For anyone who may not know, you may be asking yourself, what is premises liability? Most often seen in personal injury cases, premises liability refers to a situation in which one person was injured as a result of unsafe conditions on another person’s property. Whether public or private property is involved, owners are responsible for maintaining safe conditions, or at the very least providing effective warnings to anyone not familiar with the potentially hazardous settings on the property. In order for an injured party to win a premises liability case against a property owner, they must prove negligence. These types of situations may include:
- Slips and falls, including those caused by weather (snow, ice, etc.), wet floors, and more;
- Animal-related injuries including dog bites;
- Insufficient safety or security measures including defective or lack of resources such as smoke detectors, security guards, fire extinguishers, broken locks, and more;
- Poor maintenance including toxic substances such as mold, fumes, chemicals, and more, water damage from leaks or flooding, elevator or escalator incidents, and more;
- Hazardous areas such as swimming pools, workshops or sheds containing sharp or dangerous equipment, and more.
Depending on your state, you may be required by law to exercise caution to accommodate even unexpected guests, however, other places throughout the country have been known to divide types of visitors into three categories to potentially limit the property owners risk of liability in certain situation. An invitee is usually a friend, neighbor, family member, or other welcome person that you are most likely expecting. It is expected that property owners take at least some measure of care to insure the well-being of invitees. A licensee may be a door-to-door salesman or someone else who is visiting the property for his or her own personal gain. When dealing with a licensee, a property owner is expected to alert them of any conditions on the property that may cause harm in one way or another, especially if they are not easily detectable by the licensee. Lastly, everyone knows what a trespasser is, someone who is unlawfully on someone else’s property for any reason without the property owner’s knowledge or permission. Typically property owners have no responsibility to trespassers, and are not liable for any harm or injury that they may face, but this is of course unless the trespasser is a child. If a child is trespassing, a property owner must make reasonable efforts to ensure the safety of the child.
Some states also take into consideration comparative fault. This basically means that if the person who is injured is even partly responsible for his or her own injury, such as not heeding a wet floor sign, then they may not be entitled to full compensation. Everyone has a responsibility to be smart and try to keep themselves safe as much as possible, and lack of ability to do so can reduce a victims recovery by as much as they percent of fault.
No matter where you live, if your own a home or business, it’s important to look into your local and state laws to determine your specific responsibilities as a property owner, or to contact a reputable attorney to discuss any other questions or concerns you may have regarding premises liability. If you’re in need of a legal consultation, call The Law Offices of Daniel J. Harris, P.C. today at 231.347.4444 or fill out the free consultation form in the sidebar to schedule your free personal consultation.