Caution! Wet floor! Enter at your own risk! These all-too-familiar warning signs may seem like commonplace fixtures in any grocery store or recreational area, however, these warnings carry great significance within the context of premises liability – an area of personal injury law assigning liability to land and property owners for injuries occurring thereon.
If you have been hurt on someone else’s property, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries and any related losses by filing a premises liability lawsuit in Maine. Premises liability is a sub-sect of the doctrine of negligence, which imparts certain duties of care and reasonable behavior that, when breached, may give rise to liability.
The extent of exposure varies depending on certain factors and some plaintiffs may actually be precluded from recovery altogether in the event of a trespass. As with many areas of the law, premises liability is heavily fact-driven and will require evidence to prove the elements of liability under Maine laws.
Maine residents who need legal advice are invited to contact the premises liability attorneys at Hardy, Wolf & Downing for a complimentary case evaluation.
Premises Liability Defined Under Maine Law
The concept of premises liability originally developed as a common law (i.e., judge-made) theory designed to hold landowners responsible for allowing dangerous hazards to occur on their property. Over time, the law has evolved to impose duties on not just landowners, but business owners, shopping malls, grocery stores and many other areas where individual safety is a concern.
Under Maine laws, all landowners owe a general duty of reasonable care to invited guests on the property. This standard departs from the methods used by several other jurisdictions, which impose the highest standard of care upon the business guest or shopper.
In Maine, the law protects both social and business guests equally and requires the landowner to either remedy known hazards or post unambiguous warning signs to alert others to steer clear (hence, the bright yellow “Caution!” signs with which you are likely familiar). Moreover, Maine law imparts a duty on landowners to warn guests of hazards of which they might not actually be aware but should have known about. This caveat helps to prevent the often natural inclination to practice willful ignorance of possible dangers.
Despite the advances in Maine abolishing the so-called “categories” of plaintiffs, the courts still maintain one distinction; trespassers generally may not recover for injuries sustained while trespassing on the land of another. As a caveat to the caveat, a landowner may not set out traps or intentional dangers with the intent to harm a trespasser.
Premises Liability Lawsuits in Maine
In order to successfully advance a claim under Maine’s premises liability laws, the plaintiff must establish the four elements of negligence, which are:
- Duty: The landowner owed a duty of care to the guest (includes all entrants except trespassers)
- Breach: The landowner breached this duty in some way (e.g., wet floors, dangerous equipment, failure to warn of hazards)
- Causation: The breach actually caused the injury
- Damages: The plaintiff has actual damages to prove (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, etc.)
If the plaintiff can establish the four elements of negligence under Maine’s premises liability law, it is then up to the defendant to try and rebut these claims or offer an affirmative defense. One defense often invoked in a premises liability lawsuit is that of comparative negligence.
Under this doctrine, if a plaintiff contributed to his own injuries in some way, the court can reduce the plaintiff’s recovery in a percentage amount congruent with his contribution to his own injury (up to 50%).
Common premises liability actions
Accidents can occur almost anyway under virtually any set of circumstances.
Some of the most common types of premises liability accidents include the following:
- Slip and fall on wet surfaces
- Sidewalk falls
- Nightclub and negligent security incidents
- Elevator accidents
- Defective property
- Injuries on stairwells or escalators
- Recreational accidents (e.g., playgrounds, amusement parks, swimming pools)
Maine also maintains a well-known law known as the Recreational Landowner Statute, which works to all but alleviates liability for landowners whose property is consistently used for recreational use. The statute states that no landowner shall face premises liability if another person is injured on his land while engaging in harvesting or recreational activities, including skiing, sledding, hiking, hunting, camping, and several others.
However, Maine law does not allow landowners to use dangerous blockades or traps to prevent recreational use. To comport with the law, blockades must be clearly visible in both daytime and night.
Damages and injuries in a premises liability claim
In a premises liability case, the jury will determine damages based on the actual expenses incurred, as well as additional damages for emotional pain and suffering or mental anguish. If the plaintiff is extensively and permanently injured, the jury may award additional damages for lost future earnings.
An experienced Portland premises liability attorney will help clients gather as much evidence as possible about the injury to present to the jury, thereby maximizing the potential verdict.
Typical injuries incurred in premises liability lawsuits include any of the following:
- Broken or fractured bones
- Skull trauma or neck injuries
- Paralysis and permanent disability
- Back and spinal cord injuries
Portland Maine premises liability attorneys
If you were recently injured while visiting the home of another, shopping in a store or while engaging in recreational activities, we encourage you to contact the Maine personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf & Downing today. You can reach our office by calling 1-800-INJURED.
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