Personal injuries can arise in a wide variety of circumstances. Sometimes they’re the result of a bike or car accident that leads to physical damage and personal injuries. Other times, they can be the result of unsafe circumstances at work such as a faulty railing or broken equipment.
Many personal injuries also arise because of dangerous conditions on another individual’s property. These conditions (like a crumbling step, broken door, or slippery floor) can occur when visiting a friend, attending an event, or shopping for groceries. Depending on the circumstances, the individual who owns the property may be liable for the injuries that you incur and may owe you damages as a result.
Premises Liability in Cedar Rapids
Injuries that occur as a result of dangerous conditions on another individual’s property are known as premises liability actions. That is, the owner of the property may be liable for injuries that occur on his or her premises. How and when an owner can be held liable depends on the condition that caused the accident and the reason that the injured individual was on the property. Specifically, the requirements are different for those individuals who are invited onto the property (invitees) and those who entered the property without permission (trespassers).
The Responsibility for Invitees in Iowa
Invitees are individuals that have been invited onto a property in some fashion. This could be because they are customers visiting a store, workers making a delivery, or friends coming over for the evening. When invitees are on another’s property, the owner of the property owes them a duty of reasonable care. When the owner fails to meet that duty and the invitee is injured, the owner may be held negligent and responsible for the injuries.
Specifically, under Iowa law, an owner may be held responsible for the injuries of another where he or she:
- knows about a danger or a risk on his or her property, such as a pothole or a broken step;
- knows or should have known that an invitee would not know about the risk or realize its dangers (perhaps because they were not visible);
- fails to take action to reasonably protect the invitee from the risk; and
- the invitee is injured as a result of the danger or risk
First of all, this requires that the owner had knowledge of the dangerous condition. Where the danger is unknown to everyone, including the owner, the owner cannot be held responsible for a failure to protect the invitee.
Second, the owner must also know or have reason to believe that the invittee would not be aware of the risk. Thus, where the risk is a giant swimming pool in the middle of the lawn, the owner may be able to claim that he or she assumed that an invitee would see the swimming pool and avoid it.
Third, the owner must also not have taken any action to protect the invitee from the risk. Where the owner attempts to protect someone and the invitee injures himself or herself anyway (perhaps by going around a safety barrier), the owner also is not liable for these actions.
Finally, the risk itself must actually cause the injury. The invitee cannot claim damages simply because the risk existed if he or she was not injured by it. All of this means that while owners can certainly be held responsible for injuries that occur on their property, the injury must be the result of some misconduct, or failure of conduct, by the owner.
What About Trespassers?
Because trespassers are on the property without permission, they are subject to much harsher standards when evaluating whether an owner can be liable for their injuries. Owners generally do not owe a duty to protect individuals who they don’t even know are on their land.
Instead, owners will typically only be liable to trespassers if they take action to intentionally inflict injuries on those trespassers – such as by setting up traps or other obstacles that make the property dangerous for others.
Considering the Actions of Invitees as Well
As with all types of negligence claims, the fault of an owner for a personal injury that occurs on their property must also be balanced against any fault of the invitee who visits. This does not mean that invitees should be held responsible for dangers they could not have known about. It means the invitees where they were the invitees aware of a danger and proceeded to take the risk anyway – they cannot pin all of the fault on the owner.
For example, if a customer is at a store with a water spill and watches several other customers fall on the spill but then walks on it anyway, the customer cannot say that the owner is wholly to blame if the customer then falls. Instead, the customer bears some responsibility, or comparative fault, for the injuries.
When the actions of the invitee are primarily responsible for the accident, this may mean that – even though the injury resulted on the owner’s property from a danger that existed there – the invitee is the one who must bear the responsibility. As a practical matter, the courts will have to decide who is most at fault. Invitees should be aware of this when pursuing their claims.
Iowa Attorneys Helping You Fight Back against Dangerous Conditions
Premises liability actions can often arise suddenly and unexpectedly from a condition or circumstance that an invitee could not have expected. When this happens, it can be difficult to figure out if someone is to blame for your injury or if it is simply a situation of bad luck.
Knowledgeable personal injury attorney, Jonathan D. Schmidt, frequently works with individuals who have been injured in slip and fall accidents. Whether it is because of faulty construction or as a result of property that has not been taken care of, he can help you to determine whether a premises liability action might be possible in your case. For more information, contact us online or at (319) 423-3031.