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Premise Liability

Definition - What does Premise Liability mean?

Premise liability laws outline general legal principles which determine when landowner is responsible for a person's injuries if they are injured while on the property due to dangerous conditions caused by a failure of the landowner to properly maintain their property or to warn visitors of the possible hazards.

Premise liability law is determined by common law, building codes, state statutes, and municipal ordinances.

Common hazards and Premise Liability Law

Common hazards can include dangerous conditions which can cause slip and falls, inadequate security measures, cracks in sidewalks, snow and ice which are not cleaned, faulty stairs, vicious animals, broken elevators, and open swimming pools.

Duty of Care and Premise Liability Law

If you have been injured on another person's property and wish to file an injury claim the first requirement you must establish is that they owed you a duty of care. Duty of care is the legal obligation one person has towards another person with regards to the amount of reasonable care they should take to protect others from harm.

How do you establish duty of care in a premise liability claim?

First, the court will consider the relationship of the injured party with the property owner. For instance, the law will consider whether you were a licensee, invitee, or trespasser. Although a duty of care may exist between an owner and each of these types of visitors, the level of care may vary.

For instance, while the owner may be required to inspect their property, fix dangerous conditions, and provide appropriate warnings to an invitee, the same duty may not be required to protect trespassers. In fact, the business owner may only be required not to create dangerous conditions to catch a trespasser.

Filing a premise liability case

To win a premise liability claim you must prove the owner of the property owed you a duty of care, which means you had legal access to the property. Next, you must determine if your actions were reasonable or whether you were participating in an activity which you knew to be dangerous.

For instance, an affirmative defense against a premise liability case may exist if a property owner can prove that although you were injured participating in an activity on their property, you assumed the risk, which means you were reasonably aware you could be injured and decided to participate in an activity anyway.

Next, you will need to determine if the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition and whether they could have anticipated an injury.

Finally, you may have to prove the owner did not make reasonable attempts to warn you about the dangers or to repair the damage.

For instance, if you slip and fall in a grocery store one minute after another person broke a jar of pickles, the court will consider whether the store owner had sufficient warning about the hazard. If the hazard just occurred, and the store owner could not have known about it, they may not be held liable, especially if they have a schedule for routine cleaning.

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