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The Basics of Personal Injury Claims: Premise Liability

By Marshall W. Orsini, attorney at Carr & Wright, PLC

On a typical day, it's probably safe to say that you'll spend at least some time in a business - whether it's a grocery store, restaurant, hardware store, or any other number of businesses in the community. Because of the nature of these businesses, the risk of injury to their patrons is an unfortunate reality. Someone slips and falls on water in a public restroom, another trips and falls over an empty pallet, or a box falls from an overhead display. If an accident like this happens, after the immediate concern for the injuries is addressed, the next question is naturally "who is at fault?"

Because the business owner wants you in their store, the law has a special term for you: you are an invitee. As an invitee, the owner has certain legal duties it owes to you. The owner isn't required to guarantee your safety, but can be held liable for injuries to his or her invitee if they had known, or should have known, of a condition that causes an unreasonable risk to the invitees.

Some accidents would clearly be the owner's fault: an employee is rounding up shopping carts and accidentally runs into you; or a waiter spills a tray of drinks on the floor as you walk by, causing you to slip and fall. In situations like these, the owner may be legally liable for his or her employee's negligence.

But not all accidents are so clear. A customer is struck in the parking lot by another customer's car - besides the negligence of that driver, might there also be liability on the premise owner? After grabbing a product off the shelf, the display falls on the customer - was the display properly stacked and secured? A customer spills water on the floor, on which another customer slips and falls - is the store at fault for a condition caused by another customer?

These are difficult questions that require a fair amount of investigation, knowledge of Iowa's premise liability laws, and an insight into the workings of commercial property owners and insurance companies. If something like this happened to you or someone you cared about, would you be able to answer these questions? The business owners and their insurance companies are banking on you not being able to answer these questions. They may withhold information, offer a minimal sum to settle, or outright deny your claim.

This is why it's so important to seek legal representation from an attorney who is experienced in handling these types of matters. I spent over six years working for insurance companies as a litigation consultant, on commercial accounts across the state and nation, helping defend businesses against a variety of claims. I investigated and negotiated multi-million dollar claims, so you can be sure that I know how to deal with insurance companies. I trained their insurance adjusters in litigation handling and negotiation tactics, so it's safe to say that I've seen just about every trick in the book. If you've been hurt in an accident, even if you feel you can go it alone, call me at 515-875-4868, or email me at [email protected], to schedule a free consultation. I want to make sure you're recovering everything you deserve.

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