Even if you make a habit of paying attention to your surroundings, an unseen spill in a store aisle or protruding concrete slab on a sidewalk could lead to a nasty fall that leaves you with serious injuries. However, even though these kinds of conditions could reasonably be considered “hazardous,” property owners in the state do not always bear civil liability for all injuries sustained by people on their land.
The answer to the question, “Can I receive compensation for spraining my ankle on another’s property?” depends on the situation. Listed below are a few factors that may affect whether your sprained ankle following a slip and fall may serve as grounds for civil litigation.
How Severe is the Injury?
Before sending out a settlement demand or filing a civil lawsuit, you should understand what the purpose of personal injury litigation is in the eyes of state courts. This type of litigation is meant to compensate injured parties for specific losses they sustained as a direct result of someone else’s negligence, and with a few exceptions for certain types of claims, there is no strict maximum limit for how much compensation a civil plaintiff could seek if they can provide ample evidence.
However, there is a minimum bar to clear for what injuries can justify a personal injury case—namely, an injury must have required professional medical care to serve as grounds for litigation. Anything from a primary care physician appointment to an emergency room visit meets the criteria for professional medical care, but if an individual suffered only a Grade 1 ankle sprain that did not necessitate a doctor visit or anything beyond basic first aid, they cannot file suit for damages such as pain and suffering.
Private Versus Public Property Owners
Another element of slip and fall claims to keep in mind is the differing duties of care that property owners owe to different kinds of visitors. There are four categories a visitor may fall into in the state, each of which imposes a different level of responsibility on a landowner to protect that visitor from harm.
“Invitees” warrant the highest duty of care, as they are lawful visitors who will benefit the landowner. These include customers in a retail store. Property owners are supposed to exercise “ordinary care” to protect invitees from injuries, which entails inspecting their property regularly and advising invitees of hazards they might not notice on their own. Property owners also owe a similar duty of care to “licensees”—lawful visitors on property for their own purposes, like guests at a house party—but may not be responsible for injuries caused by unforeseen hazards.
Property owners have no obligation to protect adult trespassers from harm so long as they do not intentionally try to harm trespassers by creating hazardous property conditions. Conversely, property owners may be liable for injuries sustained by trespassing children under certain circumstances, which a qualified attorney could go over in more detail if applicable.
Public and Recreational Land
It is possible to hold a government entity accountable for negligence leading to an ankle sprain if the conditions an injured person encountered were unreasonably unsafe. However, there are limits on how much civil compensation an injured person can recover from local or state municipal authorities, as well as much stricter filing deadlines for claims.
Under South Carolina Code of Laws §27-3-30, property owners who allow visitors onto their land for recreational purposes without charging them for entry have no duty of care to protect those visitors unless they engage in grossly negligently or willfully malicious conduct.
If you have questions about whether you can receive compensation for your ankle sprain on another’s property, you should get in touch with a seasoned lawyer to discuss your options. Call today for a consultation.