Premises liability is the legal responsibility of a property owner to ensure that there are no hazardous conditions that would cause harm or injury to a visitor. Property owners are required to take ‘reasonable care’ to ensure the safety of all visitors, and if they fail to do so, visitors who are hurt on their property can file a premises liability claim to recover damages for loss of income, medical bills and pain and suffering.
How Does the Law Define a Visitor In a Premises Liability Claim?
In many states, a person who wants to file a premises liability claim must first prove that he or she was a legitimate ‘visitor’ as defined by the law. Typically, there are three classifications of a visitor in legal terms which include:
- Invitee – The law defines an invitee as a person who would be welcome at the property that he or she visited. So a man or woman who decided to visit a bookstore where they later got hurt would be considered an invitee, because the bookstore owner welcomes visitors to browse and buy items in that store. Property owners are required to give visitors the highest level of care under the law.
- Licensee – The law defines a licensee as a person who visits a property without the express invitation of a property owner, but without the owner’s objection either. So a man selling chocolate for a fundraiser who went from property to property to make sales, would be considered a licensee because he is not barred from visiting a property, but was not expressly invited to come either. Property owners are required to give licensees less duty of care than with invitees, but they must make them aware of any hazardous conditions that could cause an injury.
- Trespasser – The law defines a trespasser as a person who visits a property with the intent of committing a crime. This person would not be welcomed by the property owner, and has no legitimate business to conduct. Unless the trespasser is a minor, property owners have no duty of care toward a trespasser.
When filing a premises liability claim, a person defined as an invitee would have the strongest chance of proving negligence, because the property owner’s burden of responsibility is so high in those cases.
Common Types of Premises Liability Cases
There are several situations that can lead to a premises liability lawsuit, including:
- Inadequate Security – If a person visits a property and suffers an injury as the result of an attack by someone, that person can file suit against the property owner if there was a lack of adequate security.
- Animal Bites – Pet owners have a responsibility to keep their animals under control, or to warn others if they know that their pets could cause harm or injury to another person. So if a person is attacked, harmed or injured by a pet, and the owner did not control that pet, he or she can file a claim against the owner.
- Slip and Fall Accidents – If a person slips and falls while visiting a property, and that fall was caused by something like a wet floor, or an obstruction that shouldn’t have been there, that person can file a suit against the property owner for negligence.
To prove a premises liability lawsuit, claimants must show that they did nothing to cause the injury, and that property owners should have foreseen the event that caused their injury and taken steps to correct it. This can be a difficult thing to prove, which is why it’s important to hire an experienced attorney to handle these cases. Please call Kinnaird & Kinnaird, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.