Personal injuries happen all the time to all people in all locations. Compensation can often be recovered for many of these personal injuries, but much of it depends on the circumstances, where it happened, to whom it happened, and who caused it. Generally, all personal injury claims that happen on another person’s properties involve three basic elements that must be proven: (1) duty of care; (2) liability; and (3) damages. If you can link and prove liability to your damages, then the justice system in South Carolina, as well as throughout the country, will award you what you deserve according to law.
That said, when it comes to personal injury on the premises of another, the damages you are awarded depend on your purpose on the property. There are 4 general classifications of persons who enter the property of another:
- Trespasser, a person who has entered the property of another without permission;
- Licensee, a person who has the privilege or consent to enter the property of another but without a business purpose, e.g. a friend going over to another friend’s house, or a person asking for directions;
- Invitee, a person who comes on the premises with express or implied permission and for the purpose of benefiting the owner/occupier; and
Different standards of care apply for each of the above types of person.
- The adult trespasser in South Carolina is owed no duty except that the owner of the premises must not inflict willful or wanton injury; in other states an owner may owe a duty not to maintain a dangerous condition on his property if trespassers are known to frequent the area, but not in South Carolina.
- A licensee is owed a low standard of care because he enters the property of another for his own benefit; the owner of the property owes no duty to search and discover dangers or defects on the property.
- An invitee is owed the highest standard of care. The property or premises owner must take steps to ensure no hazards are present, and if there are, then must take steps to minimize and warn of the danger.
- Children are owed different, higher standards of care.
This article intends to answer some of your questions revolving around personal injury that happens on another’s premise, and will consider specifically the “type” of person you are when entering that property.
I was injured in the local grocery store, can I recover damages?
Customers of grocery stores are invitees, thus, the owner of the store is held to a high standard of care. An owner must take active steps to discover hazards or defects and protect invitees. Their duty, however, is not absolute; it extends only to hazardous conditions that the owner, or its agent(s)
- actually knew about;
- should have known about; or
Maybe you were in the fresh produce section and the floor was slippery, and you fell, injuring your leg. Can you recover damages from the store? As always, it depends on the specific facts of the case. Store premises must be kept reasonably safe, and if there are any conditions, such as wet floors, that the store caused or knew about, then notice must be given.
I was invited to a house party at a neighbor’s house and was injured, can I recover?
In this situation you are a social guest, or licensee. You may very well be able to recover damages from your neighbor’s homeowner;s insurance policy depending on how your injuries occurred. Homeowners are held to a low duty of care and must warn him of any concealed dangerous conditions or activities which are known to the homeowner.
What if I was walking down a city sidewalk and sprained my ankle. Can I recover damages from the city?
In South Carolina, the state and its political sub-divisions, including counties and municipalities, do not allow recovery for tort actions except where the state waives its immunity. Cities have a duty to keep sidewalks in good condition, so you might have a case for recovery. Any such analysis would require a highly technical review of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act to determine whether you can recover damages or not.
I stayed at a hotel and there was a fire, and I was injured. Can I recover?
Because you are a guest of the hotel, an invitee, the hotel is subject to a higher standard of care. It is possible that it should have reasonably foreseen the potential of a fire and provided safety measures including escape routes, escape exist, fire alarms, fire escapes, water sprinklers. If you can demonstrate that the hotel failed to do any of these things and was negligent, you might be able to recover damages.
I was with my daughter selling Girl Scout cookies when I stepped in a hole in a neighbor’s yard, and injured my hip. Can I recover damages?
You are a licensee, so it was a privilege for you to enter upon the neighbor’s yard. The duty of care owed to you was low since you were not there to benefit the landowner. This would be a difficult case to win, depending on the circumstances.
What if it was a pond on the neighbor’s yard, and nearby kids like to sneak on the property to catch frogs? My daughter was there catching frogs and nearly drowned. Can she recover damages?
As mentioned above, children are owed a special duty of care, even children who are trespassing. According to the doctrine of attractive nuisance, where the owner or occupier of land brings or artificially creates something which is especially attractive to children, he is bound to take reasonable pains to see that the dangerous thing is so guarded that children will not be injured in coming into contact with it. In this case, if it is known children like to capture frogs at the pond on the person’s property, then the owner may have had a duty to protect children from the pond.
If I’m in South Carolina, and I have suffered an injury on the property of another, and believe I have a case, whom do I contact?
Contact Elrod Pope Law Firm. At the Elrod Pope Law Firm, we understand all matters of personal injury and liability law, including injury sustained on the premises of another person or entity. We are experienced Lake Wylie, SC personal injury attorneys. Contact us today so that we can discuss the unique circumstances of your case and answer any questions you may have.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.