Understanding Premises Liability
Premises liability law is often conflated with general liability laws, but premises liability strictly pertains to the duty of care a property owner owes to the visitors who come to their property. A premises liability lawsuit is a type of personal injury lawsuit that applies to cases involving injuries that occur on private property, specifically those that could have been avoided or prevented if the property owner were diligent in their care of the property.
All property owners have a duty of care to the people who visit their properties, whether they are invited onto the property for personal reasons or see the property as licensees for business reasons. This duty of care includes preventing injuries to lawful visitors by addressing known safety issues as soon as they are discovered or warning visitors of such hazards if they are likely to encounter them while visiting the property.
If you own private property and have visitors who come to your property, it is essential to understand your duty of care to these visitors. You must take care of your property and make sure that you address any known safety issues promptly, or at least warn visitors about them when they come to your property. It is also important to know your legal rights if you sustain injuries while visiting someone else’s property, whether they are a friend, relative, neighbor, or a business owner.
Who Is Liable If Someone Gets Hurt on Your Property?
If you are a property owner and someone sustains an injury while visiting your property, it is possible that you could absorb liability for their damages under premises liability laws. However, the standard of negligence comes into play for premises liability claims. An injured claimant would need to prove that you failed to address the safety hazard that caused their injury, which requires establishing your prior knowledge of the hazard.
“Foreseeability” often comes into play in premises liability claims. Determining a property owner’s liability for a visitor’s injury hinges on the plaintiff, proving that the hazard responsible for the injury was a foreseeable safety risk, and the defendant failed to address this foreseeable hazard before it caused an injury. A property owner must take reasonable measures to prevent injuries to visitors once they discover a hazard on their property, such as:
- Immediately correcting the hazard so it cannot injure anyone.
- Posting a visible warning sign so visitors can easily identify and avoid the hazard.
- Providing visitors with a clear warning about the nature of the hazard and its location.
If you complete at least one of these measures, you may avoid liability for a premises liability claim if someone is injured on your property. If there was no reasonable way for the property owner to identify and address the hazard in question, this could potentially form an affirmative defense for the property owner. In some cases, property owners may need to prove that the plaintiffs filing claims against them are responsible for their damages due to their own negligence.
If Someone Falls on Your Property, Are You Liable?
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common causes of premises liability claims in the United States. If someone falls on your property, it is natural to be concerned about whether you are liable for their damages. Some people sustain fall-related injuries due to their carelessness, recklessness, or inattention, and a property owner cannot be responsible for such injuries. However, if someone falls on your property because of a safety hazard that you should have reasonably addressed or at least provided them a clear warning about upon their arrival to your property, you will likely absorb liability for their damages.
Some of the most common causes of premises liability claims include:
- Broken staircases.
- Loose floorboards.
- Damaged handrails.
- Uneven flooring.
- Wet surfaces.
- Loose wiring.
- Malfunctioning or broken smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Defective escalators and elevators.
- Hidden ditches, divots, and holes in the ground made by wildlife.
- Unsafe swimming pools.
- Ineffective property maintenance.
Suppose you wish to avoid premises liability claims. In that case, it is essential to stay vigilant for safety hazards on your property and take appropriate action if you encounter any issues that could result in injury to a lawful visitor.
What If I’m Injured on Someone Else’s Property?
If you are visiting someone else’s property and suffer an injury, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim if the reason for your injury was a foreseeable hazard that the property owner should have addressed. If the property owner allowed hazardous conditions to remain on the property without addressing them, or if they did not warn you of the hazard that caused your injury, holding them accountable for your damages will come down to establishing foreseeability.
If you sustain a serious injury on someone else’s property, and you believe it happened because of a foreseeable safety issue, you need to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can review the details of your situation and help you determine whether the property owner failed to uphold their duty of care to maintain a reasonably safe premises for visitors.
Can You Sue a Homeowner If You Fall on Their Property?
If you suffer a fall on someone else’s property, you may have grounds to file a civil claim against them if you can establish a few basic facts:
- You were lawfully present on the property, meaning you had the property owner’s explicit or implied permission to enter the property.
- The hazard that caused your fall was a foreseeable safety risk.
- The property owner did not take any action to prevent this hazard from causing injuries, or the property owner failed to warn you about the hazard.
- Your claimed damages are the direct results of the fall in question.
An experienced personal injury attorney will walk through the events that led up to your fall to help you determine whether the property owner in question is indeed liable for your damages. If an experienced attorney believes that your injuries result from a property owner’s failure to maintain reasonably safe premises, your attorney will likely encourage you to explore your options for legal recourse against the property owner.
It is important to note that property owners have no duty of care to trespassers and intruders. If you trespass on private property or break into another person’s property and sustain injuries, you cannot file a premises liability claim against the property owner. The only exception to this rule would be children. The law does not recognize children as having the same level of personal responsibility or the same degree of discretion as adults, and children may inadvertently wander into other peoples’ properties and sustain injuries.
If you are a property owner and recognize any risk that children could wander into your property and sustain injuries, it is best to take reasonable precautions to prevent such injuries. For example, if your property has an “attractive nuisance” or something that a passing child may find too irresistible to ignore, it would be best to fence the area or otherwise prevent entry to avoid the possibility of an interloping child sustaining an injury on your property.
Is Premises Liability the Same as Negligence?
Premises liability and negligence are two different yet closely related legal concepts. Premises liability refers to a property owner’s duty of care in maintaining their property and preventing injuries to lawful visitors. Negligence is a breach of a duty of care. Therefore, when a property owner fails to maintain a reasonably safe premises for lawful visitors, they are negligent in their care of the property.
What Is the Difference Between Premises Liability and General Liability?
The term “premises liability” is often confused with similar legal terms, such as “general liability.” General liability is most often used in reference to coverage. For example, general liability insurance coverage for a business may offer insurance coverage for a broad range of risks. General liability coverage may also extend to individuals using certain products or services, offering them a measure of insurance protection if they sustain damages from using those products or services.
Taking Legal Action for Your Premises Liability Claim
If you believe your recent injuries are the results of a property owner’s failure to maintain reasonably safe premises, the first step in securing compensation for your losses is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you. Your lawyer will help you assess whether you have solid grounds for a premises liability and, if so, help you file it. An attorney will also be an invaluable asset for ensuring you claim the full scope of available damages in your premises liability claim.
The damages available in a premises liability claim are similar to those claimed in other personal injury lawsuits. Medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering will likely form the bulk of a plaintiff’s claimed damages. A personal injury plaintiff has the right to claim all damages resulting from a defendant’s negligence, including both immediate and anticipated future damages related to the incident in question. . For example, if your premises liability claim involves an injury that will require long-term rehabilitation, you could claim your hospital bills as well as the costs of required ongoing treatments.
Comparative Negligence in Premises Liability Claims
In some premises liability claims, the concept of comparative negligence will come into play if a defendant asserts that a plaintiff is partially responsible for causing their claimed damages. If a defendant warned the plaintiff about a known hazard, but the plaintiff disregarded this warning or misinterpreted it, the defendant can assess comparative negligence and reduce their liability for the plaintiff’s claimed damages.
The reason for the plaintiff’s presence on the property may also come into play in the case. Invitees are those the property owner explicitly invites to their property for their own reasons, such as friends, family, party guests, and neighbors. Licensees are generally individuals with the owner’s implied permission to visit the property for their purposes, such as utility workers and mail carriers. If a licensee sustains an injury while visiting the property but was in an area they should not have visited, or if they were otherwise acting outside the scope of their supposed reason for visiting the property, this could form an affirmative defense for the defendant.
Damages and Compensation for a Premises Liability Claim
A premises liability claim can potentially involve substantial damages, including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage. Some of the most common injuries cited in premises liability claims include:
- Slip and fall injuries. While a “slip and fall” may sound minor, the reality is that these incidents can result in bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries, spinal damage, and other catastrophic injuries.
- Electrical shocks. Exposed wiring or other electrical hazards can result in severe injuries, some of which may cause burns or cardiovascular problems for the victim.
- Burns. Fire hazards, including broken smoke detectors, can potentially cause a lawful visitor to suffer burn injuries. These injuries have a high chance of causing permanent disfigurement and painful scarring.
- Toxic exposure. If a property owner has a chemical spill or other toxic hazard on their property, visitors may experience a wide range of health complications, some of which may cause permanent damage.
These are just a few examples of possible injuries a plaintiff may cite in a premises liability claim. It will be essential for them to work with a reliable and experienced personal injury attorney who can ensure they receive maximum compensation for their damages.
Find Your Premises Liability Attorney Today
If you have questions about a recent injury that you or a loved one sustained while visiting another person’s property, the Kreeger Law Firm is here to help. Our team has years of experience handling complex premises liability claims against private property owners of all kinds, including homeowners and business owners. We can put that experience to work in your case. Contact the Kreeger Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with an attorney and learn more about what our firm can do for you in your premises liability claim.