Do Warning Signs Protect Property Owners from Liability?

If you were seriously hurt on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for the resulting damages. In order to recover a payout, however, you will have to overcome a number of hurdles.

In addition to compiling evidence, you will have to attend a prompt medical evaluation, follow your doctor’s orders, and possibly complete other tasks like arranging for child care or domestic help. You (or your legal team) will also have to prepare to counter the most likely defenses against your claim.

In premises liability cases, one of the most common defenses pertains to warnings signs. Let’s take a closer look at these disclaimers and the ways in which they can impact premises liability claims:

When Do Warning Signs Protect Property Owners from Liability?

Posting warning signs does not automatically waive a property owner of liability. Generally speaking, disclaimers can only serve as a defense if they’re deemed effective.

An effective warning sign is one that is:

  • Posted where licensees and invitees are likely to see it before encountering the hazard in question;
  • Clearly visible at all times, regardless of the time of day, weather conditions, occupancy, or any other potential obstructions;
  • Written in a language that most people who encounter it will understand; and
  • Written in a readable font with letters that are large enough and dark enough to be read in passing by the average person.

If the signs are required by law, they must also meet the requirements set forth in the associated statute in order to be deemed effective. For example, many municipalities across South Dakota have specific regulations regarding signage at public pools and spas. These requirements might dictate what the signs must say and where they should be posted.

When Might the Presence of Warning Signs Shift Liability to Injured Parties?

Just because warning signs are considered effective doesn’t mean licensees and invitees who get hurt on the property have no recourse. In order for a defense involving warning signs to hold up, the property owner or occupier will have to prove the following:

  • The hazard was not preventable (or there was no reasonable way to address it before the plaintiff encountered it);
  • The plaintiff saw—or should have seen—the disclaimers;
  • The plaintiff was capable of comprehending that a hazard was, indeed, present;
  • The plaintiff proceeded despite the warnings, thereby assuming risk knowingly; and
  • The plaintiff wouldn’t have gotten hurt but for his or her own recklessness.

If the defendant cannot prove all these elements, he or she won’t be able to shift all liability to the plaintiff. Depending on the circumstances, however, the injured party may still have to assume some portion of fault.

If you missed a “Wet Floor” sign because you were texting, for example, you might be found partially to blame. The property owner could also be considered responsible, though, for not cleaning up the spill in a timely manner or for not cordoning off the area better.

Discuss Your Claim with a Premises Liability Lawyer in Rapid City

If you were seriously hurt on someone else’s property through no fault of your own, turn to Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, PLLC. Our lawyers represent injured parties across South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

Call (605) 777-7466 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a premises liability attorney in Rapid City.

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