Let’s say that somebody wanders onto a property and is injured in an accident that occurs there. When a person enters onto somebody else’s property, that person has a reasonable expectation to not get injured there. This means that property owners have a standard duty of care that they owe and are responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment. Premises liability is the theory that holds property owners and residents liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property, which can range anywhere from a slip-and-fall to an injury that happens at an amusement park. However, there are some questions that need to be answered before one goes forth with a case.
Was the Person an Invitee, Licensee, Social Guest, or Trespasser?
What is the difference between the four? In states that focus solely on the status of the visitor to the property, they are categorized in these four simple ways:
- Invitee: This is somebody who has been invited onto the property of another person. This could apply easily to a customer in a store. The invitation will usually imply that the property owner has taken reasonable steps to assure the safety on their premises.
- Licensee: This type of person enters the property for their own purpose, or as a social guest in some cases, and is present only at the consent of the owner.
- Social Guest: This is a welcomed visitor to the property.
- Trespasser: This type of person enters the property without any right whatsoever to be doing so. There is, in many cases, no implied promise that reasonable care has been made to assure the safety of the property.
What Are Some Examples of These Cases?
You may be wondering: What types of premises liability cases actually apply? If you believe you have a case, it is important to know if your accident falls within the boundaries. Here are a few common examples, explained:
- Slip and Fall: These happen to be the most straightforward types of premises liability cases. Why? They apply to when you slip and fall on someone else’s property. Certain conditions like defective staircases, wet floors, and hidden extension cords may lead to a slip and fall accident.
- Inadequate Building Security: Owners of a building (such as apartments or offices) have a reasonable duty to act responsibly in securing access to buildings. If somebody breaks into one of these buildings and assaults or kills someone on the property, a premises liability case may stem from it.
- Swimming Pool Accidents: These accidents usually involve children and an unsupervised or unsecured pool. There are many laws that pools must have fences around them and often with a locking gate as well. If a pool is left unguarded, a case may occur.
I’m a Lessor or a Landlord: Do Special Rules Apply to Me?
Special rules of liability may apply when it comes to lessors or landlords, fortunately. The general rule states that a lessor is not liable to a lessee, or anyone else, for physical harm caused by a condition on that property. This rule is based on the lessor’s presumed lack of control over the property once it is leased, but the rule can have exceptions. It is important to look into the laws in your state.
For this reason, it is important to have an attorney on your side throughout the process if you believe you have a claim. Premises liability may govern many complicated rules and restrictions, as it is a complex set of laws. Your attorney at WTW will be able to review your case and tell you if you have a claim.