Premises Liability – Are You at Fault?

Premises liability refers to the legal responsibilities that property owners have in reasonably maintaining their property in order to avoid inadvertently causing harm to others. The standard of reasonableness required to gain a favorable outcome in a premises liability suit varies depending on the jurisdiction where the event takes place.

When determining premises liability, multiple factors will be considered, including the usage of the property, the circumstances of the visitation to the premises by the injured party, the foreseeability of the injury, and the due diligence that the owner took to eliminate the hazard.

The legal status of a visitor can play an important role in the outcome of a premises liability claim. Whether the injured party was invited to the premises to conduct business (invitee), was a social guest or had some other non-business purpose with the consent of the owner, or was a trespasser without consent of the owner, will be considered in a premises liability case. While a property owner does not have a duty to protect trespassers, they do have to give warning if they have any reason to suspect that children will likely trespass. There is a special duty of care owed to children when it comes to premises liability.

Premises liability issues arise in numerous ways, from “slip and falls,” to defective conditions, to inadequate maintenance and security. Of these, slip and falls are the most common causes of premises liability lawsuits. A property owner, to avoid causing someone injury along with a potential premises liability claim, should be sure to keep all stairs in good condition, fix any broken walkways, and maintain dry and even flooring. If changes in elevation are unavoidable, then warnings must be clearly visible, marking the ground’s defect.

Exposure to mold, toxic chemicals, and lead are also grounds for a premises liability claim if injury results, as are amusement park rides and swimming pool accidents. Premises liability is at play when the property owner knows or should have known of the dangerous conditions and does not take action to prevent injury.

Accidents that occur on public property may result in a premises liability claim against the person(s) responsible for maintaining the property, even if they themselves are not the property owners. Accidents occurring on private property are often covered by household insurance, whereas accidents occurring on business premises are usually covered under public liability insurance. Premises liability is not usually applicable when the injured party is an employee. In those cases, workers’ compensation insurance usually handles the claim.

There is also a duty on the visitors’ part to take reasonable care for their own safety. If the injured party is found to be partially at fault due to their own negligence, the premises liability award may be reduced correspondingly.

Landlords who lease property to tenants (lessees) have less control over their property once it is leased, so some leniency is applied when the condition(s) that caused the injury were not present at the time the lessee took possession of the property. Premises liability is more prevalent, however, if the injury was determined to be caused by an underlying defect that was present, even if concealed, at the time the lease went into effect.

Because of the number of factors contributing to premises liability claims and their resulting outcomes, it is in one’s best interest to hire a premises liability attorney in the event of an accident. The attorneys at Revelli & Luzzo in Worcester, Massachusetts, are experienced in premises liability law, particularly as it pertains to slip and falls. Contact us for a free consultation to help determine the next steps in your premises liability claim.

Have you ever been injured on someone else’s property or involved in a premises liability claim? What action did you choose to take?

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