure to provide adequate security could lead to a claim in negligence.
Security personnel needs to be vetted, trained and equipped to handle different situations.
A building or business should be free of obstacles, meaning that entrances, exits and each floor should be accessible and free of hazards for everybody. A customer needs to be able to walk through each aisle without having to encounter dangerous conditions that could contribute to a slip and fall.
Premises need to be protected against foreseeable dangers. If an owner recognizes that only one security guard cannot provide enough coverage or a certain hallway is insufficiently lit, then he/she needs to fix these issues within a reasonable amount of time.
Canadian law does not expect property owners and occupiers to be soothsayers or insurers. The law expects them to act prudently to protect people on their premises from any foreseeable danger.
Regular Inspections and Employee Training
Property owners and occupiers must conduct regular inspections on everything from flooring to electrical systems to products on the shelves. They need to be aware of any expiration dates. Fire extinguishers must be readily available and first aid kits supplied. Employees must be trained on emergency procedures, including alarms and evacuations.
Defendants in these types of cases typically argue contributory negligence. An injured person is contributorily negligent when his/her own actions/omissions caused or contributed to his/her injury in some way. An injured person who is found to be contributorily negligent will have the amount of damages awarded to him/her, reduced by the percentage to which he/she is found to be at fault. The contributory negligence analysis involves answering the question: did the injured person fail to take reasonable care for his/her own safety?
A personal injury lawyer will assess any issue of contributory negligence and work to defend the injured person’s actions.
Is the Owner or Landlord Responsible?
With premises injuries, there is no exact science to determining liability. When an injury occurs on premises, an injured person must prove that negligence contributed to the unsafe circumstances and that he/she was in no way at fault.
There is a lot of work involved in a premises liability case, especially due to the complexitiesand nuances of tort law, which must be examined in the context of the facts of a particular case, no two being the same.
Work with Legal Experts
If you are injured on someone else’s premises then you might have a case against a propertyowner and/or occupier. You should remember that proving negligence is never easy, especially on your own. The dedicated premises injury lawyers at Mackesy Smye can help you understand the law and determine if you have a case.