People sustain unexpected injuries in a wide variety of settings and in an equally wide variety of ways. One of the more common scenarios that brings clients through our doors at Boohoff Law is a so-called slip and fall injury that happens on someone else’s property. The name is a little misleading, however. Slipping and falling is by no means the only way a person can get hurt at someone else’s home or business.
We represent clients who suffer an injury on someone else’s property in every conceivable scenario, whether they trip, slip, fall, or have an object or implement injure them. The law that applies to this category of injuries is known as premises liability.
If you or a loved one went to someone else’s property and got injured or tragically died, you may have the right to recover substantial compensation from the property owner or operator under Washington State law. To learn more, contact the experienced, knowledgeable premises liability lawyers at Boohoff law today.
Why You Want to Choose Boohoff Law’s Premises Liability Attorneys
Our founder Tatiana Boohoff has established a hard-won reputation as a strong and skilled advocate for people injured through no fault of their own. At Boohoff Law, we take particular pride in being accessible 24/7 to our clients in order to serve their needs.
Attorney Boohoff is a graduate of Boston University School of Law, which is a top-ranked law school that produces some of the country’s finest lawyers. She and her team focus their law practice exclusively on representing clients in personal injury matters, which ensures they never have a conflict of interest that could limit their determination to obtain every dollar of compensation their clients need.
About Premises Liability Law
As we mentioned above, the law of premises liability is about a lot more than just slip and fall. Yes, sometimes our clients have slipped and fallen, but just as often they have gotten injured because of some other condition of a property that the owner or operator (what the law sometimes calls the possessor) should have prevented or warned them about.
The Four Types of Visitor Legal Status in Premises Liability Cases
In a premises liability case, the injured person’s legal status on the other person’s property plays a large role in determining the injured person’s ability to recover compensation for an injury. By legal status we mean the legal right the person has to be on the property in the first place.
Washington law recognizes four types of legal status a visitor can have on someone else’s property:
Trespasser. A trespasser is a person who enters a property without permission or an invitation. A trespasser, in other words, is not supposed to be on a property.
Business or public invitee. A business or public invitee is a person who goes onto someone else’s property for some business purpose connected to the owner, or for a purpose for which the owner holds the property open to the public. A person is a business/public invitee when they enter a grocery store, or walk in a public park. (Confusingly, someone you invite to your property for social reasons is not an invitee, but rather is a social guest, which is explained below).
Licensee. A licensee is someone who goes onto someone else’s property without an invitation, but with the owner/operator’s permission or tolerance, for a purpose not related to the owner’s business interests. A volunteer who helps build a barn on someone else’s land is a licensee.
Social guest. A social guest comes onto someone else’s property by express or implied invitation. Like a licensee, a social guest is not there for the property owner’s business interest (at least not exclusively). Someone you invite to a party is your social guest (but, oddly, not your invitee).
Legal Status Usually Determines Property Owner’s Duty of Care
In every premises liability case in Washington State, the person who gets injured on someone else’s property gets classified as one of the four types of visitors above: trespasser, invitee, licensee, or social guest. The law requires this because the legal duty of care the property owner/operator owes to a visitor to keep the visitor safe from harm depends on this status. Here’s how.
Duty of care to trespasser. The only duty of care a Washington State property owner owes to a trespasser is not to willfully or wantonly injure the trespasser, so long as the trespasser is 6 years or older. Trespassers younger than six are treated as licensees. Additionally, in some cases, Washington’s statutes on self-defense may permit a property owner to injure a trespasser who has an intent to commit a crime on the property.
Duty of care to business or public invitee. The owner or operator of a property who invites the public onto the property for a business or public purpose owes those visitors to the property a duty to exercise ordinary care in keeping them safe from harm there. This includes keeping the property in reasonably safe condition, giving warnings about unsafe conditions, and protecting visitors from criminal acts that the owner knows are likely to occur.
Duty of care to licensees and social guests. The owner or operator of a property owes a middle-ground duty of care to licensees and social guests. The duty requires fixing or giving a warning about a dangerous condition the owner knows about and the visitor doesn’t, and not engaging activities that could harm the visitor the owner knows is on the property.
Why does duty of care matter? It matters because in personal injury cases involving premises liability, the person injured can usually recover damages only by showing the property owner/operated violated the duty of care in a way that caused the person’s injury. In other words, a trespasser who breaks into a grocery store after hours and slips and falls on a wet floor will have different rights than a business invitee customer who slips and falls in the store under the same conditions during business hours.
There is a type of premises liability case that does not neatly fall into the categories above. Washington law recognizes a feature of a property known as an attractive nuisance, meaning a property feature that can reasonably be expected to attract young children and constitute a danger to them. A property owner who has an attractive nuisance on the property also has a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury to those children. Swimming pools and backyard trampolines may constitute attractive nuisances in some cases.
Common Premises Liability Injuries
There is no limitation on the types of injuries that a person can sustain on someone else’s property. As you might imagine, the injuries that bring clients to Boohoff Law seeking help for a premises injury vary widely depending upon the circumstances, especially the location, nature, and condition of the property. Some of the most tragic premises liability matters involve attractive nuisances in which a young child dies. Even when that does not occur, premises liability injuries can commonly include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, such as from diving into a shallow pool or taking a blow to the head on a hard floor;
- Spinal cord injuries, which can occur anytime someone falls awkwardly on their back or neck;
- Crushed or traumatically amputated limbs, such as when a structure falls on a property visitor;
- Burns from unexpectedly hot surfaces or explosions;
- Broken bones and orthopedic injuries, common to falling on stairs or sidewalks; and
- Severe internal and soft tissue damage.
Premises liability injuries run the gamut from minor to life-changing. With more severe accidents, victims can require years—even a lifetime—of medical care and treatment. A Seattle premises liability attorney’s job, in part, is to make sure that in pursuing a claim for damages on behalf of someone injured on someone else’s property, she has a clear picture of the client’s financial requirements for satisfying those medical needs long-term.
Common Damages for Premises Injuries
If a visitor to a property can prove the owner/operator violated a duty of care, and that the violation resulted in an injury to the visitor, then under Washington law the visitor (or in the case of a death, the visitor’s survivors) can usually seek damages from the property owner/operator through legal action. There are two general categories of compensatory damages an injured visitor can seek: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages refer to identifiable costs the injured visitor has incurred because of the incident on the owner/operator’s property. Typically, they include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications;
- Physical therapy;
- Lost wages due to missed work while recovering; and
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries and disabilities.
The property owner/operator may, under Washington law, be permitted to pay economic damages over time rather than in a lump-sum amount to the injured visitor.
Non-economic damages aim to compensate an injured visitor for more abstract injuries that are difficult to quantify, such as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
In contrast to other states, Washington State puts a hard cap non-economic damages. An injured visitor to a property can recover a maximum of 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by his or her life expectancy at the time of the incident (no less than 15 years). Washington law also generally bars plaintiffs from recovering punitive (or exemplary) damages.
Start Working With Boohoff Law’s Seattle Premises Liability Attorney Today
Getting injured on someone else’s property can pose significant problems in a person’s life. There is the pain of recovering from the injury, of course, but that’s not all. Oftentimes, the injured visitor has to contend with interacting with insurance adjusters and attorneys for the property owner.
At Boohoff Law, our aim is to try to simplify life for our clients by relieving them of some of the burdens of living with an unexpected injury. While we know it’s not usually the first thing on a person’s mind to find an attorney after getting injured in an accident, it can be very important not to wait. The sooner an experienced Seattle premises liability lawyer gets involved in your case, the better your chances of recovering much-needed compensation.
There are two principal reasons this is the case. First, in Washington State, the general statute of limitations on personal injury claims is three years. That time passes more quickly than you’d think. Also, the passage of time tends to make personal injury claims more difficult to pursue successfully. As time passes, the property conditions that caused an injury get fixed, people’s memory of the incident fades, and insurance companies become less willing to settle for large sums. Investigation and evidence-gathering in a premises liability matter should start as soon as possible.
Second, insurance companies for the property owner/operator are not going to wait to start their investigations. But, unlike a lawyer who is on your side, insurance adjusters do not serve your interests, no matter how helpful they may seem. Oftentimes, insurance companies will try to dig up evidence that undermines your claim or try to get you to jump at an inadequate settlement offer. An experienced attorney can help protect your rights from these efforts.
Call Boohoff Law’s Seattle Premises Liability Lawyers Now
At Boohoff Law, we understand how unpredictable and unfair life can feel when an injury on someone else’s property upends your world. We’re here to help you recover the compensation the law entitles you to receive. To learn more from our team of experienced, diligent premises liability lawyers, give us a call at (877) 999-9999 or contact us today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.