Property owners and tenants are required to maintain a relatively safe environment to minimize the risk that people who enter your property do not suffer a personal injury. This is the legal concept known as “premises liability.” If a person is injured on your property, you can be liable for any personal injury resulting therefrom.

What Duties Do I Owe?

Traditionally, the law put other people on your land into one of three categories: trespasser, licensee, and invitees.

Trespassers do not have the permission of the landowner to be on the land, and are thus afforded very limited protection. Landowners only have a duty to reasonably warn trespassers to prevent injury. This duty to trespassers only applies to artificial conditions that the owner created such as the presence of concealed animal traps and the like, when trespassers could be on the land.

Licensees enter the land with the permission of the landowner, such as social guests and police officers. The landowner must warn a licensee of concealed dangers as well as natural dangers.

Invitees or social guests are people who were invited by the landowner to be there, such as business guests and members of the public. The landowner must warn the invitee of all dangers on the property, whether its existence is concealed or obvious. The landowner must remove all dangers if reasonable.

A minority of states, including California, have abolished these traditional categories, and hold landowners to the same duty of care for all individuals on the land.

What are Common Premises Liability Cases?

Premises liability causes of action relate to personal injuries sustained on someone else’s property. The most common types of liability cases include the following:

  • Slip and fall cases (defective staircase, icy stairs, tripping hazards, etc.);
  • Dog bites;
  • Inadequate or improper maintenance of the premises;
  • Water leaking or flooding;
  • Elevator or escalator accidents;
  • Negligent or improper security; and/or
  • Swimming pool accidents.

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Are There Limitations on Recovery for People Injured on Your Property?

Most states follow the comparative negligence principle with regard to premises liability cases. Comparative negligence is the legal theory that more than one party is responsible for the resulting personal injury.

Under comparative negligence theories, recovery for damages are reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to each party, even with the injured party. This is known as “apportionment of fault” or “allocation of fault.”

For example, if an injured party is considered 20% responsible for his injury, and the property owner is responsible for 80% of the injury, and the total damages are $100,000, the injured party’s damages are reduced by 20% to $80,000.

Do I Need a Personal Injury for My Premises Liability?

If you are a landowner being sued by someone who was injured on your property, or if you were injured on another’s property, a local personal injury attorney can help you evaluate whether your case is strong.