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How are ‘negligence’ & ‘willful and wanton misconduct’ different?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2021 | Premises Liability |

If you get into an accident on someone else’s property, you could very well have grounds for a premises liability claim. However, who that party might be and what the legal process looks like depends on specific details. 

For instance, was the incident caused by negligence or willful and wanton misconduct?

What is negligence?

Negligence is owing a duty to someone and failing in that duty. It can take several forms. In the context of premises liability, it might entail someone failing to replace broken handrails in a stairwell or allowing entryway floors to stay wet during a storm.

A negligent party is not intentionally trying to hurt someone or creating a dangerous environment on purpose. Instead, they failed to use reasonable care.

What is willful and wanton misconduct?

A premises liability claim can also involve willful and wanton misconduct. This phrase refers to actions that were intentional and deliberate. 

These actions also involve disregard or indifference regarding the safety of other people. This element is often at the center of legal disputes over liability for an accident on others’ property, as it falls somewhere between being negligent and intentionally trying to hurt someone. 

Why does this matter?

In Illinois, property owners are responsible for maintaining safe premises for visitors and others legally permitted on their property. If you get hurt because of a dangerous condition, you will need to show either negligence or willful and wanton misconduct when pursuing a claim.

This distinction is crucial because proving willful and wanton misconduct can be more complicated than proving someone was negligent. And in this state, you must prove willful and wanton misconduct in claims against schools and government agencies.

In other words, it can be more complex to hold a party liable if you got in an accident while at school or walking on the sidewalk versus an accident inside a business or in the stairwell of an apartment building.

Know your legal options after a slip-and-fall accident

If you trip, slip or fall on someone else’s property, you could suffer from painful, extensive injuries. Holding the appropriate party accountable for these damages can be crucial in having the resources to help you recover.