Godfrey, Leibsle, Blackbourn & Howarth, S.C.
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Elkhorn, WI

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When does premises liability apply if you get hurt at a business?

If you own your own home, you probably already know a little bit about premises liability. After all, your mortgage company would have insisted that you purchase a homeowner’s insurance policy, likely funded through an escrow account, in order to protect you from financial liability if someone gets hurt at your house.

The point of that policy is to protect your lender from losses if someone brought a claim against you and ended up winning such a large amount in court that they could take your house away or at least place a lien against it.

The kind of liability that comes from someone getting hurt on your property doesn’t just apply to you as a homeowner. That same premises liability applies to businesses that make their facilities open to the public.

A business has premises liability when negligence contributes to a loss

Generally, you can’t hold a business accountable for something that resulted from your own bad decisions. For example, if a business has a warning placed at the top of a steep set of stairs that the stairs are dangerous and you attempt to navigate them while wearing high heels after drinking several glasses of wine, the business is less likely to be liable for your injury in that situation.

However, if there was no sign warning you of the steep or slippery stairs, if there was a spill or a piece of peeling flooring that caused you to trip or if there were no lights on in the stairwell, those could all be sources of premises liability for the business. If adequate maintenance or common-sense practices could have reduced your risk of getting hurt, the business could have some degree of liability for what happened.

Whether you slipped in a puddle that a worker failed to clean up or put a sign next to or you got hurt in a poorly lit area due to lack of visibility, the potential exists to bring a premises liability claim against the company’s insurer or even a civil lawsuit in certain cases.

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