Oklahoma City Premises Liability Lawyers
Property Owner Liability Laws in Oklahoma
Premises liability is an area of personal injury law that governs the responsibility a property owner has for the proper safety expectations for the property under their control. A property owner can be held responsible for accidents, injuries, and other incidents that lead to measurable damages that happen on their premises.
If you were injured on someone else’s property—whether it was a private residence, a business, or even a public park—you could be entitled to financial compensation for your resulting medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost earning ability, and other damages. However, pursuing a premises liability claim can be incredibly complicated and challenging, especially when you are already navigating the various physical and emotional consequences of the incident.
When you turn to the team at Fulmer Sill, you can rely on us to handle all of the legal details of your case while you focus on your physical recovery. We have helped victims of property owner negligence and misconduct recover sizeable settlements and verdicts; our team is known for trying cases and for winning the results our clients need to get back on their feet and move forward with their lives.
Oklahoma Premises Liability Laws
Premises liability in Oklahoma refers to the legal responsibility that property owners or occupiers have for injuries or damages that occur on their premises. This legal concept holds property owners accountable for maintaining safe conditions on their property and addressing potential hazards to prevent harm to individuals who enter the premises.
Here are the elements an injured party (plaintiff) must prove in a premises liability case in Oklahoma:
- Duty of Care: The property owner or occupier must owe a duty of care to the injured party. The duty of care varies depending on the relationship between the parties (e.g., invitee, licensee, trespasser).
- Breach of Duty: There must be a breach of the duty of care. This could involve a failure to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition or a failure to warn about known hazards.
- Causation: The breach of duty must be the direct cause of the injuries. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the hazardous condition or negligence directly led to the harm suffered.
- Damages: The plaintiff must have suffered actual damages, such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of income, or other measurable losses.
To have a premises liability case, you must not only prove the existence of a dangerous condition, but you must also prove that the property owner knew about or reasonably should have known about the dangerous condition yet failed to take reasonable steps to remove or repair the dangerous condition or warn you about its existence.
The concept of foreseeability is crucial in establishing liability. Property owners may be held responsible for injuries that were foreseeable and could have been prevented through reasonable care.
Property owners are expected to regularly inspect and maintain their premises to ensure that it is free from dangerous conditions. This includes fixing hazards promptly or providing warnings if a hazard cannot be immediately addressed.
Lastly, you must also prove that the condition was not so open and obvious that you could have easily avoided it. If you are found to be 50 percent or more to blame for the incident that led to your injury, you will be barred from bringing a personal injury claim under the state’s rule of modified comparative negligence. And, if you are found to be less than 50 percent at fault, your total recovery will be reduced by your at-fault percentage.
What Responsibility Do Property Owners Have to Visitors?
Generally speaking, property owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their properties are well-maintained and free of any hazards that could cause foreseeable injury. More specifically, property owners in Oklahoma owe varying duties of care to different types of property visitors.
The state recognizes the three following categories of property visitors:
- Invitees: An invitee is someone who has the property owner’s expressed or implied permission to be on the premises. This includes social guests, as well as customers, clients, and others who visit different types of residential, commercial, and public properties for the mutual benefit of both the invitee and the property owner.
- Licensees: A licensee is someone who does not have the property owner’s permission to be on the premises but is, nevertheless, lawfully on the property for their own purposes. Someone who uses a gas station bathroom without buying gasoline would be an example of a licensee.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who does not have the property owner’s permission to be on the premises and is there unlawfully for their own purposes. An example of a trespasser would be someone who takes a shortcut through private property.
In Oklahoma, property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. State law requires property owners to maintain their premises and either remove, repair, or warn invitees of any dangerous conditions or hazards that could cause foreseeable injury. When it comes to licensees, Oklahoma property owners must simply warn of dangerous conditions or hazards that could cause foreseeable injury. This might include posting warning signs or notices.
The state does not mandate any responsibility toward trespassers. However, property owners must generally refrain from causing willful (or intentional) injury to trespassers and, in cases involving children who trespass, the state’s “attractive nuisance” laws may apply. Under attractive nuisance laws, a property owner can be held legally responsible for injuries sustained by minors who trespass on a property when there exists a condition or feature that the property owner would reasonably know would attract minors to the property. For example, a homeowner could be liable if a child wanders onto their property and falls into a pool that does not have the proper barriers to prevent such an accident.
Public Property Liability
Public entities, such as state and municipal governments, often benefit from governmental immunity, a legal doctrine that shields them from certain types of lawsuits. This immunity recognizes that the government needs protection from excessive litigation to carry out its functions effectively.
In the context of public property liability, governmental immunity can limit an individual's ability to sue the government for injuries sustained on public property. However, it's important to note that this immunity is not absolute, and there may be exceptions or situations where the government can be held liable.
In Oklahoma, when considering a claim against a government entity for injuries on public property, there are specific notice requirements that must be followed. These requirements typically involve notifying the government of the claim within a specified timeframe after the incident occurs.
The purpose of notice requirements is to inform the government of potential legal actions against it and to provide an opportunity for investigation and resolution. Failure to comply with notice requirements may affect the viability of a lawsuit against a government entity.
Examples of Dangerous Property Conditions
Some examples of dangerous property conditions include:
- Accumulated ice or snow
- Spilled liquids
- Slippery or wet floors
- Improper or missing signage
- Defective sidewalks
- Uneven floors
- Ripped or torn carpeting
- Defective or unsafe steps, stairs, and stairwells
- Missing handrails
- Exposed electrical wiring
- Cluttered walkways
- Unmarked exits
- Insufficient lighting
- Defective or missing security lights or cameras
- Negligent security guards
- Loose animals, including dangerous dogs
- Improper or missing swimming pool barriers
- Building code violations
- Fire hazards
- Poorly maintained or defective elevators and escalators
- Toxic or harmful substances, such as black mold or asbestos
- Maximum capacity violations
Common Premises Liability Lawsuits
Property owners may be held responsible for all types of negligence; however, some types of premises liability claims are more common than others.
At Fulmer Sill, our Oklahoma City premises liability lawyers represent clients in all types of cases, including but not limited to those involving:
- Animal attacks and dog bites
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dangerous property conditions
- Negligent or inadequate security
- Swimming pool injuries
- Inadequate property maintenance
- Children on property/attractive nuisances
- Retail store liability
- Restaurant liability
- Public property/government liability
A property owner is responsible for ensuring that the premises under their control are reasonably safe for those who occupy their premises. This is true especially for commercial property, but also for personal property. A reasonably prudent property owner must take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of others. They must ensure the safety of others by guaranteeing stable walking conditions, the absence of dangerous ledges or steps, and sufficient lighting. If the property owner has in any way negligently contributed to a dangerous premises liability circumstance, they can be held responsible for the damages caused.
We encourage you to reach out to our Oklahoma City premises liability lawyers right away if you were injured due to unsafe conditions on public or private property. Our team can review the details of your case and help you understand your legal options.
You can rely on our tenacious and hardworking team to fight tirelessly for every penny you are owed.