Accidents can occur for a wide variety of reasons; however, there are some types of accidents that are more common than others. Falls, for example, are an extremely common type of accident that frequently result in injuries. Whether tumbling down a flight of stairs, tripping over an uneven sidewalk, or slipping on a wet floor, almost everyone has fallen at some point in their life. Yet most individuals are unaware that when they experience an accident on another’s property, they may be entitled to recover compensation for their injuries.
South Carolina requires property owners to take necessary precautions to keep their property or establishment safe for their customers, guests, and visitors. When property owners fail to ensure premises are reasonably safe, and as a result a visitor becomes injured, they may be liable for any resulting damages.
At Hughey Law Firm, we understand how dangerous these types of accidents can be. We also know how difficult it is for injured parties to demonstrate they are entitled to damages. However, our experienced South Carolina Premises Liability Lawyers regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they deserve. We strive to use our background and compassion to help our clients maximize their recovery.
Hughey Law Firm’s Success Story
The team of South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Hughey Law Firm understands how devastating premises liability cases are for victims and their families, alike. We also know what it takes to provide injured victims with empathic legal representation as they pursue justice. With experience and skill, the team at Hughey Law Firm has handled hundreds of personal injury cases involving a variety of accidents and recovered.
While we cannot promise any specific outcome for your case, we have more than $150 million for our clients in settlement awards and verdicts as of July 2020. We strive to give back to the legal community by sharing our experiences through education and lectures on all aspects of personal injury law.
What Is Premises Liability in South Carolina?
As mentioned, South Carolina property or landowners must maintain a safe environment to ensure that visitors do not suffer injuries on the premises. Premises liability is a specific legal concept, involving harm resulting from unsafe conditions or defects found on another’s property. When an injury occurs due to unsafe circumstances on a property, premises liability law holds the property owner responsible for the victim’s damages.
Premise liability lawsuits can be complicated because a wide range of accidents can occur on any property, including:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Elevator accidents
- Broken stairways accidents
- Negligent security accidents
- Building code violation accidents
- Poor lighting accidents
- Supermarket or grocery store accidents
- Dog bite accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
South Carolina’s Premises Liability Laws
In South Carolina, individuals who are injured while visiting another’s property may recover compensation from the property owner if the owner’s negligence contributed to their injury. Property owners have a legal duty to ensure that their property and premises are safe for their guests, clients, employees, visitors, and other customers. Failing to ensure the property is reasonably safe for visitors constitutes a breach of that duty, or negligence. When a property owner negligently maintains the premise, victims are legally entitled to seek compensation for the losses they incurred as a result.
Elements to Prove When Demonstrating Fault in South Carolina
Before an individual can recover damages in a premises’ liability claim, the victim needs to prove the following elements:
- The defendant owed the victim a specific duty of care.
- The defendant breached this duty of care by their negligent act.
- This breach resulted in the victim’s accident.
- The victim endured damages because of this accident.
The duty that a property owner owes to individuals who are physically present on the premises ultimately depends on the individual’s legal status as a visitor at the time of the accident.
South Carolina’s Categories of Guests
In South Carolina, four different classifications will determine the legal duty that a property owner owes a visitor. South Carolina law classifies visitors as Invitees, Licensees, Trespassers, or Children.
Invitee or Visitor. An invitee is an individual that has been invited onto another’s property for the benefit of the landowner. For example, a customer at a business establishment is invited to visit the business to purchase goods or services for the benefit of the business owner. Business or property owners owe invitees the highest duty of care. The duty of care owed to invitees requires the property owner to use reasonable and ordinary care to make sure the premises are safe. In addition, property owners have a duty to protect invitees from any injury caused by an unreasonable risk that the invitee could not discover on their own.
The duty owed to invitees requires the landowner to keep their property safe through regular inspections. For instance, a shop owner must regularly check the aisles to ensure that there are no dangerous liquids or substances that might cause their customers to slip and fall. And, if at any point there are present dangers on the property, the owner must warn the invitee of those dangers.
Licensee. The licensee is an individual who is a social visitor on another’s property for their own benefit, rather than the property owner’s benefit. Unlike invitees, licensees are not considered patrons of the property or establishment, but rather include family, friends, or other social guests.
When the individual is a licensee, the property owner is responsible for exercising reasonable care to ensure the property is safe. Owners must warn licensees of any dangerous property conditions that they are aware of but that are not easily discoverable by a guest.
Adult trespassers. An adult trespasser is an individual who enters another’s property or establishment without the owner’s permission.
Typically, a landowner does not owe a trespasser any duty or care, such as warning or protecting them from any harmful conditions. However, owners must not inflict any wanton or willful injury on trespassers (i.e., owners must not hurt them on purpose.)
Children. Under South Carolina’s premises liability laws, the duty owed to a child involves a higher standard of care than that owed to an adult. A child’s mental capacity and emotional immaturity require owners to provide extra protections to children on their property. A child trespassing on another individual’s land may be entitled to recover damages from a property owner if they were injured by an attractive nuisance on the premises.
An attractive nuisance is:
- An exposed dangerous condition that the property owner has failed to take reasonable actions to prevent children from being injured by the condition; or
- An artificial condition is located on the land that is attractive to the children that the property owner has failed to reasonably protect children from.
Property owners with an attractive nuisance on their property have a duty to take action to ensure children are reasonably safe from harm from the dangerous condition. For example, an empty swimming pool within sight from a road can create an attractive nuisance, especially when there are no warning signs present. Also, a vicious dog on the property that the owners do not reasonably restrain might create an attractive nuisance. Because children may be attracted to a pool or a pet, owners must implement safety measures to prevent injury to children on the premises.
South Carolina’s Deadline to File a Premises Liability Claim
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations allows injured victims to file a premises’ liability claim within three years of the date of the accident. However, generally, injured victims should initiate the claims process as soon as they are able. Delays in filing a claim may increase the likelihood that evidence and witnesses are no longer accessible or that memories of the incident fade. Although there are a few limited exceptions, in most cases, when the statute of limitations expires, victims will be barred from seeking compensation for their injuries.
What Do You Need to Do if You Have Been Injured on Another’s Property in South Carolina?
After suffering an injury on another’s property, to seek compensation, victims must demonstrate that the accident on the property caused their injuries—something that we help our clients do every day. Potentially helpful evidence may include:
Even if you do not think you have been seriously injured, it is still essential to get checked out by a medical professional. Some injuries, even life-threatening injuries, do not show immediate symptoms. Seeking a medical evaluation can reveal whether you may have injuries you are unaware of, provide you with the medical treatment you need, and document any injuries you suffered. Documentation of the injuries will be crucial evidence if you decide to pursue a claim.
If possible, make sure to take photos or videos of the accident scene, depicting the dangerous condition that caused your injuries. Photograph your visible injuries, the weather, the lighting, and any other aspects of the area that could help illustrate the defect or dangerous condition. Photo evidence can support your claims, should the property owner try to discredit your recollection of how your injuries occurred. Also, remember to take photos of your injuries.
Having witness statements to corroborate your recollection of the accident may be essential to proving a claim. If individuals witnessed the accident, victims should gather their names and contact information.
What Are Typical Injuries Sustained in a South Carolina Premises Liability Case?
When a property owner fails to ensure their premises are reasonably safe, the consequences can be disastrous.
Some common injuries caused by dangerous property conditions include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Brain injuries
- Back injuries
- Lacerations and bruising
- Bite wounds
- Soft tissue injuries (e.g., strained or torn ligaments)
- Broken or dislocated bones
- Electrocution injuries
What Damages Can You Pursue in South Carolina?
The amount of damages a victim may be entitled to seek in a premises’ liability accident depends on the specific facts of each case. In fact, many factors are taken into account, including the severity of the injury and whether the victim contributed to causing their injuries in any way.
When there is evidence that the property owner was a fault, victims may be entitled to seek compensation for the following:
- Medical bills: Victims may seek compensation for past and future medical expenses, including bills, physical therapy, medications, and other medical treatments necessary to their recovery. Medical costs may also include any required rehabilitative services, any at-home care services, and travel expenses to and from medical appointments. For future expenses, victims may need to progress through several stages of recovery before a physician can accurately predict their future treatment plan.
- Lost income: Lost earnings can include both past and future income that victims could not collect due to missed work while recovering from their injuries. In addition, victims may recover lost bonuses, benefits, commissions, and even promotions. In certain instances, victims’ injuries may keep them from returning to work in the same capacity as before the accident. Victims who suffer permanent limitations or disabilities may seek damages for lost future earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering: Damages for pain and suffering offer victims compensation for the physical and emotional impacts directly resulting from their injuries. Victims may seek recovery for their pain discomfort as well as the sensation of pain that was caused by the injury itself. When awarding damages for pain and suffering, courts consider the extent of the injuries, the duration of recovery, the victims’ age and general health, and the type of treatments required.
- Wrongful death: If a victim of a premises’ liability accident passes away, their dependents can file a wrongful death action. Compensation can include burial expenses, funeral expenses, medical bills, lost wages, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium for spouses of deceased victims.
- Punitive damages: In certain, particularly egregious, circumstances, the court may award victims punitive damages. However, punitive damages are special damages that require showing the property owner’s actions or failure to act were especially negligent and egregious. Punitive damages are imposed as a form of punishment to deter dangerous behavior in the future.
South Carolina Premises Liability FAQ
Caution! Danger! Wet floor!
We see warning signs like this every day. They are so common that we may not even notice them, but they exist for a good reason. People sustain injuries in all kinds of places, at all times of the day. South Carolina has many different types of premises in which residents and tourists alike may sustain injuries, including beaches, historic plantations, museums, and bars. The legal theory of premises liability holds that owners or occupiers of a property are responsible for damages resulting from an injury that occurs on that property.
Parties that are responsible for a property must make reasonable efforts to maintain a safe environment for visitors. When someone suffers an injury on public or private property because of negligence, dangerous conditions, or a failure to maintain the property in a safe condition, the owners or operators may face liability under the theory of premises liability.
If you sustained an injury on another party’s property due to that party’s negligence, you should consult a South Carolina premises liability attorney right away to discuss your legal options. Below, we’ve included answers to some of the most frequently asked premises liability questions that we hear from clients. For more specific information, contact the legal team at Hughey Law Firm today.
What is premises liability in South Carolina?
Injuries can occur just about anywhere, including at a business, a construction site, or someone’s home. If you sustained injuries on someone else’s property, you may seek compensation from the at-fault party through a premises liability lawsuit. Premises liability lawsuits typically arise from instances that involve injuries stemming from negligence.
What are common types of South Carolina premises liability claims?
Millions of slip, trip, and fall injuries happen all across the country each year. People get hurt when they slip and lose their footing, trip when they catch their feet on something, and fall. Loose rugs, wet floors, long cords, or other hazards cause falls. Slip and fall cases are among the most common types of premises liability claims. People suffer injuries in many different ways when someone fails to maintain a property safely or fails to warn of hazards.
Consider these accidents:
- Stairway accidents are the second-leading cause of injury nationwide. People fall up or down the stairs because of defects in the stairs, bad lighting, inadequate railings, dangerous stair risers, or some other failure to conform to construction codes.
- Balcony, deck, or porch collapse.
- Drowning and other swimming pool or hot tub accidents.
- Injuries or assaults due to inadequate security.
- Animal or dog bites or attacks. Pet owners are responsible for damages caused by their animals. This is especially true when a property owner has an aggressive dog.
- Injuries occurring on elevators or escalators.
- Stadium injuries, such as injuries from walking up and down stairs or escalators, poorly maintained bleachers, or excessive clutter.
- Assaults due to inadequate security. When you work for or become a patron of a company, that company is responsible for providing safe premises on which to conduct business. When employees or customers sustain injuries in a break-in, robbery, or vandalism incident, the business’s absent or inadequate security may be to blame, and the company may face liability for the resulting injuries.
- Injuries obtained from a lack of maintenance or repair of city sidewalks or streets.
- Fire-related injuries due to insufficient fire safety precautions.
- Injuries obtained near a construction site due to construction debris or barriers.
- Park and playground injuries due to unsafe equipment or neglected maintenance.
- Obstructions. Whether the obstruction is on the floor or hanging from the ceiling or another structure, it is a common premises liability issue. In a public or commercial space, the owner must warn of overhangs and other obstructions.
- Injuries resulting from icy sidewalks or parking lots where the owner failed to clear ice or snow in a reasonable time.
- Inadequate Maintenance. Businesses must perform regular maintenance and necessary repairs. For example, many commercial premises liability cases deal with neglected fire protection systems.
Where do South Carolina premises liability claims often happen?
Dangerous conditions that lead to accidents and injuries exist in most locations, whether business, residential, or public.
The following are some of the most common sites of premises liability claims:
- Grocery stores;
- Retail stores;
- Department stores;
- Nightclubs or bars;
- Fitness centers or gyms;
- Government buildings;
- Resorts and hotels;
- Amusement or theme parks;
- Shopping malls;
- Construction sites;
- Parks or sidewalks;
- Condo or apartment complexes; and
- Private homes.
Often, the owner has leased the property in question, such as an apartment or commercial property. In South Carolina, the owner, renter, and any company who performed construction or maintenance on the property may face liability. Generally, the tenant is presumed to control the property; however, dangerous and concealed conditions may exist on the property. If the landlord handles repairs for the tenant, then the landlord or the repair company may face liability for the injuries.
The South Carolina Recreational Use Statute mitigates liability for landowners whose property is consistently used for recreational use. It states that the landowner is not liable if the victim is injured while harvesting or engaging in recreational activities, such as camping, hiking, or hunting.
Who may recover damages for South Carolina premises liability injuries?
Owners and/or occupants must regularly inspect their properties to identify hazardous conditions. The responsible party must either make repairs to eliminate the hazard or put up an adequate warning, so that lawful visitors are not injured. Signs must be in a conspicuous location and large enough so that visitors can easily read them; otherwise, the sign would adequately alert the visitor of the danger.
An owner who breaches this duty may face liability for a visitor’s resulting injuries. When determining the duty, the court may consider the circumstances under which the visitor came onto the property, the nature of the property, the reasonableness of the owner or occupant’s actions to repair or warn, and the foreseeability of the injury.
Two of the key issues in premises liability cases are the status of the person entering the property at the time of the incident and the level of care owed to that individual. South Carolina recognizes four classifications of visitors:
- Adult trespassers: Individuals who enter the property or establishment without permission.
- Invitees: The property owner owes the highest duty of care to an invitee, which means the invitee must use reasonable care to ensure that the premises are safe. “An invitee is a person who enters onto the property of another at the express or implied invitation of the property owner.”
- Licensees: These include social visitors, such as party-goers or dinner guests. The duty owed to a licensee by invitation is the duty to exercise reasonable care to warn the guest of dangerous conditions of which the property owner is aware but that are not easily discoverable by the licensee.
- Children: Under South Carolina law, children have a higher level of legal protection against injuries on someone else’s property.
Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees and the least to adult trespassers. An invitee may include somebody invited onto a property for a commercial purpose, such as a customer at a restaurant or store. A social guest or licensee is also present on the property either by invitation or by the property owner’s or occupant’s permission. Generally, an owner owes adult trespassers a very limited duty of care, because the property owner has no reason to expect the trespasser’s presence on the property.
What is the attractive nuisance doctrine in South Carolina?
The attractive nuisance doctrine says that a property owner may face legal responsibility if the injured child trespassed on a property due to the temptation of a particular object or condition. Common examples of an attractive nuisance are trampolines, swimming pools, abandoned appliances, and other hazardous attractions. Attractive nuisance cases are often complex.
Factors that might play a part include:
- The property owner reasonably expects that children might trespass.
- A property owner has reason to believe that the object or condition may cause serious or fatal injury.
- Children lack knowledge or experience to understand the danger.
- The property owner did not take sufficient measures to prevent the injury.
What are the four legal elements of a South Carolina premises liability claim?
Premises liability falls within the doctrine of negligence, which is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
Therefore, to recover on a premises liability claim in South Carolina, the injured person must prove the following basic elements of negligence:
- That the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- That the defendant breached that duty of care;
- That the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s accident; and
- That the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
What compensation is available in a South Carolina premises liability claim?
An injury suffered as the result of a slip and fall can have serious personal and financial consequences.
If you were injured on someone else’s property, you may qualify to recover compensation for economic and non-economic losses, including:
- Current and ongoing medical costs, including emergency care, hospital care, doctor visits, medication, rehabilitation, and adaptive equipment;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
What if the insurance company offers a quick settlement on your South Carolina premises liability claim?
Frequently, the parties settle cases before or during trial, but keep in mind that the insurance company’s goal is to achieve a quick and inexpensive settlement. Therefore, if the insurance company contacts you and makes an offer, you should not accept or sign a release or any other documents until you have consulted a premises liability attorney. Accepting a settlement offer may prevent you from receiving full and fair compensation for your premises liability claim.
What steps should you take after suffering a South Carolina premises liability injury?
Many premises liability cases are difficult to prove for several reasons. For example, there is usually no law enforcement officer at the accident scene to help determine liability. Perhaps none of the involved parties accept blame and no one else saw the accident. Depending on the location, video cameras may not have captured the accident on film.
Still, you can and should gather and preserve evidence for your claim by taking these steps:
- See a doctor as soon as possible. While you may think your injuries are minor, additional injuries and medical problems may arise later, and your medical records will provide valuable evidence of your injury to support your claim.
- Take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the accident. Do this as soon as possible, in case the landowner quickly corrects the hazardous condition.
- Submit an accident report to the property owner or their agent.
- Obtain names and contact numbers for any witnesses that may have seen the slip and fall
- Write an account of the incident as soon as possible, noting details such as weather conditions, lighting, and signage. Also, keep a journal of the consequences of your injury and recovery process. It helps to write everything down while it is still clear in your mind.
- Keep copies of all expenses associated with your premises liability injury. This information will help determine the amount of compensation you should seek.
- If you talk to insurance adjusters, property managers, or even friends and family, document these conversations. It is best to avoid posting photos or comments about your injury on social media, as this could negatively affect your case.
- Contact an experienced premises liability lawyer at the Hughey Law Firm today.
What is the statute of limitations in my South Carolina premises liability case?
After suffering a serious injury, you will need time to rest and recover. Unfortunately, the moment you’re involved in an accident, the clock starts ticking. Under the South Carolina statute of limitations, plaintiffs have up to three years from the date of their accident to bring a South Carolina premises liability lawsuit against a private individual or business. Some exceptions apply, such as those for minor children. Additionally, your case may involve different timelines or procedural rules if the accident occurred on public or government-owned property. You should check with your attorney to ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines.
If you have a possible premises liability claim, an experienced South Carolina premises liability attorney can evaluate your case, protect your rights, and fight for maximum compensation on your behalf. For more information or to arrange a free initial consultation, call Hughey Law Firm right away.
Do I Need a South Carolina Premises Liability Attorney?
Yes. Premises liability cases are quite complex, requiring extensive and detailed evidence, and victims are often learning how to cope with significant injuries and medical costs. However, victims do not have to endure this battle alone. With help from the Hughey Law Firm, injured victims can have an experienced and knowledgeable premises liability attorney on their side.
We regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. Our team has a wealth of experience with gathering critical evidence, interviewing witnesses, and timely and correctly filing legal documents. We understand the extensive impacts that accident injuries can have on victims and their families, and aim to maximize recovery for each of our clients.
If you were injured in a premises’ liability case, do not wait any longer. Contact Hughey Law Firm today for a free consultation and case evaluation. Reach us at any time at (843) 881-8644 or through our online contact page.
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