If you have experienced an accident while on privately or publicly-owned property, the owner of the premises may be liable for any injuries you receive. There are many different ways a person can sustain injury from an accident. Some of the most common property accidents include slips-and-falls, trips-and-falls, falling items, and structural collapses. These accidents can happen literally anywhere, including private homes, schools, shopping malls, offices, stores, hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and public streets and sidewalks. These cases are sometimes called “premises liability accidents” because they concern whether the owner of the premises is liable.
Who May be Liable?
The main concern in these matters is whether the property owner is liable for any injuries you sustained in your accident. Generally, it must be proven that the owner either was aware or should have been aware of the hazard that caused the injury, and did not take timely steps to prevent it. However, the circumstances are taken into consideration. For example, if you sustain injury while attempting to use an escalator in a shopping mall, the property owner might be liable if you had a reasonable expectation that the escalator was safe to use and in good repair, as opposed to if the escalator was clearly labelled and cordoned off as a safety hazard.
Usually, reasonable expectations of safety are determined by how the property is meant to be used, whether any accidents were foreseeable, how much effort the owner took to resolve dangerous conditions or to warn visitors, and the circumstances under which the visitors entered.
A Visitor’s Status
Generally, the legal status of a person visiting a property depends on whether they were actually invited to the property or not. Most people entering the premises are likely to be either invitees or licensees. The distinction between these two groups can be confusing, but irrespective of whether a person is an invitee or a licensee, the property owner has an expectation of exercising reasonable care to ensure the safety of his guests.
Invitees are generally broken into two main types: business and public. Business invitees are people who are clearly invited to benefit the property owner, as with a customer at a grocery store. Public invitees are people who enter premises that have been made open to the public, such a public library.
Licensees are individuals who are permitted to enter but are there for their own purposes, such as a person using a restroom at a gas station, or a neighbor who dropped by your house to borrow a cup of sugar. They may not be present on the premises due to a specific invitation, but their presence is not objectionable.
However, there is a third category, for which there is no expectation of reasonable care: trespassers. Trespassers enter property without any right whatsoever. If a property owner has no expectation of trespass, he is likely not liable for any injuries trespassers may sustain. However, if the owner is aware that trespassers are very likely going to enter his property, he or she may still have a duty to give reasonable warning to prevent injury or death.
As with many legal matters, there are multiple caveats that may be considered exceptions to the rule. For example, if a property owner anticipates children will be on his premises, he or she has a special responsibility to prevent dangerous conditions whether the children are invited or not. There are also many cases where the injured party may be at fault themselves, or where both parties are at fault. A person who broke their leg while break-dancing down a flight of stairs is likely at least partially culpable for his or her injuries, but the property owner might share the blame if, say, the injured person slipped on a puddle of water that the owner had neglected to mop up.
Contact an Attorney
If you have been involved in a property accident, you should seek the services of an experienced attorney, as you may have a legal right to compensation. Our knowledgeable and responsive attorneys advocate for our clients’ rights. Contact us today to set up a consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.