Premises liability holds an owner(s) of property responsible for accidents and injuries that may have occurred on their land, in and around their business, or in their home.
Premise liability claims are more commonly based on the theory of negligence, and in order to prove liability, the plaintiff must show the following elements of proof:
- The owner owed a duty of care to the visitor.
- There was a dangerous condition on the owner’s property.
- The owner knew of the dangerous condition, yet failed to remedy the situation.
- The injury occurred because the owner failed to exercise his or her duty of care to prevent the accident.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
Liability for landowners can depend on the tort liability status of the victim. For example, there are invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Generally, a property owner owes the highest duty of care to invitees, then licensees, and lastly, trespassers.
On the tort liability scale, a landowner is more likely to be held liable if they failed to perform their duty of care in the following three categories of visitors to their property:
- Invitees: These visitors (customers and patrons) were invited to the property by the owner, therefore the owner has a duty to warn of risks if he or she knows about them and the risk of harm is unreasonable.
- Licensees: These visitors (social guests) entered or remained on the property for purposes other than business. The owner must warn licensees of risks if they knew about dangerous conditions, and the licensee didn’t know or have a reason to know about the dangerous conditions.
- Trespassers: These people have entered or remained on the premises without the owner’s consent. State laws vary, but usually, an owner does not have a duty to warn trespassers of dangerous conditions, particularly if the owner is unaware of trespassers.
Legal Remedies for Premises Liability
If a property owner is found to have been negligent in her duty of care to prevent an accident or injury on her property, a plaintiff may recover damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Future and present medical bills
- Lost income
- Wrongful death claims
A property owner may also be ordered to repair or fix the dangerous conditions in order to provide a safe environment.
What are Some Premises Liability Defenses?
If you are a property owner and have had a premises liability claim brought against you, your most important defense is proving you were not negligent. A few common defenses a property owner may use include:
- Assumption of risk: Simply stated, the plaintiff was aware of a risk of injury, disregarded the risk, and in turn, assumed the risk of becoming injured.
- Contributory negligence: The plaintiff contributed to their own injury, thus possibly preventing an award of damages.
- Comparative Negligence: The plaintiff is partially negligent in their own injury, so if damages are awarded, they may be reduced.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you were injured on someone else’s property, or, you happen to be a property owner who is being sued for premise liability, you may want to contact a personal injury attorney. Proving negligence can be tricky, and an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable of your state laws can help build your case and represent you in court.