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“Premises liability” is the broad term for the liability that a property owner has towards another person who is injured on his or her property. Premises liability claims can involve businesses, homeowners, landlords, bars, concert events, and others. Essentially, any time a person who owns the property invites someone onto that property, there is a reasonable expectation that the property is safe. If there are hazards and someone is injured, the responsible property owner must contribute to the cost of medical expense, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering losses that person suffers.
This blog will be limited to premises liability for Anchorage businesses that are open to the public. In other words, if you are out shopping for groceries, clothes, whatever it is you want or need – those businesses must provide a safe shopping environment for you. If they didn’t and you became injured, you likely are wondering whether you have a legitimate claim to a lawsuit. The below answers may help you to understand whether a lawsuit is a viable option.
Unlike other states, Alaska courts have simplified premises liability claims. Essentially, the duty of the business is to take “reasonable care under the circumstances” to prevent injuries to customers on its property. A business’ premises includes the parking lot. Weather conditions, including rain, ice, snow and potholes, are considered potentially dangerous to customers. Wet floors, broken shelves, exposed wiring, broken glass, and other hazards are also common in premises liability claims.
Of course, accidents happen; a business is only legally responsible if it did not take reasonable steps to fix hazards or warn customers.
Whether a business took reasonable steps to provide a safe environment for customers is often the heart of a premises liability claim. If a store does not clean up a spill for several hours, for example, the business is not taking reasonable steps to keep its premises free of hazards. If a business fails to clean up a spill within five minutes, a jury must answer whether the business took reasonable steps to keep its premises clean.
A business must also warn of dangers that are not apparent to customers. A common example of this is a pothole in the parking lot that is not apparent because of rain or weather conditions. Business should also put up a sign warning customers if floors are slippery because of a recent cleaning. These are just a few examples; many more could be listed here.
Alaska is a comparative negligence state. That means that an injured person is not barred from recovery simply because he or she was slightly at fault. However, the amount that you can recover is reduced by the amount that you are at fault. If a jury finds that you are 10 percent at fault for watching your children rather than notice the floor is wet, for example, the amount of your recovery would be reduced by 10 percent.
While the legal theory behind premises liability cases is fairly straightforward, actually bringing and winning a case can be difficult and complex. The only sure way to know if it is worthwhile to bring a claim is to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.