Premises Liability Law

What is Premises Liability Law?

Premises liability law refers to the legal principles that hold landowners and tenants responsible when someone enters onto their property and gets hurt due to a dangerous condition. With few exceptions, premises liability claims are based on negligence, although the doctrine may be applied differently than it is in other personal injury situations. The primary source of premises liability law is state case precedents (known as "common law"). State statutes, municipal ordinances, and local building codes may also be relevant.

Slip and falls are the most common type of accident resulting in premises liability. Causes include wet floors, snow and ice, unmarked obstacles, faulty stairs, and other such dangers. Lawsuits can also result from injuries caused by vicious animals, open swimming pools, broken elevators, or violent customers or guests. To obtain compensation, plaintiffs may be able to file suit against owners, landlords, business owners, easement holders, residential tenants, maintenance companies, and other entities that control or possess the property where the accident happened.

Traditional Approach Based on Entrant Status

A number of courts decide questions of premises liability by characterizing the injured plaintiff in one of three ways, based on the reason he or she entered onto the land. Plaintiffs who entered without permission are given the status of "trespassers." Social guests and others who entered onto the land for their own purposes are labeled as "licensees," and those who entered to further the purposes of the landowner, such as business customers, are considered "invitees." Each group is afforded a different level of protection from harm.

Under this traditional approach, landowners usually have no legal responsibility to keep trespassers safe. An exception is made, however, if the owner knew that trespassers were present, and failed to warn them about hidden and dangerous conditions. With respect to licensees (guests), landowners have a similar duty. That is, they must warn about dangers that people coming onto the land are unlikely to discover on their own. Invitees (customers) are provided the most protection. Landowners must inspect the premises and make sure it is safe for these individuals.

States that follow this approach to premises liability do so as a way of giving landowners and other potential defendants an established set of rules they can use to anticipate their legal obligations. Owners can figure out ahead of time the safety measures they must take to avoid liability for an accident. Despite the predictability it offers, the traditional approach is becoming obsolete in the United States, as a growing number of states have abandoned it in favor of an approach that judges the merits of each case individually.

Modern Trend Reflects a More Flexible Standard

Central to the doctrine of negligence is the idea that everyone in society has a legal obligation to act as a reasonable, prudent person under the circumstances. Regardless of whether the injury resulted from a car accident or a surgical procedure, the defendant is judged by the same standard. The jury will consider all of the facts surrounding the accident, and then decide if a reasonable person in the defendant's shoes would have acted the same way, or have done something different to avoid the accident.

This concept of a single negligence standard applicable to any factual scenario is quickly replacing the trespasser/licensee/invitee approach. To see the benefit of the modern trend, consider the example of a parking lot owner sued by a customer who was attacked by a stranger late at night. The traditional approach would classify the customer as an invitee and apply a predetermined set of rules. By contrast, the modern trend would consider many factors, such as the local crime rate, the owner's knowledge of previous attacks, the feasibility of providing brighter lights, security guards, fences, and so forth.

Special Rules and Legal Doctrines

In jurisdictions that still apply the categorical approach to premises liability, a principle known as the "attractive nuisance" doctrine may be available to help child accident victims prove fault. The attractive nuisance doctrine requires landowners to fix dangerous conditions in areas known to be frequented by children, if the children, because of their youth, will fail to recognize the danger. In jurisdictions following the modern trend, this principle is subsumed into the "reasonable under the circumstances" standard.

Litigants should also be aware of the rules of contributory negligence and comparative fault. These doctrines bar or reduce compensation in premises liability cases based on the plaintiff's own conduct. In other words, an injured plaintiff stands to recover less if the defendant can show the plaintiff could have avoided the accident by exercising more caution. In most states, the jury will be instructed to assign a percentage of the total fault for the accident to the plaintiff's carelessness, and reduce the damage award accordingly.

Hiring a Lawyer to Pursue or Defend a Claim

Because premises liability law differs from state to state, victims should seek advice from a local attorney. If you have been injured on someone else's property, you may be entitled to compensation, but you must act quickly to meet the time deadlines for filing a claim. Schedule a consultation with an injury lawyer today.


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Premises Liability Articles

  • Maritime Slip and Fall Accidents
    Thousands of employees are injured every year aboard boats, barges, and other vessels at sea. The men and women who are injured while working on vessels anchored or navigating in the waters adjacent to the United States must understand that their injuries fall under a unique set of laws. Maritime law, not workers’ compensation law, guides courts as they analyze cases related to workplace injuries to seamen. A federal law known as the Jones Act provides the right to injured workers to seek compensation after slip and fall accidents on maritime vessels. Maritime admiralty law in the United States is governed by federal statute, and State laws do not preempt the Jones Act.
  • Know Your Rights After Amazon Delivery Driver Slip and Fall Accidents
    When Amazon delivery drivers step out of their vehicles to deliver packages, they rely on property owners to maintain safe premises. Unfortunately, some property owners neglect this responsibility, leading to slip, trip, or fall injuries for delivery drivers. If you have experienced such an incident while working as an Amazon delivery driver in New Jersey, you may be eligible for compensation. Console & Associates, a trusted team of slip and fall attorneys, specializes in helping individuals in these cases. Below we will give you all information that you might need for a New Jersey Amazon delivery driver slip and fall claim.
  • North Carolina Personal Injury and Contributory Negligence
    North Carolina is one of the last contributory negligence states, which can create harsh outcomes for injured victims.
  • If You’ve Been Injured by a Water Meter Lid in California, Here’s What You Need to Know.
    There are approximately 3,000 dangerous water meter box lids in California that can cause injuries to innocent pedestrians. Located in an underground box and covered with a lid, the water meters are owned and maintained by different entities, such as municipalities and cities, who may be liable for injuries to the pedestrians. Other responsible parties could include property owners, maintenance and utility companies, and others involved in the sales, installation, inspection, and maintenance of these devices.
  • What Should I Do If I Get Hurt on a Retail Property in Pennsylvania?
    Thousands of shoppers experience injuries at retail stores across the country every year. There are many ways injuries can happen on a retail property, including heavy items falling, improperly installed shelves, spills or clutter in aisles, and inadequate lighting. Sometimes, crimes occur on a retail property that lead to severe physical and emotional injuries. Improperly maintained elevators and escalators can have catastrophic consequences on innocent families. Injured store patrons should consult with an experienced attorney who will evaluate their case, investigate the incident, and obtain the evidence needed to prove premises liability.
  • Did Poor Lighting Cause Your Indiana Slip and Fall Accident?
    Most people are aware of the dangers of motor vehicle accidents, malignant cancer, or purposeful violence. But according to the NSC (National Safety Council), slips and falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths in the United States. Not only are falls one of the top three causes of preventable death, but they are also the top cause of injuries treated in emergency rooms. In 2020, falls were the cause of 33% of all non-fatal emergency room visits.
  • Common Injuries While Shopping at Big Box Stores in Indiana
    Big box stores are convenient, selling multiple items in one place for a “one-stop” experience; they are also, well – big, with over 50,000 square feet of space each. Indiana is home to many examples of big box stores, such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Meijer, Kroger Marketplace, Target – and even Ikea. Like all retail establishments, these stores require safety training for their employees; everyone who works there knows of slip and fall risks and presumably attempts to avoid them for their customers. However, sometimes people – especially overworked employees – make mistakes, and innocent shoppers are injured.
  • Indiana Slip and Fall Accidents Due to Parking Lot Hazards
    Parking lot hazards present a risk of slip-and-fall injuries. In Indiana, property owners have a responsibility to provide safe parking lots. You can seek compensation for a slip-and-fall injury with the help of an experienced Indiana personal injury lawyer.
  • What's a "Day in the Life Video" and Can It Help My Accident Case?
    Insurance companies are notorious for looking for ways to offer reduced settlements to get out of paying victims what they deserve after a car accident. Some insurers may even deny a claim altogether if they feel there is insufficient evidence. Thus, it is crucial to provide as much evidence as possible. This includes evidence that not only shows what happened at the scene of the accident but evidence that shows how the accident has continued to affect your life moving forward. When you are injured in an Indiana car accident, you have the right to file a claim to recover compensation for all that you have suffered. This includes your injuries and how they are affecting your ability to live your life. And one of the best ways to provide clear and convincing evidence of your injuries is to create a day in the life video.
  • Negligent Security vs Premises Liability
    Each day in Baltimore City, you can read or see news stories about how someone sustained injuries or was killed while at a commercial establishment. Gas stations, bars or clubs, business parking lots, and convenience stores are all common spaces for criminal activity, and your chances of being the victim of a crime at one of these locations are high. Victims rely on the criminal justice system to hold the perpetrators accountable, but what about the business? Is it possible to hold them responsible for your injuries or the death of a loved one in an encounter on the property? Knowing whether your case falls under negligent security vs premise liability will help you understand if you’re entitled to compensation. In this article, we explain the differences and what they mean for you below.
  • All Premises Liability Articles

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