What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is the idea that a property owner has a duty to maintain safe conditions on their property, and is therefore responsible for any injuries that occur on their premises. In a premises liability lawsuit, a visitor seeks compensation from a property owner for injuries they sustained on the owner’s property due to unsafe or defective conditions. The person held responsible does not need to be the owner of the property; it can be an owner, tenant, occupant, or anyone in possession of the land. Additionally, the property can be public or private; this includes residences, offices, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, retail stores, amusement parks, and more
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- Swimming Pool Accidents
- Amusement Park Accidents
- Inadequate Building Security
- Dog Bite Injuries
- Elevator and Escalator Accidents
Does Premises Liability Law Differ Between States?
Premises liability laws vary from state to state. In some states, such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, premises liability laws focus on the status of the visitor. A visitor is typically categorized as an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser. The status of the visitor determines the landowner’s duty of care to secure the safety of the visitor, and the landowner’s duty impacts the extent to which he or she is responsible for the visitor’s injuries.
An invitee is a visitor who was invited onto the property for the purpose of the landowner or possessor conducting business. This includes customers of commercial and retail stores open to the public, as well as a hired painter in a person’s home. Compared to the other types of visitors listed below, the owner of the property owes the invitee the highest duty of care. The owner must keep the property reasonably safe for ordinary use or warn the visitor of danger if it is not in plain sight.
A licensee is a visitor who has implicit or explicit permission to enter the property for the visitor’s own benefit. An example of a licensee is a visitor attending a social gathering (social guest) on a person’s property. The property owner has a duty to warn the licensee of any hidden dangers on the property that the owner knew or should have known about; however, this typically does not include any dangerous condition that is clearly visible.
A trespasser is someone who enters the property without the owner’s consent. Trespassers are not owed a duty of care, but property owners cannot impose dangerous conditions to intentionally injure trespassers. Some states make exceptions for situations involving children. For example, a property owner has the responsibility to adequately fence in a private pool if it is reasonably foreseeable that a child or children would be around the pool.
In other states, such as California and Louisiana, premises liability laws focus primarily on the landowner’s actions or failure to act. In these states, a property owner has a duty to ensure that the property is in a reasonably safe condition for all visitors. The landowner or possessor must take reasonable care to discover unsafe conditions, and to repair or warn visitors of the danger. The failure to fulfill this duty is called “negligence,” and the owner is responsible for any injury resulting from this negligence. Some states, including California and Louisiana, have made an exception for trespassers. Property owners are not responsible for injuries sustained by trespassers on their property, unless the owner intentionally created the dangerous condition that caused the injury or could have reasonably foreseen a trespasser becoming injured by the dangerous condition.
Premises Liability Statute of Limitations
Each state imposes a statute of limitations for premises liability claims. These state-specific laws limit the amount of time a person has to file a premises liability claim. Starting from the date of injury, a person has two years to file a premises liability claim in Alabama, California, and Georgia. The statute of limitations for premises liability claims is four years in Florida, and one year in Louisiana.
Comparative Negligence and Premises Liability
Some states, including California, Florida, and Louisiana, allow “comparative negligence” as a defense in personal injury lawsuits. Under this defense, the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff is reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault in the premises liability accident. Other states, such as Georgia and Texas, allow “modified comparative negligence,” which does not allow the plaintiff to recover any damages if their percentage of fault is 50% or more. Some states, such as Alabama, do not allow any form of comparative negligence.
Common Premises Liability Lawsuits
Slip and Fall Lawsuits
A slip and fall lawsuit is the most common type of premises liability lawsuit. A slip and fall accident claim arises when a person slips, falls, and sustains an injury on another person’s property.
- Defective Staircases
- Wet Floors or Oily Floors
- Unsecured Rugs
- Slippery Surfaces Due to Ice or Snow
- Broken/Damaged Floors
- Broken/Damaged Stairs
- Broken/Damaged Sidewalks
In these cases, a slip and fall attorney must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent for failing to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property and providing adequate notification to visitors. To prove the property owner’s negligence, the slip and fall lawyer must prove that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, and that the owner failed to take reasonable steps to fix the condition or make the visitor aware of it.
Swimming Pool Accident Lawsuits
When an injury sustained by a swimmer or visitor occurs in or around a pool, the owner of the pool may be held liable for the injury. Common injuries and unsafe conditions in swimming pool accidents include drowning, brain damage, hypothermia, faulty pool drains, and slippery surfaces.
Amusement Park Accident Lawsuits
If a hazardous area in an amusement park does not contain proper warnings or barriers, the park may be liable for any injuries sustained by individuals who are injured as a result of the inadequate safety precautions. Amusement park accident lawsuits commonly result from operational errors, structural failures, passenger misuse, and unqualified ride operators.
Inadequate Building Security Lawsuits
The owner or possessor of a building has a duty to take reasonable measures to secure the building. An injury resulting from the landowner or possessor’s failure to take these measures may give rise to a premises liability claim. For example, if a trespasser enters a residential building and assaults a resident, the resident may have a premises liability claim against a building owner.
Dog Bite Injury Lawsuits
An individual that sustains injury from a dog bite or attack that occurs on the property of the dog’s owner may be entitled to a dog bite injury lawsuit. However, several states follow the “one free bite rule.” In these states, a dog bite lawyer may assert that the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous, so the dog owner is not legally responsible for any damages.
Elevator and Escalator Accidents
It is the responsibility of a property owner to ensure that their premises are in safe conditions, including maintaining regular inspections on all elevators and escalators. If an elevator or escalator fails to meet the standards and codes and hazards are obvious to users, the owner or operator may be held liable for any injuries sustained by visitors.
Common Injuries Sustained in Premises Liability Cases
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Broken or Dislocated Bones
- Torn Ligaments
- Muscle Strains
- Neck and Back Injuries
Additionally, injuries derived from chemical exposure are common in premises liability cases.
- Severe Burns
- Compromised Respiratory Function
- Brain Damage
- Nerve Damage
How Does a Premises Liability Lawsuit Work?
Premises liability cases are not always straightforward. Contacting a specialized premises liability attorney is the best way to navigate through premises liability lawsuits. Below, examine some important aspects of a premises liability lawsuit.
What Does the Injured in a Premises Liability Case Need to Prove?
A premises liability case first requires a showing that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. An owner’s duty of care varies based on the state. As previously mentioned, some states base the duty on the status of the visitor; the highest duty is owed to an invitee, a lesser duty is owed to a licensee, and a minimal duty is owed to trespassers. Other states assign a duty to all property owners or possessors to take reasonable care to maintain safe conditions on their property.
Next, a premises liability attorney must prove that the defendant breached the duty owed to the plaintiff. This involves showing that the defendant property owner failed to maintain safe conditions on their property due to carelessness or negligence. Carelessness is when the owner contributes to creating a dangerous condition but does not take any steps to prevent an injury. Negligence occurs when an owner is or should be aware of an unsafe condition, but fails to take reasonable steps to repair it.
Finally, a premises liability lawyer must prove that the breach caused an accident, and the visitor was injured as a result of the accident. Useful evidence in premises liability lawsuits may include surveillance footage, pictures of the injury, pictures of the unsafe condition on the premises, medical bills and records, and witness statements.
Common Premises Liability Defenses
In a premises liability lawsuit, a property owner may assert a defense to minimize or extinguish his liability. One potential defense is “assumption of risk,” whereby the defendant claims that the visitor knew about the unsafe condition before entering the property, voluntarily exposed him or herself to the danger by entering, and therefore assumed the risk of injury when entering the property. For example, a plaintiff who was hit by a ball at a baseball game may not be able to recover damages for his or her injury if the defendant baseball stadium asserts this defense. The baseball stadium can claim that there is an obvious risk of being hit with a ball at a game, so the plaintiff who attended the game assumed the risk and should not recover any damages for his or her injury.
Another common defense to a premises liability claim is that the danger was “open and obvious.” Under this defense, the defendant contends that a reasonable person would have foreseen the danger upon reasonable inspection, so the defendant should not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. A common example is when a person slips on an observable patch of ice on someone else’s property and sustains an injury. The property owner may claim that he or she did not have a duty to prevent this injury because a reasonable person is aware of the dangers associated with noticeably icy surfaces.
Common Damages Awarded in a Premises Liability Case
Premises liability injuries are often expensive to treat, so people are commonly awarded medical damages as compensation for hospital bills, rehabilitation expenses, prescription drugs, and other related medical expenses. Similarly, if a person has died as result of a premises liability injury, a close relative may be awarded wrongful death damages.
- Medical Expenses
- Funeral Expenses
- Loss of a Companion
Plaintiffs in premises liability lawsuits are often compensated for the wages they lost while recovering from their premises liability injury, as well.
- Wages Already Lost
- Future Earnings
- Job Benefits
Additionally, a plaintiff may receive compensation for the pain and suffering they experienced from the premises liability accident.
Were You Injured and Believe You Have a Premises Liability Case? The Law Center Can Help.
If you were injured and believe you have a premises liability case, The Law Center can help. It is our mission to connect parties injured by the negligence of others with the top legal teams in the country who specialize in recovering compensation for your injuries. We are partnered with a network of highly experienced law firms and attorneys who have recovered billions of dollars for the hurt and injured.