Throughout the US, owners occupying a property must make a reasonable effort to maintain a safe environment for those who visit it. Failure to do so may give rise to a premises liability lawsuit, and they can be found liable for damages arising from injuries occurring on their property.

Premises liability may involve a wide range of accidents. Some of the most common situations that may lead to related lawsuits include:

If you have a claim for injuries suffered on another person’s property, a key requirement is that you must prove that its owner acted negligently. Your injury lawyer will need to support your premises liability claim by presenting proof relating to several elements, and there are some steps that you should take to succeed in your claim.

In our state, the Colorado Premises Liability Act, referred to as the PLA (Title 13 of the Colorado Revised Statutes), sets certain legal statuses to prove a claim for damages, along with corresponding standards of care and various requirements [1].

If you were hurt while on someone else’s property, you deserve to be accurately informed about your rights, as you may be entitled to compensation. Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado are committed to assisting all injury victims and are here for you if you wish to find out what your options are. We treat each consultation with confidentiality and you will not have to pay us any fees until you recover your compensation.

Determining Your Legal Status

If you suffered an injury while on the property of another person or entity, the first thing that your lawyer will need to determine is your legal status on the property when your injury occurred. Simply put, the main question to answer is, “what were you doing on the property?” The answer to this will be decisive in many ways, including whether you are, in fact, eligible to bring a lawsuit against the property owner.

The three legal statuses relevant to premises liability cases in Colorado under the PLA are:

  • Invitee: Persons who have either direct or implied permission to be on the property in question, such as customers, clients, or tenants. For instance, if you are shopping at a clothes store, having a meal at a restaurant, or renting an apartment, you are considered an invitee of the respective business and property owners.
  • Licensee: Most commonly social guests (such as dinner guests at someone else’s home) but, generally, all those persons who enter or remain on a property with the permission of its owner.
  • Trespasser: Those entering or remaining on the property of another without the owner’s consent, the main example being burglars.

The PLA has more elaborate definitions of these categories and sets out the corresponding types of recovery available. These categories also affect the so-called duty of care. Simply put, a duty of care describes someone’s responsibility to maintain the health, safety, and well-being of others.

  • In general, property owners owe invitees the highest level of duty of care, so invitees often have better chances of obtaining compensation in a premises liability claim.
  • Licensees are owed a more limited duty of care than invitees, making such cases somewhat more challenging to prove.
  • Finally, when it comes to trespassers, things are even harder: damages may only be payable if they can prove that the property owner caused their injuries willfully or deliberately.

The Negligence Factor

To successfully support a premises liability case, your injury lawyer will have to show that the property owner in question acted negligently (or intentionally, if the incident involved a trespasser). To do so, they will need to prove the existence of all the necessary components of negligence. The core of this requirement is to establish that the property owner failed to take reasonable steps to fix an unsafe condition or to otherwise prevent an injury.

In summary, your lawyer will have to show that:

  • The property owner owed you a duty of care, in accordance with the applicable standards set by the PLA for each of the above three categories (i.e. invitee, licensee, trespasser).
  • The duty of care owed was breached by applying the “reasonably prudent person” standard—meaning whether a reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have acted in the same way under the same circumstances.
  • This breach is what caused your injury (the legal term for which is “causation”).
  • You suffered injuries that can be measured in monetary terms (referred to as “quantifiable damages”).

Once all the above can be shown by appropriate evidence, your premises liability case may be successfully pursued, leading to the award of relevant damages.

Comparative Fault

Even if it can be proven that the property owner was negligent, the law on premises liability cases in Colorado uses a so-called “modified comparative fault rule” in determining how damages are awarded and adjusted. In practice, this means that landowners may attempt to blame the victim for an accident, at least in part, using what is commonly referred to as the “comparative negligence” defense.

At the core of this notion is the expectation that visitors on the property of others also have a duty to take reasonable care to keep themselves safe while there: failing to do so and putting themselves in danger will be a relevant factor. Imagine, for example, a landowner who has an area of the garden cordoned off with a rope because there is a large hole there. She invites you to the garden and, while she’s fetching your drinks, you jump over the rope and fall into the hole. If sued, the landowner would likely argue that you failed in your duty to keep yourself safe.

Consequently, when determining the amount of damages you will be awarded, a court will take into account the question of whether you, too, may have somehow been at fault in causing your injury—for example, due to inattention, poor decision-making, or illegal activity on your part. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will obtain no compensation, but rather that the actual amount of damages you will receive in the end may be reduced by your percentage of fault.

What about Children?

A special note must be made about children (meaning minors under the age of fourteen) when it comes to premises liability cases. The law generally treats them differently than adults, as the doctrine of “attractive nuisance” may come into play, whereby the law recognizes that, basically, children will be children and adults should ensure their safety.

In a number of situations, children entering a property without permission won’t necessarily be considered trespassers. A property owner may, for example, have an attractive feature on their property that can attract children—referred to as an “attractive nuisance” by the law—such as swimming pools, trampolines, playgrounds, etc. Any children entering the premises to play there will likely not fall under the category of trespassers, so the owner may be held liable in case of an accident even if they haven’t actually invited the children to their property.

This makes cases of attractive nuisance extremely complex. They are among the most contentious topics for premises liability attorneys, who will need to show several elements in such cases, and you shouldn’t attempt to handle such cases on your own.

Ask Your Lawyer

All the above are clearly important (and often quite complicated) legal requirements that call for knowledge, expertise, and a proactive approach in this area of personal injury law.

To determine your position, chances of success, and the best way in which to approach your individual case, book an appointment for a free initial consultation with Legal Help in Colorado, and find out where you stand.

Practical Aspects

Your lawyer may pursue a premises liability claim in court or settle without going to trial. Either way, for your claim to be a success, you should pay attention to certain practical matters that will be necessary to prove your case and fulfill all the applicable requirements.

First of all, your injury lawyer will need to get a thorough account of the circumstances that led to your suffering harm. Let them know the precise timing of the incident, the reason why you were present at the property, what activities you completed there, the particulars of what caused you the damage, as well as your potential contribution to it. These details will help them decide the best way to approach and support your case.

As difficult as this may be if you are the victim of an accident that may give rise to premises liability, it is critical that you have the necessary reflexes to document things, thus enabling your lawyer to argue your case. You need to determine that the person or entity you are seeking damages from owned, occupied, leased, or otherwise controlled the property where your injury occurred. You must also show that they were negligent in terms of the way their property was used, maintained, or secured. Finally, you need to record the nature, extent, and impact of the injury you suffered.

To this end, it will be essential to gather and keep all relevant evidence as organized and easily accessible as possible:

  • Take as many pictures as possible of the hazard that led to your injuries, such as a faulty handrail, a slippery supermarket floor, or an icy parking lot. The closer to the time of the accident you can take them the better, as this will reflect the state of the premises when your injury took place.
  • If you reported the incident to the property owner or the police, ask for a copy of that report. If you didn’t file an official or written report but informed the property owner about your injury, make sure to make a note of the essential details, including the person you spoke to, their position, the precise time and date when you talked to them, etc.
  • All related medical records, as well as testimonies from your doctor and any medical experts concerning your injuries, must be in place for future use, as they are a crucial part of the evidence you will need to present.
  • Your medical bills will also be decisive in establishing the amount of compensation you will be seeking, as they will reflect the cost of the treatments for your injury.

Being injured on someone else’s property when this could and should have been prevented is not something you should simply accept without being informed of your rights. If you have been the victim of an accident that took place on a third party’s premises, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm you suffered, even if you think—or have been told by their insurance company—that this is not the case.

Contact Legal Help in Colorado

Ross Ziev and our legal team at Legal Help in Colorado have vast experience in helping injury victims from all walks of life recover damages. We are here to help you explore your options and pursue your case aggressively against any party that may be liable. We have years of experience winning claims for our clients and you won’t have to pay anything until we win your case.

Contact Legal Help in Colorado online for a free consultation, call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224, and find out the ways in which we can assist you.

References

[1] https://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Supreme_Court/Committees/Civil_Jury_Instructions_Committee/Chapter%2012.pdf