Negligence is a legal concept usually used to achieve compensation for accidents and injuries. Negligence is a type of tort or delict and a civil wrong, but can also be used in criminal law. Negligence means conduct that is culpable because it misses the legal standard required of a reasonable person in protecting individuals against foreseeably risky, harmful acts of other members of society. Negligent behavior towards others gives them rights to be compensated for the harm to their body, property, mental well-being, financial status or relationships.

In appellate court decisions, negligence suits have historically been analyzed in distinct stages. First, the defendant must have had a duty of care towards the claimant. The courts have long established that all persons have a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have used under the circumstances, so that, at trial, the existence of the “duty” is predetermined.

However, the constitutional right to jury trial on fact questions has established overwhelmingly, at least in the U.S., that the determination of whether the behavior of a particular defendant in any given case constitutes negligence is ordinarily a unique question of fact for jury determination. Proving negligence does not, alone, support an award of damages.

The claimant must show that the defendant has breached that duty by not exercising reasonable care. The plaintiff must further show that the defendant’s negligence contributed to cause harm to the claimant. The harm must not be too remote a consequence of the negligence; that is, the negligence must be a “proximate cause” of the harm. Finally, the claimant must be able to establish what kind of damages, or compensation, he should get for his or her harm.

Negligent Security

Under the law, owners of establishments owe a duty to patrons and guests to ensure that the premises are reasonably safe and secure from anticipated dangers. These cases normally take the form of shootings, fights, stabbings, or other physical violence (including sexual assault) where severe injury or death occurs due to the establishment owner’s failure to take reasonable safety measures. When this occurs, the establishment owner, as well as those contractors charged with security, may be held responsible for the injuries suffered by individuals or groups of individuals on the premises. While the laws vary from state to state, our firm is actively investigating and litigating these cases where severe injury or death results.

Premises Liability

Premises Liability is the responsibility a land or property owner has for accidents, injury or other incidents that occur on his real property. Real property may include buildings, machinery, wells, dams, pools, mines, canals, curbs and roads, among others. A property owner may also be liable for injuries that occur on his property as a result of conditions like snow and ice, wet floors, concealed holes, insufficient lighting, improperly secured mats or other hazards.

In particular, there are specific policies governing the safety of swimming pools and spas at commercial and private residences. State and municipal laws may vary, but property owners are required to maintain safeguards against drowning. Usually these measures involve enclosures around the pool that may include a fence, wall or screen with a lockable gate.

Premises liability also applies to apartment complexes, sidewalks, road construction areas, elevators, escalators, playgrounds and amusement parks. Beasley Allen has handled a number of serious injury or death cases resulting from accidents in these areas. Serious injuries can range from slip-and-falls to amputations due to improper maintenance of grounds or machinery, a lack of marked safety rules, a lack of security or unclear construction zone markings.

Grease Traps

Restaurants and other commercial establishments that deal with oily waste water are required to manage the disposal of fats, oil and grease to prevent sewer system contamination. This is commonly done through a grease trap. Smaller businesses may have a grease trap located above ground, but many facilities have large grease traps located underground.

Underground grease traps are generally large tanks embedded in the ground that can hold anywhere from 100 to 3,000 or more gallons of waste water. They work by slowing down the flow of hot greasy water, and allowing the oil and water to separate. The grease floats to the top where it can be removed, while the water flows on to the sewer system.

The top of the grease trap is usually installed flush with the ground, with removable lids so that trucks can pump out the grease for disposal. While there are plumbing codes and other state and municipal regulations that govern the waste water and grease disposal, there is no uniform code for safety surrounding the devices.

While outdoor grease traps located in a traffic area are required to have a cover “capable of withstanding the traffic load,” compliance varies widely. Many grease traps have plastic covers, which pose a risk of cracking and loosening. There are many instances where insufficiently secured lids have flipped over when someone steps on them, allowing the person to fall into the grease pit. Tragically, this has resulted in numerous deaths and serious injuries.

Dram Shop or Social Host Negligence

Dram Shop liability refers to the body of law governing the liability of bars, taverns, liquor stores and other commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. Generally, dram shop laws establish the liability of establishments arising out of the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently cause death or injury to third parties, those not having a relationship to the bar, as a result of alcohol-related car crashes and other accidents. Social hosts, private citizens, can also be held accountable knowingly providing alcohol to someone who will have to operate a motor vehicle when he leaves the social host home.

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