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Premises Liability FAQs

Premises liability can be a complicated area of the law. When you’re injured on the premises of a business, it may be unclear who — if anyone — should be responsible for your injuries. This page answers some of the most common questions about premises liability, but you’ll undoubtedly have additional questions that are unique to your injury that you’ll want to have answered by an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer.

General Premises Liability FAQs

What is premises liability?

Premises liability is the part of the law that deals with injuries you suffer because of a defect in someone else’s property. It’s a broad category that can include slip and fall injuries, dog bites, or even getting food poisoning at a restaurant through the negligence of the owner or operator. In Illinois, these cases are governed by the Premises Liability Act, 740 ILCS 130, which says that the owner or occupier of a property has a duty to keep it reasonably safe by correcting defects or warning you about them.

What kinds of accidents or injuries fall under premises liability?

Premises liability cases encompass a number of different types of accidents or injuries. The classic examples are slip and fall accidents, such as when you slip or trip in a large pothole in a dark parking lot and suffer serious injury. Premises liability also covers incidents such as dog bites, porch or deck collapses, elevator and escalator accidents, swimming pool accidents, amusement park accidents, stadium accidents, stairway accidents, or gym and fitness center accidents. Premises liability law also applies when you’re the victim of a violent crime on someone’s premises because of negligent security, or when the property owner or occupier provides alcohol to guests and one of them injures you such as in a drunk driving accident.

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving someone’s property, an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney can discuss with you whether you might have a premises liability claim.

Who can make a premises liability claim?

Generally speaking, you have to have been on someone’s property lawfully as an invited guest or a business customer to be able to make a premises liability claim.

What if the property owner said I was trespassing?

Trespassers typically will not be able to make claims for injuries suffered while trespassing, unless the owner or occupier was willful and wanton in allowing the defect to exist. Willful and wanton conduct is a higher standard than mere negligence and includes recklessness or intentional actions. The property owner has to have actual or constructive notice of your presence as a trespasser to be liable, unless he or she was doing some kind of dangerous activity on the premises or some part of the property was unreasonably dangerous.

What do I have to prove?

When you make a claim for damages in a premises liability case, you have to prove that:

  • There was a defect in the property
  • Your injuries were caused by the defect
  • The person against whom you’re making the claim is the owner or occupier of the property
  • The person knew or should have known about the defect and failed to fix it or warn you

However, the owner or occupier may not be legally responsible for your injuries when:

  • You knew about the defect before you were hurt
  • The defect was open and obvious and you should have noticed it
  • The owner or occupier didn’t know about the defect and reasonably shouldn’t have known
  • You misused the property and caused the defect

What is an “open and obvious” defect?

Possibly the hardest obstacle to overcome in a premises liability case is the concept of an open and obvious defect. Basically this means that the unsafe condition that caused your injuries, such as a pothole, was something you should have seen or noticed and then taken care to avoid. A property owner will almost always claim this as a defense when you make a premises liability claim. There are some ways to beat that defense, though. If it was dark when you were injured, you may not be expected to have spotted the defect. Likewise if you were legitimately distracted by something, you may overcome the claim that the defect was open and obvious.

Can I get money in a premises liability claim?

If you’re successful in a premises liability claim, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life.

Do I have to file a lawsuit to get paid?

Usually the first step toward getting compensation for an injury related to a defect in someone’s property is to submit a claim to the owner or occupier’s insurance policy. An experienced premises liability attorney can help you build a strong argument for compensation supported by solid evidence early in the process, and that may mean that you’re able to negotiate a settlement of your claim without having to file a lawsuit or go to court. However, if the insurance company won’t settle, then a lawsuit may be necessary.

Should I sign this waiver or cash this check from the insurance company?

It’s recommended that you consult an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer before signing anything or cashing any checks. If you sign a waiver, a release, or a settlement agreement you’re likely agreeing that the money the insurance company is giving you is all you’ll ever get. Likewise cashing a check from the insurance company may mean that you’re agreeing that the money you’re receiving is a full and final settlement of your claim. However, if you haven’t had an attorney to evaluate your case or negotiate on your behalf you might be getting less than you deserve.

Why do I need a Chicago personal injury attorney?

You could try to handle your claim on your own, but premises liability claims can turn on nuances of the law such as whether the defect was an open and obvious hazard. A lawyer with experience handling premises liability claims will have a thorough knowledge of the law and be able to look out for your best interests and get you a fair resolution to your claim. A Chicago personal injury lawyer can work to preserve your rights through the entire process, from the initial investigation to settlement negotiations or a trial.

Slip and Fall Injuries FAQs

What should I do when I slip and fall on someone’s property?

The first thing you should do is get medical attention for your injuries. If you or a friend is able, you should immediately take pictures of your injuries and the area where you slipped and fell to document what happened, and you should try to get the names and contact information for any witnesses who saw what happened. You also should consider talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer who can investigate your accident and discuss your options for pursuing a claim.

Who is responsible when I slip and fall on someone’s property?

Most often the person or company that owns the property will be the responsible party. But sometimes a property may be leased to someone else who agrees to maintain the property, or the premises may be managed by a person or company who takes on responsibility. It may be some combination of parties that are responsible for your injuries. If you want to make a premises liability claim, it’s important to identify the correct party or parties. An experienced premises liability lawyer can help determine who is responsible and negotiate for a fair settlement of your claim.

Can I sue the city if I fell and got hurt on a public sidewalk?

If your injury happened because of a defect in a public street or sidewalk, you may have an uphill battle with your claim because city governments have what is known as tort immunity that protects them from lawsuits. You can technically file a lawsuit against the city, but you have to be able to prove that the city knew about the hole in the street or sidewalk that caused you to trip. Also, it has to be a large defect and not just a bit of uneven pavement. The problem is that large defects often are open and obvious, and then you run into the problem that you should have seen it and avoided it. An experienced Chicago premises liability lawyer can look at the circumstances of your injury and discuss with you whether a claim against the city might be feasible.

What do I do when the owner says I should have seen the problem that caused my injury?

A property owner or occupier often will claim that the defect, such as a big crack in the parking lot pavement that caused you to trip, was “open and obvious” and you should have seen it. If a judge or jury agrees, you won’t be awarded any compensation. However, there are some ways that you can rebut argument by the property owner. If it was nighttime and the parking lot was dark you can argue that you couldn’t be expected to see the crack — especially if the owner failed to provide lighting in the parking lot. You also may have an argument if there was some kind of distraction that drew your attention and you didn’t notice the crack.

What kind of evidence do I need to prove my claim?

Photographs, videos, accident reports, medical records, medical bills, pay stubs, tax returns, witness interviews, and insurance polices all are pieces of evidence you should consider gathering in support of your case.

Snow and Ice Injuries FAQs

I slipped because my neighbor didn’t clear his sidewalk in the winter. Can I sue?

Slip and fall cases involving snow and ice are actually pretty difficult to pursue. In Illinois, you generally won’t have a claim if the snow or ice is what is known as natural accumulation. If snow piled up on the sidewalk because of a blizzard, the property owner typically won’t be responsible if you fall and injure yourself. Contrary to popular belief, property owners aren’t usually liable for injuries because they failed to shovel their sidewalks.

What if I slipped on melted snow inside a store?

Melted snow that gets tracked inside of buildings also is considered part of natural accumulation and won’t usually result in liability for the property owner.

When do I have a claim for an accident on snow or ice?

You may be able to make a premises liability claim when you’re injured because of a slip and fall involving an unnatural accumulation of snow and/or ice. An unnatural accumulation is one that the property owner creates or allows to worsen, such as letting a garden hose run in freezing temperatures and creating an ice slick that causes you to slip. However, you may have problems with your claim if the ice slick is an open and obvious hazard. An experienced Chicago premises liability attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and discuss with you whether you might have a claim.

Dog Bites FAQs

What should I do when someone’s dog bites me?

As with any injury, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Dogs can have powerful bites and you may need stitches. A dog also could transmit diseases such as rabies through its bite. Once your medical needs have been met, you should document your injuries through photographs and videos. Keep your medical records and bills in a file along with pay stubs or tax returns if you lose time from work because of the dog bite. You also should get the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw the dog bite you.

Who is responsible for my medical bills from my dog bite?

Typically the dog owner is responsible to compensate the victim when a dog attacks someone, but when the dog was in the care of another person such as a dog walker, the question of responsibility may not be clear. A lawyer who handles dog bite cases can help you determine who is responsible for your injuries.

What other kind of compensation can I get?

In addition to payment of your medical bills, you may be able to get compensation for your lost wages if you have to take time off from work. Other forms of compensation include payment of pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life. An experienced dog bite attorney can discuss what forms of compensation might be available in your case.

The owner said I provoked the dog. Can I still make a claim?

If you did something that caused the dog to attack you — such as hitting or kicking the dog — you’ll probably have a hard time pursuing a claim for damages. However, provocation can be an ambiguous concept, and what an owner claims was provocation might not be seen that way by a jury. A lawyer can help determine whether the circumstances of your dog bite allow for a claim.

Alcohol-Related Accidents FAQs

I got hit by a drunk driver. Can I sue the bar?

When you get injured by an intoxicated person in Illinois, the law known as the Dram Shop Act allows you to make a claim against the owner or operator of the establishment that provided the intoxicated person with alcohol.

The Dram Shop Act doesn’t only apply to bars. It includes any establishment that provided alcohol, including restaurants, nightclubs, liquor stores, or even sports stadiums.

What do I have to prove?

You have to prove that the intoxicated person caused your injuries, that the dram shop sold alcohol to the intoxicated person, that it was foreseeable that selling alcohol to the person who injured you would intoxicate that person, and that the intoxication was a major factor in your injury.

How much can I get from the bar?

The Dram Shop Act limits the amount of money you can recover from a bar, restaurant, or other establishment that provided alcohol to the person who caused your injuries. The caps change from year to year. A personal injury attorney can discuss with you the current caps and how they might apply to your case.

What if the person was a minor who got drunk at a party?

The Dram Shop Act applies to businesses, public locations, or private homes where the owner should reasonably know that drinking is happening. If the owner did nothing to prevent minors from drinking, or actually served the minor with alcohol, the owner faces possible criminal charges in addition to liability for your injuries.

Negligent Security FAQs

What is a negligent security claim?

Negligent security is the idea that a property owner might be liable for your injuries if the owner fails to provide adequate security and you become the victim of a violent crime such as an assault, rape, or robbery. These claims most often involve premises such as hotels, motels, bars, and nightclubs, but can involve other types of properties.

Who is responsible for negligent security?

The responsible party could be the property owner, or the person or company operating the business if different from the owner. If a property management company agreed to provide security then the property manager might be liable for your injuries.

Can I make a negligent security claim for any kind of crime?

The crime has to be reasonably foreseeable for a negligent security claim to be successful, and that often involves establishing a history of crime on the premises that the owner knew about or should have known about. For example, if there’s a history of assaults at a nightclub and you get assaulted because the club owner failed to hire adequate security personnel, you might have a claim against the owner. But a history of thefts at the club may not be enough to establish that the owner should have been able to predict someone would be assaulted.

If you have been hurt on someone else’s property due to negligence, you may have a valid Chicago personal injury claim. This FAQs page is not intended to cover all possible questions you may have about premises liability, so please feel free to contact us via live chat or by phone at for a free consultation of your situation. A Chicago personal injury lawyer at Staver Law Group would be happy to help.