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In Illinois, premises liability actions are governed by the Premises Liability Act, which states:
The distinction under the common law between invitees and licensees as to the duty owed by an owner or occupier of any premises to such entrants is abolished.
The duty owed to such entrants is that of reasonable care under the circumstances regarding the state of the premises or acts done or omitted on them. The duty of reasonable care under the circumstances which an owner or occupier of land owes to such entrants does not include any of the following: a duty to warn of or otherwise take reasonable steps to protect such entrants from conditions on the premises that are known to the entrant, are open and obvious, or can reasonably be expected to be discovered by the entrant; a duty to warn of latent defects or dangers or defects or dangers unknown to the owner or occupier of the premises; a duty to warn such entrants of any dangers resulting from misuse by the entrants of the premises or anything affixed to or located on the premises; or a duty to protect such entrants from their own misuse of the premises or anything affixed to or located on the premises. 740 ILCS 130/2. Source: ILGA.Gov
Simply put, owners of the property must take reasonable precautions prevent any unsafe or hazardous conditions from causing harm to persons entering their property, unless the conditions are “obvious.” While most people think of premises liability in terms of “slip and fall” cases, the reality is that claims can arise from almost any fact-pattern in which a property owner violates the standard of “reasonable care” and, as a result, an occupier of the land is injured.
Consider the case of a homeowner who fails to remove known lead contaminants from a rental property, or repair damaged fire or carbon monoxide detectors. If another person then enters the property and is injured, the subsequent premises liability claim would rest in the medical bills, long-term medical needs, and lost wages of the person injured.
Premises liability actions are extremely fact-specific. Our Premises Liability Attorneys our able to discuss the different basis of liability that can be claimed. Oftentimes, premises liability claims are filed in addition to other negligence claims in a “multiple-count” Complaint. However, once filed, the premises liability litigation is similar to other negligence actions filed in Illinois. Plaintiffs must prove that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care, that the duty was breached, and injuries were sustained a result.
Common questions include:
- How do I file a premises liability lawsuit?
- How is an insurance company involved in a premises liability claim?
- Who is sued in a negligence action, the individual who caused the injury, or the insurance company?
- What happens during the premises liability suit?
- What are the costs of litigating a premises liability suit?
- How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I file a premises liability lawsuit?
Your attorney will usually file the lawsuit in the county where the action forming the basis of the injury occurred. For example, a person injured in Springfield, Illinois, would likely file in Sangamon County, with the Seventh Judicial District Court. The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure states:
§ 2-101. Generally. Except as otherwise provided in this Act, every action must be commenced (1) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him or her and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, or (2) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose. 735 ILCS 5/2-101. Source: ILGA.Gov
However, premises liability actions involving great injury and corporate defendants are often removed to federal court. Once transferred, the subsequent litigation will be conducted in accordance with the Federal Rules of Evidence.
The “Plaintiff” in a premises liability action is usually the person who was injured, or, if the injured persons died as a result of their injuries, the administrator of the probate estate, who files the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased person and living heirs. The lawyers will file a “Complaint at Law,” describing the defect in the property of the Defendant and describing how the defect injured someone. For example, the Complaint may allege that a sink hole was improperly hidden or filled and a person fell in it, causing their death. Under such circumstances, the Complaint will request that monetary damages be paid to the decedent and his heirs.
How is an insurance company involved in a premises liability claim?
Most premises liability lawsuits request coverage or “indemnification” of the injuries by the property insurance company who insures the property where the injury occurred. If successful, the insurance companies usually pay monetary benefits to the injured person on behalf of the Defendant.
Who is sued in a premises liability action, the individual who caused the injury, or the insurance company?
Generally, the person or company who caused you or your loved one’s injury is sued as the Defendant. However, when a premises liability suit is filed, the insurance company usually pays for the Defendant’s attorney and other costs of litigation. The insurance companies then typically “indemnify” the Defendant and pay for any funds obtained through settlement or jury verdict. However, some insurance companies “exclude” certain defects from coverage. For example, some property insurance providers specifically exclude lead contaminants from coverage.
What happens during a premises liability lawsuit?
As discussed above, the Plaintiff or their legal representative will file suit against the Defendant. The process begins when the attorney files a “Complaint at Law,” seeking monetary damages for the Defendant’s negligent behavior.
After the Complaint is filed, the Defendant is served. Your attorney will arrange for “summons,” to be issued, and request local law enforcement or a private investigator to serve the legal paperwork on the Defendant. Once the Defendant is served, he or she typically has 30 days to enter an appearance and claim any possible legal defenses. Usually, an attorney enters an appearance on behalf of the Defendant.
After the Defendant’s attorney has entered an appearance, discovery will commence. This process usually involves exchanging copies of the evidence held by the Parties, and taking the depositions of witnesses. Depending on the complexity of the litigation, experts will may be retained for trial. Their depositions will also be taken.
Your attorney may also choose to file requests for admission and other legal documents in order to simplify the issues presented at trial. Following the close of discovery, summary judgment motions and other pre-trial motions will be heard. Trial preparation will then begin in earnest. Witnesses will be subpoenaed, trial exhibits prepared, and other pre-trial paperwork will be filed. Jury instructions will be prepared. Jury trial should follow shortly thereafter. When the jury awards a verdict, the sums are usually paid by the insurance company. If a person died as a result of the negligent actions, the probate judge will decide how the funds are distributed.
What are the costs of litigating a premises liability suit?
Costs of litigation vary wildly in premises liability actions, but are generally more expensive than a typical motor vehicle collision-type claim. This is because there is often a need to hire multiple experts to testify as to the “defect” in the property and how the same caused injury. Our attorneys are able to explain the differences in types of litigation and how it will affect your litigation costs. In a complex case involving construction norms and severe injury, the costs of litigation may exceed $50,000.00.
For this reason, most attorneys litigate their cases on a “contingency fee” basis, whereby they are only paid if successful in obtaining a settlement or jury verdict. The costs of litigation are paid from the settlement or jury verdict funds, together with the attorney’s legal fees. Our Premises Liability Attorneys will provide you with a frank analysis of whether the costs of litigation are outweighed by years of litigation and potential loss at trial.
How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
To expedite legal review of your claim, you should bring a copy of the medical records, police investigations, photographs, videos, Facebook pages, text messages, correspondence, insurance information, and any other evidence in your possession to your claim. The attorney will review the records, together with any other evidence in your possession, and provide you with a free legal opinion as to the merits of your claim.
Our Premise Liability Lawyers have over 50 years combined legal experience. Our family firm is renowned for compassionate communication with clients and aggressive advocacy in court. We pledge to will keep you up to date with all steps in the litigation process.
If you or a loved one would like a free consultation, call today at (217) 414-8889. You will not be a charged unless our firm obtains a settlement offer on your behalf or wins at trial.