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What Is Premises Liability?
Premise liability is an area of personal injury law that makes a person in possession or control of property responsible for certain injuries sustained by other persons while they are on the property. Put simply, the owner of the property owes a certain duty of care to certain classes of people who enter the property. When that duty is breached and an injury is simply foreseeable, the owner may be liable.
What Are the Elements of a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
An person injured on property owners premises as a result of property owners failure to maintain a safe property must show:
- A dangerous condition existed on the property
- The property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition
- The property owner failed to warn, repair, and remedy the dangerous condition
- The property entrant was injured as a result
Who is the Landowner Liable for?
The duty of the property owner to the property entrant varies on whether the property entrant is a invitee, licensee, or a trespasser:
- Invitee: Is someone who has been invited onto the property of another for the benefit of the landowner. This include customers, in a store. The landowner has the duty to take reasonable steps to maintain safety on property. The landowner must warn and repair dangerous condition known to landowner and also has a duty to inspect to discover unknown dangerous conditions.
- Licensee: Someone who enters the property for his or her own purpose, such as a social guest or friend, and is present at the consent of the owner. The landowner has a duty to ensure safety on property by repairing and warning of dangerous conditions on the property known to landowner and not obvious to licensee. Landowner has no duty to inspect for dangerous conditions.
- Trespasser: Someone who enters the property without the owners consent, the landowner only has a duty to warn of dangerous conditions on land known to landowner only if landowner knows that his land has frequent trespassers
Under a traditional approach, each category of person is owed a unique duty of care, with trespassers typically falling by the wayside and only being extended a protection against reckless or intentional harm.
Category of Property
The specific liability of a piece of property will vary by state. Here are some general categories of property and an example of the duty their owner may owe:
- Homes: A homeowner has the duty to make their property safe for visitors, or in some states invitees and licensees. Clearly, a homeowner must not create risk of injury, and has a duty to repair known hazards, such as slippery floors, decaying railings, and crooked stairs.
- Stores: A storeowner has the duty to keep the property in a reasonable state of repair, and to inspect for potential hazards. Thus, the store should always be structurally sound, and doors, windows, aisles, and other fixtures should be maintained and free of potential dangers.
- Land: A landowner has a duty to keep the land safe. This typically means it is safe for the land’s intended use. Thus, a ski resort must be maintained and kept safe as a ski resort, but not as an off-season, unauthorized downhill mountain bike course. If the course was authorized, however, the land must also be maintained to be safe as such.
Situations Causing the Injury
Premises liability injuries can be caused by:
- Slip and Fall: Perhaps the most common premise liability cases involve slip and fall. This cause of action describes nearly any instance where someone falls because of a dangerous condition and is injured on someone’s property.
- Negligence: Negligence is similar to slip and fall, as both require some type of failure to act on the owner’s behalf.
- Swimming Pool Accidents
- Defective conditions on the premises
- inadequate maintenance of the premises
Can Property Owner be Liable for Criminal Acts Which Occur on Property Owner's Premises?
In many jurisdictions, a property owner may be liable for criminal acts committed by a 3rd party not associated with the property owner if the property owner knew or should have known that the criminal act is likely. The property owner must take a reasonable measures to prevent this type of act if the property owner has had a history of criminal conduct occur on his or her property. This might require the plaintiff to prove that there was a history of criminal activity in the past which put property owner on notice that security measures were necessary to ensure safety for property entrants.
What Kind of Damages Can Be Recovered from Landowner?
When a property owner fails to exercise reasonable care to prevent an accident from occurring on his or her property, he or she may be required to pay the plaintiff damages for the injuries. Victims of premise liability injuries may recover:
- Medical and hospital bills
- Prescription costs
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Future Medical bills
- Wrongful Death Claims
Should I Consult with a Lawyer?
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. While property owners have a myriad of defenses to liability available, only an attorney can thoroughly evaluate your case, and ensure your rights are protected.
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Last Modified: 01-16-2015 03:46 PM PST
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