Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a beautiful beach destination where millions of tourists enjoy fun in the sun, but every year, unfortunate accidents ruin the fun for some unlucky guests. Often, it’s not the visitor’s fault—unsafe premises can bring needless tragedy to someone just looking to have a wonderful vacation. In cases like this, how can the property owner be held responsible for injuries? The answer lies in premises liability law.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability in a personal injury lawsuit is simply the legal idea that a property owner or business is responsible for the safety and well-being of customers or other invited guests. This means that the owner must exercise a “reasonable” level of care to protect visitors from hazards that they may not be able to identify themselves, but the property owner is aware (or should be aware) of.
“Slip and fall” cases are one of the classic examples of premises liability. Not every wet or slick patch of ground in a location is necessarily grounds for a premises liability lawsuit. But if there is a known hazard that the property owner should have seen and taken care of ahead of time, such as an invisible spill or dangerous defect in the flooring that’s not obvious to a visitor exercising reasonable caution, there may be grounds for the owner to be found negligent in his or her duty to maintain the property.
Premises liability can come into play with regards to personal security, too. If a business is aware that a customer is potentially at risk for crime, yet fails to have adequate safeguards in place (via security staff, cameras, or adequate lighting, for example) the property owner could be held liable if a visitor is a victim of a crime.
Making a Premises Liability Case
This type of personal injury suit can get complicated fast, but generally, in order to prove negligence, the following needs to be shown:
- Duty of care. A business open to the public, such as a hotel, pool, spa, restaurant, or a grocery store all have a duty of care to visitors, since the public has been invited to enter the property in order to do business. The owner is expected to maintain the property in a reasonably safe state for guests. However, they may not have a duty of care towards trespassers.
- Knowledge of a hazard. The property owner, business, or its agents (employees) must be shown to know about the hazard, be reasonably expected to know about the hazard, or have created the hazard directly.
- Failure to act. If the property owner knew (or should have known) about the hazard, but failed to take action to either correct the situation or notify guests, then the owner may be found negligent and responsible for injuries that result.
- Enticement. Enticement is a special case for when children are involved. Enticement may be claimed when there is a condition on the property that presents a danger to a child and no reasonable precautions have been taken—such as putting a fence around an in-ground pool, to prevent children from drowning.
An important catch in premises liability is that any hazards must not be “open and obvious.” This means that guests also have a duty to take reasonable care of themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that the fault always entirely falls on the visitor. South Carolina follows comparative negligence laws, which means that even if the accident is partially your fault, you may still be eligible to receive compensation for the aspects of the accident that were not your fault.
Negligence Can Ruin Your Life
Injuries caused by dangerous conditions and negligent property owners can be both physically and financially devastating. Head injuries, shattered bones, disfiguring burns, and other injuries can result when the duty to care for a guest has been violated, and the costs can send victims spiraling into a financial catastrophe afterwards. Medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering can quickly add up.
If you or someone you love has been a victim of this type of injury, seek legal help right away. An insurance adjuster may try to contact you right away and offer a lowball settlement that will leave you on the hook for the tremendous cost of your injuries before you ever have the chance to contact an attorney. Don’t fall for insurance tricks like this! Contact an attorney who understands the complexities of premises liability and personal injury law before you speak to anyone or accept any compensation.
The Law Offices of Kenneth E. Berger would like to help you get the compensation that you deserve after your injury. To talk to an experienced professional about your legal situation, call us for a free consultation at 803-790-2800.