Watch Your Step: Premise Liability

Author: Russ Janklow

Whether you’re in a vehicle or walking on an icy path, winter travel can be a perilous ordeal. When an injury occurs because of a slip or fall, the main question to answer, from a legal standpoint, is one of who is responsible. And the answer can be complicated.

Determining the burden of obligation in these cases involves the examination of premise liability, or the legal responsibility of a property owner to ensure that their property is safe. Keeping a property safe involves mitigating hazardous conditions, such as slippery floors and dimly lit areas.

Premise liability applies to all property owners, but there are differences in the specific terms covering homeowners, landlords, and business owners. The most recognized form of premise liability is that which applies to business owners.

In South Dakota, an individual who enters onto a property to conduct business is referred to as an invitee, and business owners have the responsibility of keeping their invitees reasonably safe. This responsibility springs from the idea that, in general, a business owner has a better knowledge of a property than any guest, and can thus better ensure safety from hazards.

A property owner can be held liable for a slip and fall injury on their land if at least one of the following statements is true:

  1. The owner caused the dangerous condition.
  2. The owner had prior knowledge of the dangerous condition, but ignored it.
  3. The owner was told about the dangerous condition, but failed to follow through in correcting it.

It is also important that the dangerous condition be a hazard that the injured party should not have been able to realistically anticipate. In other words, even invitees are responsible for exercising care in the face of obvious dangers to preserve their own safety. However, if you have taken reasonable precautions and you are injured at a place of business, you may be able to recover expenses from medical bills and lost income, as well as pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one sustains an injury in a fall, there are several steps you can take to preserve the story of events that could help in a future case. The first step is to seek medical attention – both for your health and to ensure that your injuries are officially documented. It is also crucial that you report your fall to the property owner immediately after the accident occurs – be that a manger or landlord. Ask them to file a report for the incident and get a copy if possible.  You should also try to document the incident yourself. Take photos of the location of your fall and collect contact information from any witnesses of the fall.

Don’t let a slip and fall wreak havoc on your livelihood. The experienced attorneys at Janklow Law can help you interpret the specifics of the premises liability law that’s relevant to your case. We are committed to ensuring that you receive the proper compensation that will help you recover your health and maintain your future wellbeing.