A significant number of personal injuries in Wisconsin happen on someone else’s property. These are referred to as “premises liability” cases.
At Lein Law Offices, our premises liability attorneys in Winter and Hayward recognize those who own and control property owe a duty of care to people they invite on site for lawful purposes. That includes in some cases protecting them from the actions of third parties.
However, many premises liability cases are hotly contested. The mere fact of being injured on someone else’s property does not mean the case is guaranteed to win. In fact, these claims can be rather challenging and complex. That’s why it’s important to trust them only to a personal injury law firm with both the experience and resources to prevail against commercial and residential property owners and their insurance companies.
Examples of Wisconsin Premises Liability Claims
Some examples of premises liability cases in Wisconsin include:
Property owners in each of these cases have a legal duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the site so that anyone who enters is protected from an unreasonable risk of injury. That does not mean they are required to always prevent injury – or even prevent hazards — but rather to ensure visitors don’t face an unreasonable risk.
Proving Premises Liability Claims in Wisconsin
To prove a property owner liable for your damages, we’ll need to prove at least one of the following:
These are referred to as having either “actual” or “constructive” knowledge.
Customers and invitees too have a duty of care, which is sometimes referred to as the duty to use reasonable caution. It’s a common defense to argue the person who was injured should have took notice of the hazardous condition and made some attempt to avoid it. People are expected to be reasonably observant.
However, as noted in the 1970 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Steinhorst v. HC Prange Co., a customer in a retail store isn’t bound as a matter of law to notice every defect or danger in a pathway, particularly given that displays of merchandise in stores are arranged with the express intention of catching customers’ eyes and diverting their attention from the floor ahead of them.
Still, property owners generally will not be deemed liable for hazards the court considers “open and obvious.” In the Steinhorst case, plaintiff slipped and fell on shaving cream on the white vinyl floor near a customer self-serve counter in a department store. The court ruled this was not an open and obvious danger and the court remanded with instruction to enter a verdict favoring plaintiff.
Different Standards Apply to Different Visitors
Your right to recover damages in a Wisconsin premises liability claim may depend on your status on site.
In general, there are three basic categories:
- Invitees. These are individuals invited onto the site for an express or implied purpose, usually for the benefit of the owner. An invitee could include a customer at a store or a friend visiting the home of a loved one. Property owners have a duty to keep the property in reasonably safe condition.
- Licensees. These are individuals who can enter a property but do so for their own purpose. A door-to-door salesperson would be one example. Property owners in these cases have a responsibility to warn of dangerous conditions about which the owner knows and licensee is unable to discover on their own (i.e., “Beware of Dog”).
- Trespassers. Those who are not authorized to be on site are generally not owed a duty of care by property owners – except not to willfully, wantonly or recklessly cause injury or death, as outlined in WI Stat. § 895.529.
There are some exceptions.
One involves trespassing children and the attractive nuisance doctrine. In those cases, WI Stat. § 895.529(3)(b) holds that one may be liable for injury or death to a trespasser when the person injured or killed was a child AND a condition existed on site that was inherently dangerous to children AND property owner knew or should have known children trespassed on the property AND owner should have known the condition was inherently dangerous/ involved an unreasonable risk of harm to children AND owner could have reasonably provided safeguards to obviate the inherent danger without interfering with the purpose of the condition.
Another exception involves recreational use. WI Stat. § 895.52 limits private property owners’ responsibility for injury to those who use their land for recreation. In general, if you are using the site for free for recreational purposes, the property owner may not be liable for any injuries you suffer, and you assume the potential risk. Such activities might include:
You Have A Limited Time To Act. Schedule A Free Consultation Today.
In Wisconsin, you have a limited time to file a personal injury claim. Protect your right to cover. If you are injured on someone else’s property, our dedicated personal injury attorneys in Winter and Hayward can help you determine your legal rights.
Contact Lein Law Offices for information about your premises liability accident in Hayward, Winter or elsewhere in Sawyer County or Wisconsin by calling toll-free at 715-634-4273.