If you have been injured on government property as a result of negligence, you might wonder what your next steps should be, and how government liability in Charleston premises liability cases works, which is why you should contact an experienced premises liability attorney who has the answers. A local liability attorney can look at the facts of your case and use the existing evidence to bolster your case.
How Liability Differs Between Public and Private Properties
The primary difference between a public piece of property and a private piece of property is that visitors to public pieces of property, commercial stores and such are there to confer a benefit and for that reason, the law imposes a higher duty of care on the store owner than a private piece of property.
The primary difference between the duties of a commercial property owner and a private property owner is that a commercial property owner owes a duty to inspect their premises on a regular basis to try to discover any hazards and if any hazards are discovered to either remove the hazard or warn of them. For example, if a person mops the floor, the person needs to put a wet floor sign out and visible.
A private property owner does not owe that same duty to inspect, but does have a duty if they know or should have known about the hazard to either warn of it or remove the hazard, but a private property owner is not charged for the duty to inspect the property on a regular basis to make sure that it is free of hazard for the public.
Charleston’s Duty of Care to Residents
When it comes to government liability in Charleston premises liability cases, a government entity owes a similar duty to the public as does a commercial piece of property owner does to the public. In other words, a governmental entity owes a duty to reasonably inspect its premises and if any hazards exist, to warn the public of it.
Charleston, is unique compared to other cities in the country in that Charleston has, for example, cobblestone streets. The streets were constructed of ballast stones from ships that were constructed prior to the birth of the country, before 1776.
Therefore, if a person is walking down these cobblestone streets in Charleston with high heels, the City of Charleston would not be liable. That is an open and obvious hazard and so, there are duties to the public as well as to any person entering a store or any person entering a house. If a hazard is open and obvious, then that is a complete and valid offense. An open and obvious hazard is a complete defense to a premises liability case whether it is a municipality, whether it is a homeowner or whether it is a grocery store.
Damages and the Statute of Limitations
South Carolina has what is called a South Carolina Tort Claims Act and the government has a number of provisions in place to protect itself that do not exist in the private sector and one of them is that the statute of limitations, it is shorter. The statute of limitations against a private entity is three years, and against a governmental entity, it is two years. Also, there is no cap on damages against the private property owner, but there is a $300,000 cap on damages against the government and claims of non-economic damages that cannot exceed $300,000.
Necessity of an Attorney
A person should not try to prosecute their own premises liability case whether against a private property owner or a commercial store owner or a municipality. They are difficult cases and liability is never absolutely clear, especially when it comes to government liability in Charleston premises liability cases. In situations like these, it is best to seek the counsel of a skilled liability lawyer. A qualified lawyer can fight to assure that your rights are protected.