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A premises liability lawsuit is filed with the intent of holding a property owner responsible for injuries and damages caused by the property owner’s failure to maintain his property or failure to warn visitors of potential hazards. Common examples of premises liability accidents include inadequate security, slip and fall cases, and swimming pool injuries.
Who Can File a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
In most situations, a property owner owes a general duty of care toward those injured on his property. How far this duty of care extends is dependent on the relationship between the property owner and the injured person.
In most premises liability cases, plaintiffs will fall into one of three categories:
Licensee: A licensee is a visitor whom the property owner permits expressly or implicitly to be on his property without a contractual relationship or trade of benefits. A houseguest is normally considered a licensee.
Invitee: An invitee is an individual who visits a property for a reason that benefits both the visitor and the property owner. A common example of an invitee is a shopper visiting a grocery store. In this instance, the shopper benefits from getting groceries and the store benefits from the shopper spending their money. A residential example of an invitee would include a contractor hired by a homeowner to complete repairs on a property. While a transfer of money is common in invitee situations, it is not required.
Trespasser: A trespasser is a visitor who comes onto a property without permission of the property owner.
What Duty of Care Does a Property Owner Owe a Visitor?
After determining which category an injured falls into, a court will analyze what duty of care is owed by the property owner. Generally, the duty of care will be as follows:
Duty of Care Owed to Licensees: The property owner is usually only liable for willful or wanton injury to a licensee. This means the property owner must exercise enough care to prevent injury to a visitor who is known to be or could reasonably be expected to be within the range of a dangerous act or condition (i.e. warn the licensee of a known hazard). However, the property owner is not required to inspect the premises or to immediately fix dangerous conditions.
Duty of Care Owed to Invitees: The property owner must exercise ordinary care to keep the premises safe. This includes protecting invitees from any dangerous conditions the owner knows about or should reasonably know about. The property owner must also inspect the property and must either fix or warn invitees about any dangerous conditions. An example of this is the “Caution: Wet Floor” signs that is commonly used in retail and grocery stores.
Duty of Care Owed to Trespassers: Because there is now true relationship between a trespasser or property owner, the law is much more lenient when it comes to the duty of care owed by the property owner. The property owner is not required to fix any dangerous conditions nor must the property owner warn trespassers about potential hazards. However, a property owner can be held liable for creating dangerous conditions on his property or making dangers conditions worse in order to catch trespassers.
What Should I Do After a Premises Liability Accident?
If you or a loved one were injured on someone’s property and believe your injury was the result of the property owner’s failure to provide reasonable protection, following these steps may help build your product liability case.
Seek medical attention for your injuries
Ensure that you or loved ones’ well being is taken care of before taking any other actions
Report the incident to the owner or manager of the property
Make sure to get a copy of the incident report
Take pictures of the area where the accident happened
Photos with a date and time are important, because evidence could be removed
Get names and phone numbers of any people who witnessed the accident
Witnesses will help prove your story in the future