What Is Premises Liability?
Basically, “premises liability” refers to whether the owner of a property is responsible if you hurt yourself while on that property. Depending on the specific circumstances, the owner could be entirely responsible for all of the injuries you experienced while on the property. (1)
Common Premises Liability Cases
If a property owner creates or allows a dangerous condition to exist, you may be able to file a lawsuit requesting compensation for any injuries you suffered while on that property.
Although specific laws vary by state, certain types of injuries are treated similarly:
- Slip and fall — You trip and get injured while entering or being in a place of business. Or you slip and fall on a slick floor or patch of black ice on a sidewalk or in a parking lot. Because the owner of the property failed to take reasonable precautions to ensure your safety, that owner is liable for your injury. (2)
- Swimming pool accidents — Swimming pool accidents can range from slipping and falling to diving, getting electrocuted, drowning, and being exposed to toxic chemicals or harmed by a pool’s drain.
- Inadequate maintenance of property — Property owners are required by law to inspect and maintain their properties. They are also expected to warn “foreseeable users” about potential dangers. These responsibilities are part of land ownership, whether business or residential. (3)
- Dog bites — States have liability laws requiring dog owners to take reasonable measures to prevent their dogs from biting and injuring people.
- Broken stairs and railings — As mandated by law, property owners are required to inspect and maintain their property. This includes repairing broken stairs and railings, or warning users of potential dangers. (4)
Duty of Care
Duty of care is a legal principle evaluating use. It determines if someone acted “as a reasonably prudent person in their position would.” (5)
When it comes to premises liability, a judge considers whether the business or homeowner took reasonable measures to ensure their customers, visitors, or guests would be safe on their property. If not, the property owner may be responsible and have to pay for your injuries.
Property Owner’s Duty of Care
A business or homeowner must make a “reasonably informed, good faith, rational judgment” about how to maintain their property and safeguard the wellbeing of others. If not, a judge or jury would likely side in the favor of anyone who is injured while on a person’s or business’s property. (6)
The “owner/occupant/lessor of a property is under a duty to exercise ordinary care in the use, maintenance or management of such premises in order to avoid exposing people to an unreasonable risk of harm.” (7) This is true whether the potential danger is caused by a natural condition or a condition created on the property. (8)
Invitee or Licensee Versus Trespasser
A property owner, whether commercial or residential, has a responsibility to safeguard people who come onto the property. Legally, it matters whether you were invited, or otherwise allowed onto a property, versus if you trespassed or were not invited or allowed onto the property. (9)
A “licensee” is a person who is in possession of a license. A licensee has been granted some rights by a licensor to “do something that would otherwise be legally prohibited.” For example, if you visit a friend’s house for dinner as an invited guest, you would be considered a licensee under the common law. You are allowed onto a property because you received express or implied invitation by the homeowner. (10)
An “invitee” is also allowed onto someone’s property. This legal term refers to someone permitted to enter a commercial or professional property, such as a grocery store or other retail or professional establishment. (11)
On the other hand, a trespasser is someone who knowingly enters another person’s property without permission. If you enter someone’s home without an invitation or break into a store when it is closed, you might be a trespasser. (12)
Property owners have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to maintain the safety of their property. However, this does not mean they are held responsible for every accident that might occur.
Visitors to a property also have a responsibility to “be aware of conditions” on a given property. (13) Visitors are expected to be aware of their surroundings and take reasonable precautions to prevent accidents and injuries. This is called “mitigation.”
In general, “no liability applies to the property owner if a person’s injury resulted from a danger that was open and obvious to people.” (14)
For example, in one legal case, a person fell down a flight of stairs while walking in downtown Los Angeles in broad daylight. The stairs were not defective. The property owner could not have foreseen any unusual danger. The person walking should have been paying closer attention to where he was walking. (15)
In another case, someone was injured when he tried to step over a ditch which happened to collapse beneath him. The court ruled the person should have foreseen possible danger. (16)
Are You Eligible for Filing a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
When considering if you might be eligible to file a premises liability lawsuit, ask yourself:
- Were you on the property legally?
- Was the property owner negligent in maintaining the property? Did they fix unsafe conditions or warn of potential hazards?
- Did the property owner’s negligence lead to your injury?
If you answered yes to these questions, you may be entitled to compensation. The next step is to contact a reputable law firm for more information about your legal options.
If you were injured on someone's property due to their negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
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How W&L Can Help
Weitz & Luxenberg handles premises liability cases and other accident-related personal injury lawsuits. We have been handling these types of cases for over30 years and have a solid history of winning.
Here are some examples of lawsuit we won on behalf of our clients. Our clients were injured because the property owners did not take reasonable measures to maintain the safety of their property:
- Multimillion-dollar settlement on behalf of a man who suffered a severe brain injury after he fell from the walkway of an apartment building’s second story.
- More than $16 million verdict on behalf of clients who were victims of an execution-style murder at their apartment building because the landlord had not taken reasonable measures to ensure their safety. A defective lock on the front door allowed intruders.
Premises liability laws are complex. Hiring a law firm specializing in this type of law is important.
An experienced attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg can provide you with the legal guidance necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for your lawsuit.