DO ALABAMA PROPERTY OWNERS HAVE A DUTY TO PROTECT YOU FROM INJURY?
Property owners are obligated to keep their premises in a safe condition to prevent foreseeable injuries to those who enter their land. However, the duty that a property owner owes a visitor depends on the type of visitor who enters the land. Under Alabama law, visitors fall into one of three categories:
Invitees are owed the highest duty of care. This is generally someone who enters a property for business or commercial purposes, such as a store customer or hotel guest. A landowner is required to use reasonable care to keep the premises in safe condition for the invitee. Additionally, a property owner is obligated to warn an invitee of dangers that are known or should be known to the owner.
Licensees are owed a higher duty than a trespasser but less than an invitee. This is usually a social guest who enters a property for leisure purposes, such as someone attending a barbecue or birthday party at a friend’s house. A landowner has a duty to not willfully or wantonly injure the licensee, and to avoid negligently injuring the licensee after discovering a hazard. The landowner also must not expose the licensee to dangers such as traps, pitfalls, obstructions, and any other conditions that are created through the landowner’s active negligence.
Trespassers are persons who enter someone else’s property without the landowner’s permission. A trespasser is owed the lowest duty of the three categories of visitors. A property owner must not willfully or wantonly injure a trespasser through “pitfalls” or “booby traps.”
Trespassing children may be owed a higher duty than trespassing adults. Under the Doctrine of Attractive Nuisance, the duty may change if there is a dangerous condition on the owner’s land that one would expect to attract children, such as a swimming pool or play area. For the higher standard of care to apply, the owner must be aware of the existence and nature of the condition, the child must not appreciate the danger of the condition, and the child must not receive warning of the danger.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PREMISES LIABILITY CASES?
While each premises liability case differs, the following are some common examples:
- Slip & Fall due to slippery or wet floors
- Trip & Fall due to defective stairs, escalators, or elevators
- Falls due to uneven floorboards
- Falls due to obstructions or poor maintenance
- Poor lighting
A property owner may be held liable for a foreseeable third-party criminal act that happens because the owner breached the duty to keep the premises safe. For example, the owner of an apartment building in a crime-ridden neighborhood has an obligation to provide secure locks on each apartment unit. This type of case is known as a negligent security case.
ARE THERE TIME LIMITS FOR FILING A PREMISE LIABILITY LAWSUIT IN ALABAMA?
Alabama, like all other states, has a law called a statute of limitation which sets a lime limit for filing different kinds of lawsuits. For personal injury (premise liability) cases, the time limit in Alabama is two years, meaning you must file a lawsuit against any potential defendant within two years of the date of your accident.
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