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Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?

  • By: Starr Law Offices
  • Published: June 9, 2016
Premises Liability Who is Responsible

Photo Disclaimer: Models depicted are not employees or members of the law firm. Photos are dramatizations and not actual events; these are actors, not clients or professionals.

When—as an invited guest or as a welcomed visitor—you find yourself injured on someone else’s property due to another’s carelessness, the natural inclination will be to blame the property owner. And yes, the entity that owns the property can be responsible for unsafe conditions that resulted in a personal injury.

However, in premises liability cases, it may be in the best interests of the injured party to cast the net a little wider when looking to identify all the people who contributed to the accident. Investigation into the background of an incident may reveal a whole list of possible culprits (i.e. architects, engineers, property maintenance/management companies, landscaping contractors, cleaning companies … etc.). Identifying each and every at-fault party in a premises liability case is not only a matter of fairness but will also improve the possibility of seeing the injured party justly compensated.

Did someone do something that caused the accident? Did someone know that a hazardous condition existed in an area under their control and they failed to correct it? Should someone have known about a hazardous condition under their purview? Before concluding that the property-owner is the sole responsible party, these additional questions need to be answered.

Comparative Fault

There are additional factors to come under consideration regarding responsibility for the accident. One of these is the actions of the injured person to him or herself. Failure to ‘exercise due care’ on the part of the injured person is a common defense in premises liability cases. Indeed, if injured visitors acted inappropriately or recklessly, their recovery may be reduced or even denied.

Status of the Injured Party

The courts will also look at the status of the person who is injured in relation to the property owner. As mentioned, the property owner has an absolute obligation to mitigate risks to invitees or welcomed visitors (this would include a social guest, an on-site business customer, or even a door-to-door salesperson who is invited into a home). But what about someone that is technically a trespasser?

A property owner does not owe a duty to warn a trespasser of latent or hidden defects in the property. But this isn’t always a black-and-white area: many people have walked across an empty lot or field at one time or another, usually without even realizing they are trespassing. Even in cases where the injured person was technically trespassing, the property owner still may have a responsibility to give the warning to prevent injury. Generally, however, this requirement only applies to artificial conditions created or maintained by the owner that are also recognized as likely to cause serious injury or death (an open well, for instance). When it comes to the safety of children, the property owner’s responsibility to give warning is different if he or she knows (or reasonably should know) that a child is likely to enter the premises.

Third-Party Considerations

A property owner may even be responsible for an injury caused by a third party, provided that the possibility of such an injury was reasonably foreseeable. For instance, people responsible for a parking lot in a high-crime neighborhood may be expected to provide lighting and possibly a security guard to protect customers from criminal activity.

As you can see, identifying the parties who played a role in someone’s injury—and then apportioning responsibility—isn’t always an easy determination. This is why injured parties in a premises liability case are wise to seek highly experienced legal counsel. With our knowledge and skill in handling these matters, Starr Law Offices is confident of our ability to help claimants receive the compensation they deserve and justice from the people who caused them harm.

If you’ve been injured in an incident on someone else’s property, call (727) 777-5767 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney who’s ready to answer your questions and help you determine your next steps. There are no fees or costs unless there’s a recovery.

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