Businesses and property owners must keep visitors reasonably safe. “Premises liability” refers to the type of legal claim and the legal standards that apply when a person is injured on property controlled by another.
Premises injuries include those caused by falling merchandise in a “big box” store, a slip and fall at a grocery store caused by a wet floor, a sidewalk or parking lot trip and fall caused by uneven surfaces or icy conditions, to an injury on an amusement park ride or at a recreational facility, to criminal assaults at hotels or resorts due to inadequate security or poor lighting.
Legal responsibility for these types of injuries is determined by the status of the injured visitor at the moment of injury, the activities of both the owner and visitor, and the condition of the property.
There are three broad labels to describe the legal status of a customer or visitor on property controlled by another: invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Different standards apply to each.
An “invitee” is someone present on another’s property because of some economic relationship between the parties, such as a customer in a store. A store must take all reasonable measures to keep invitees safe while on property controlled by the store, including removing or changing dangerous conditions.
A “licensee” enters property for a non-commercial purpose, or as a social guest of the owner, and is present with the knowledge of the property owner. A licensee must be warned about known dangers on the property, but the owner is not required to remove or change the dangerous conditions.
A “trespasser” enters onto property without legal right to enter. Trespassers have the least legal protections. A property owner may have to warn trespassers about hidden dangers created by the owner, if the owner knows that trespassing happens regularly. This requirement applies only to artificial conditions that the owner created or maintains, and knows may be likely to cause serious injury or death.
After legal status is determined, the use and condition of the property must be evaluated. This requires a careful examination of numerous factors including: the circumstances under which the visitor entered the property; the visitor’s legal status at the moment of injury, what the property is used for, and how it is used; the likelihood of injury; and the reasonableness of the owners efforts to repair a dangerous condition or warn visitors, if any.
The most common legal defense--and the most effective--is the argument that the injured visitor is at fault their injuries because the visitor didn’t look where they were going or didn’t pay attention.
An experienced premises liability lawyer will know the appropriate experts in the fields of human factors, engineering, and retail safety to defeat comparative fault arguments by negligent businesses.
If you or a loved one has suffered a premises injury, you should speak with an experienced lawyer to ensure that your legal right to compensation is fully protected. Call the Law Office of Cameron Carter for a free case evaluation today.