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Taking a walk in the park, browsing a grocery store, or even visiting a friend’s house – everyday activities that can suddenly turn disastrous if you’re injured due to dangerous conditions on someone else’s property. But what recourse do you have? Are you able to sue if you’re hurt on public or private property in South Carolina? The answer lies in a legal concept called premises liability

What is Premises Liability in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, Premises Liability holds property owners accountable for ensuring their premises are safe for visitors. Think of it as a kind of responsibility contract between you and the owner. If they breach that contract by failing to keep the property safe and you’re injured as a result, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim.

What are the Different Types of South Carolina Premises Liability Claims?

Premises liability encompasses a wide range of situations, including:

  • Dog Bites Imagine enjoying a stroll through the neighborhood, only to be attacked by an unleashed dog. Dog bites can cause serious injuries, and property owners have a duty to control their animals and prevent such incidents.
  • Slip & FallsA seemingly harmless spill on a grocery store floor could lead to a nasty fall and broken bones. Property owners are responsible for keeping their premises free of hazards that could cause slip and fall accidents.
  • Swimming Pool Accidents: A refreshing dip in a friend’s pool can turn tragic if there are faulty diving boards, inadequate fencing, or a lack of proper supervision. Property owners have a heightened duty to ensure the safety of anyone using their pool, especially children.
  • Stadium Injuries Cheering on your favorite team at the stadium shouldn’t come with the risk of falling debris or slippery walkways. Stadium owners have a responsibility to maintain the safety of their premises and patrons.
  • Injuries Near a Construction Site Construction zones can be inherently dangerous, with exposed wires, falling debris, and heavy machinery. Property owners and contractors must take proper precautions to protect anyone near the construction site.
  • Park & Playground InjuriesPlaygrounds should be havens for fun, not places where children get hurt due to broken equipment or poorly maintained surfaces. Property owners responsible for parks and playgrounds must ensure their safety for young users.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive and this applies to both businesses and residences. So whether you’ve been injured in one of these scenarios or something else entirely, it’s always worth exploring your options with a knowledgeable premises liability lawyer.

Premises Liability

Is Premises Liability the Same as Negligence?

While premises liability falls under the umbrella of negligence, it specifically focuses on injuries that occur on someone else’s property.  So, if you’re hurt due to another person’s negligence (or business’s negligence) on their property, premises liability law may apply.

How to Determine if a Property Owner is Liable in South Carolina?

To hold a property owner liable for your injuries, you must prove three key elements:

  • Duty of Care: Determining the duty owed to you under South Carolina law dictates the standard that will apply.  The standard of the duty owed will be based on your classification as an Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser. Skip to the next section to learn more about these classifications.
  • Breach of Duty: The owner of the property violated their duty of care by failing to maintain the property safely or failing to warn of potential hazards. Imagine a broken stairwell in a restaurant with no warning signs – that could be considered a breach of duty.
  • Causation: The owner’s breach directly caused your injuries. This means proving that your injury wouldn’t have happened if not for the property owner’s negligence.

What are the 3 Classifications of Property Owner Visitors in South Carolina?

Understanding your classification as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser is crucial, as it determines the level of care the property owner owes you.

  • Invitee: A person invited onto the property for the owner’s benefit, like a customer in a store. Invitees deserve the highest level of care, with the owner expected to actively identify and fix or warn about any dangers.  However, Invitees can be broken down into two further subcategories, a Public Invitee or a Business Invitee.  
    • A Public Invitee is invited onto the property and enters for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public.  
    • A Business Invitee is invited onto the property for the purpose directly related to the business.
  • Licensee: Someone on the property with the owner’s permission but not for their benefit, like a social guest. The owner owes them reasonable care to avoid causing harm and a duty to warn about concealed dangers.
  • Trespasser: Someone on the property without permission. The owner’s only duty is to refrain from injuring them intentionally.

What is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?

This important doctrine protects children from hidden dangers on someone else’s property, recognizing that their natural curiosity and lack of judgment can lead them into harm’s way. Imagine an unfenced swimming pool readily accessible to children – the owner could be held liable if a child drowns due to its attractiveness. For this doctrine to apply, specific conditions must be met:

  • A dangerous condition exists on the property. This could be anything from an unfenced pool to a rusty trampoline or sharp objects left exposed.
  • The condition is especially attractive to children. It must be something that would naturally pique a child’s curiosity and entice them to explore, posing a potential risk.
  • The owner has knowledge of the dangerous condition and the likelihood of child trespass. It’s not enough for the danger to exist – the owner must be aware of both the hazard and the possibility of children accessing it.
  • The injury is reasonably foreseeable. This means that a reasonable person, considering the circumstances, could have anticipated a child being injured by the hazard.

Swimming pools are classic examples of attractive nuisances, but other instances may also qualify. In South Carolina, courts have considered abandoned refrigerators, trampolines, construction sites, and even piles of lumber as potential dangers under this doctrine.

Who should a South Carolina Premises Liability Lawsuit be filed against?

Determining who to hold liable in a premises liability case can be complex, as multiple parties may share responsibility. It could be the property owner, tenant, manager, or even a contractor working on the premises. Consulting with a Charleston Premises Liability Lawyer like Cannon Law can help navigate this intricate issue and identify the responsible party who should be held accountable for your injuries.

What are Common Defenses in Premises Liability Cases?

Property owners may use various defenses to try to avoid liability, such as:

  • Express Assumption of Risk: This defense claims that you willingly took on the risk of injury by engaging in a certain activity, like diving into a shallow pool. However, the burden of proof lies with the property owner to demonstrate that you truly understood and accepted the risk involved.
  • Open and Obvious: This defense argues that the danger was clear and apparent, and you should have avoided it. However, courts consider factors like a child’s age and understanding when determining whether a hazard was truly “open and obvious” to them.
  • Modified Comparative Fault: This defense acknowledges the property owner’s partial fault but also assigns a percentage of responsibility to the injured party. In South Carolina, if your contribution to the injury exceeds 50%, you cannot recover damages.

What types of damages are there in Premises Liability Cases?

If you’ve been injured in a premises liability case, you may be entitled to various types of compensation, including:

  • Economic Damages: These cover tangible losses resulting from your injury, such as medical bills, lost wages, and future medical expenses.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These compensate for intangible losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Punitive Damages: In rare cases, if the property owner’s conduct was willful or reckless, punitive damages may be awarded to punish them and deter future similar behavior.

To learn more about the different types of damages and how they compare, read our blog.

What are the Statute of Limitations in South Carolina for Premises Liability Lawsuits?

Time is of the essence in premises liability cases. Generally, you have 3 years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit. If you’re suing the government, the time limit is typically shorter, at 2 years. Don’t let the statute of limitations bar your right to seek compensation – take action promptly by consulting with a qualified attorney.

Do I Need a Premises Liability Attorney?

Premises liability cases can be complex and challenging, involving intricate legal nuances and complex factual investigations. Navigating these complexities alone can be overwhelming. Partnering with a seasoned Charleston premises liability lawyer like Cannon Law is crucial to maximizing your chances of success. We have the experience and expertise to:

  • Investigate your case thoroughly, gathering evidence and witness statements.
  • Build a strong legal strategy tailored to your specific circumstances.
  • Negotiate with insurance companies for fair compensation.
  • If necessary, take your case to trial and fight for your rights in court.

Cannon Law – North Charleston Premises Liability Lawyers

Being injured on someone else’s property can be a confusing and frustrating experience. Navigating the legalities of premises liability can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through it alone. At Cannon Law, we understand the complexities of these cases and are dedicated to helping injured victims get the compensation they deserve. With a proven track record of success and a compassionate approach, we’re here to guide you through every step of the process.

If you’ve been injured on public or private property in South Carolina, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced North Charleston Premises Liability Attorneys at Cannon Law. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Let us fight for your rights and hold the responsible party accountable.

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