In West Virginia, property owners have a legal responsibility, or duty of care, to provide a reasonably safe environment for their customers. This requires them to address any existing issues that could result in an accident or injury, from repairing the issues as soon as possible to placing signs to warn people that the issues exist in the meantime. These rules apply to the owners of private residences, grocery stores, parking lots, public walkways, office locations, public swimming pools, and any other type of property.
While signs are a good way to warn individuals of hazards and cover yourself to a degree, some people will always try to take advantage of what they see as a possible payday. They may claim that they were injured on your property and that you did not take proper precautions to prevent it. When you face premises liability accidents involving broken bones, disfigurement, fall injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or other severe injuries or death, the costs can be great.
Regardless of whether these claims hold any truth, the premises liability attorneys at Orndorff Mowen, PLLC are here to help litigate premises liability claims. We can negotiate and settle on your behalf and assist with other legal aspects of your business to keep you in compliance with West Virginia premises liability laws.
Premises Liability Laws in West Virginia
Once upon a time, West Virginia premises liability laws used the terms licensees, trespassers, and invitees. The terms licensees and invitees are no longer applicable under current law. The law now separates property usage into two simple terms: trespasser and non-trespasser.
The current law is more favorable to property owners than prior laws were. Business owners and homeowners no longer owe a duty of care toward trespassers, or those who have no permission to be on their property. This removes the prior common law right of action in existence previously. In fact, the possessor of a property may use “justifiable force” to repel trespassers from their property.
With non-trespassers, however, business owners, landlords, and property owners now have a greater duty of care under current law. If someone is on your property who has permission to be there, you have a legal responsibility to remove any dangerous hazards or materials from your property to ensure it does not contain inherent dangers in its construction or design and that those visiting your property are free from the reasonable risk of accidents that could cause serious injuries. Non-trespassers now include those previously considered licensees and invitees.
If you are facing a lawsuit involving injury claims for premises liability, the right law firm can help with legal advice and negotiations with the insurance company and defend your rights. Such lawsuits can involve financial compensation for medical bills and medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. The costs can be vast. The experienced attorneys at Orndorff Mowen, PLLC can help. Call us at 866-481-2765 or use our online contact form to request a case evaluation today.
What Are the Causes of Action for Premises Liability Cases?
As a property owner or business owner, you will face times when individuals claim that they got injured on your property and it was your fault. You may even find yourself targeted by suits involving dog bites or car accidents just because they were on your property. Some of the most common types of cases you are likely to face include the following.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents happen when people claim that you had a spill, an icy parking lot or walkway, or another slick area that you should have known about and addressed. If someone falls on a surface that you had time to address, you can be liable.
Negligent security refers to accidents and injuries that happen because you did not have enough protection for those on-site. This could involve not having enough security guards to protect patrons, a lack of security cameras or technology, inadequate lighting, or any other insecure areas that open people up to harm or criminal acts.
Uneven surfaces can also cause injuries. These can include steps, floors, pavement, walkways, surfaces that have holes, unlevel concrete slabs, sudden elevations or depressions, or even tree roots protruding from the ground.
Construction site accidents can occur for a wide range of reasons. These include exposed electrical wiring and conduits, falling objects, faulty scaffolding and ladders that collapse, heavy equipment or vehicle malfunctions, unsupervised workers, a lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and a range of other dangerous conditions.
Reasonable Time of Discovery
All premises liability laws in West Virginia allow a reasonable time of discovery. This document states that property owners must be given a reasonable amount of time after dangerous situations or hazardous conditions arise to address or correct the situation.
A property owner, for example, is not automatically liable for personal injury cases involving a slip and fall accident on an icy parking lot during an ice storm that is still ongoing. In such a case, the property owner has not had a reasonable amount of time to address the risk. What constitutes this reasonable period of time varies from case to case and often becomes part of negotiations.
West Virginia Open and Obvious Doctrine
The West Virginia Open and Obvious Doctrine is outlined in Chapter 55 of the state code and says that a possessor of property has no duty of care if a danger is open, obvious, known, or apparent to the injured person. In such a case, the property owner or occupier cannot be held liable for civil damages related to injuries arising from that danger.
It is sort of a legal disclaimer that says property owners are responsible for harm sustained on their property except when the risks are clear and obvious. This is why posting clearly visible signage can protect a property owner from action.
Need West Virginia Premises Liability Lawyers to Defend Your Business?
An injury attorney with practice areas in premises liability can be your best ally in the fight for justice. Your insurance company will stand up against those trying to file a lawsuit against you unfairly, and an attorney can be another line of defense. The attorneys at Orndorff Mowen are experienced in all aspects of defense law, and we know how to protect your rights against bad faith claims filed by people trying to misuse premises liability laws for their own gain.
From our offices just 25 minutes from Charleston, we have represented companies and individuals from all over West Virginia, from as far as Morgantown, Martinsburg, and beyond. We bring decades of combined experience to the table and deeply value our client relationships. We are here to stand by your side as a staunch ally from investigations to discovery, through trial, and into the future.
Is Your Business Safeguarded From Lawsuits?
If you are anywhere in West Virginia and are facing a premises liability claim, we are ready to help. Contact Orndorff Mowen at 866-481-2765 or use our easy online form to schedule your case review today.
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