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Premises Liability 

Personal Injury Lawyer

Property owners and residents have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition so that others who enter the premises don’t become injured. This duty is referred to as “premises liability” and includes the duty to inspect the property and repair any dangerous conditions. Property owners and residents can be held liable under a premises liability theory for accidents and injuries that occur as a result of dangerous conditions on their property. One common example of an injury that might lead to premises liability is one resulting from a slip and fall accident. For instance, if a postman slips and falls in oil on a home’s driveway, he might sue the homeowner for his injuries. 

Premises liability is governed by different laws in every state, so it is important to check your state’s laws if you are considering filing a premises liability lawsuit. Some states evaluate the status of the injured visitor to determine liability, while others evaluate the condition of the property and the actions of both the visitor and the property owner. 

Status of the Injured Visitor

Most states recognize at least three types of visitors: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. An invitee is someone who the owner has invited onto their property. A property owner owes the highest duty of care to invitees. The property owner has a duty to repair known dangers and reasonably inspect the property to discover and repair unknown dangers. 

A licensee enters a property for their own purpose or convenience, but with the owner’s consent. In other words, the primary benefit when a licensee enters another’s property is to the licensee, not to the owner. Property owners owe a lower duty of care to licensees than they do invitees. The property owner must take reasonable steps to protect licensees from known dangers on the property but is not obligated to inspect for unknown dangers.

A trespasser enters the property without the consent of the owner and without any right to do so. A property owner owes no duty to trespassers who enter their property, except that the property owner cannot deliberately injure trespassers. However, a property owner who knows that trespassers are likely to enter their property has a duty to give a reasonable warning to prevent injury to trespassers if the owner has created or maintained artificial conditions that they know are likely to cause serious injury or death.

Condition of the Property and Actions of the Visitor and Owner

In states that evaluate the condition of the premises, the property owner owes both invitees and licensees the same duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure the premises is safe for visitors. Determining whether the property owner has met their standard of care requires evaluating numerous factors, such as the circumstances under which the visitor entered the property, what the property is used for, the foreseeability of the accident that occurred, and the reasonableness of the property owner’s attempts to repair or warn others of the dangerous condition on the premises. 

As discussed above, the property owner’s duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure the premises’ safety for visitors does not apply to trespassers unless the owner both knows trespassers are likely to enter their property and has created or maintained artificial dangerous conditions on the property.

Thanks to the personal injury lawyer team at Eglet Adams for their insight on premises liability.

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