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When visiting a property, you may not often think about the potential risks or the legal responsibilities of the property owner. However, in Texas, if you are injured on someone else’s property, premises liability laws do come into play. These laws outline your rights and the obligations of property owners to ensure a safe environment. A premises liability lawyer in Huntsville, TX can tell you more specific to your case.

Premises Liability in Huntsville, TX: What Are Your Rights?

Basic Right to Safety

As a visitor, you have the right to expect a reasonably safe environment. Property owners are obligated to maintain their premises to prevent harm to guests. This includes the requirement to fix known hazards, like broken steps or loose railings, and providing warnings about potential dangers until they are fixed. If an owner neglects these duties, and you are injured as a result, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim.

For instance, if you slip on an unmarked wet floor in a store and suffer an injury, the store owner might be liable. It’s their responsibility to either promptly clean up hazards or clearly mark them to alert visitors. The key would be whether the owner knew about the spill and had enough time to get it cleaned up. So, if someone spills their own drink and immediately slips on it, the store owner would not be liable. If another customer spilled a drink a few hours ago, and it can be shown that the owner could reasonably have been expected to know about the spill, and then someone slips on it, it’s much more likely the store owner would be held liable.

Understanding the Duty of Care

Although generally you have the right to expect a safe environment, the law distinguishes among three types of visitors. Property owners have various duties to these three types: invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

Invitees, such as customers in a store, are owed the highest duty of care. Licensees, who are on the property for their own purposes but are not prohibited from being there, are owed a lesser duty, but owners must still warn them of known dangers. Trespassers, on the other hand, are owed the least duty of care. Although property owners cannot willfully harm them, they are not responsible to warn trespassers of hazards or fix those hazards, since they cannot have known that the person would be trespassing.

Right to Be Informed of Known Dangers

Property owners must inform visitors of any known dangers on the premises that may not be immediately obvious. If there is a risk that a reasonable person wouldn’t be able to identify, the owner should provide adequate warnings. Failing to do so can make them liable for any injuries resulting from that hidden danger.

For example, if there is a faulty electrical wire that poses a shock risk in a building, the owner should put up a warning sign or fix the issue. If you are electrocuted due to the owner’s failure to warn or rectify the situation, they could be held responsible.

Right to Compensation for Injuries

If you are injured on someone else’s property due to their negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. This compensation can cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the injury. The key factor is proving that the property owner’s negligence directly led to your injury.

To establish this, evidence such as photographs of the hazard, witness statements, and medical reports documenting your injuries are important. For instance, if you trip over an obstacle that should have been removed or clearly marked, documenting the scene and your injuries can support your claim for compensation. Video evidence in these instances can be helpful too, and this is often available for commercial properties.

Right to a Premises Liability Lawyer

In Texas, you have the right to legal representation in a premises liability case. Your lawyer can help you to bring a claim and ensure that it meets all the requirements of the law and has the best chance of success. Premises liability cases can be particularly difficult as they often involve arguments over the details of property law and the specifics of your situation, so having a lawyer here is important.

For example, say you were injured in a shopping mall. There may be one owner of the mall proper, multiple owners of the individual stores, and various entities responsible for management of various areas. Your lawyer can help you understand who is a liable and where to make your claim.

Understanding the Role of Comparative Fault

In premises liability cases in Texas, the concept of comparative fault has a lot to do with the final outcome. This means that if you are partly at fault for your injury, your compensation can be reduced by your percentage of fault. If you were found to be 20% at fault, for example, then your final award would be reduced by 20%. If you are more than 50% at fault, you cannot collect any compensation at all.

For example, if you were running in an area where running was clearly prohibited, and you slip and fall over a hazard the owner should have fixed, you may be found 40% responsible for your injury. If you were walking around normally, you would likely be considered not at fault at all.

Because comparative fault affects the potential compensation you can receive, it’s very important to minimize your liability. Even if you bear some responsibility, you may still be eligible for compensation, though it may be less than if the property owner were entirely at fault. Your lawyer will work to make sure you are not unfairly blamed for any fault you don’t hold.

Right to Fair Treatment by Insurers

When dealing with an insurance company in a premises liability case, you have the right to fair treatment. Insurers are obliged to act in good faith, which includes conducting a timely and thorough investigation of your claim and providing a fair settlement offer.

If an insurance company unreasonably delays, denies, or underestimates your claim, they may be acting in bad faith. In such cases, you have the right to challenge the insurer’s actions, and if necessary, pursue legal action against them for bad faith practices. Your lawyer can help you understand the time limits that Texas puts on insurance companies and whether an insurance company is violating those limits or treating you unfairly.

Right to Privacy in Medical Records

While your medical records are important in substantiating your premises liability claim, you also have the right to privacy. This means that only relevant parts of your medical history should be disclosed in the context of your claim. The property owner’s insurance company is not entitled to unrestricted access to your entire medical history. Any disclosure of medical records should be limited to information directly related to the injuries sustained in the accident. Always run any request for records past your lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.

You do have rights as a visitor to a property, and if you are injured, you have the rights to seek compensation for your losses. There can be some complicated regulations involved, so it’s always important to have a skilled premises liability attorney on your side. If you’ve been injured, contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer, in for help.

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