Property Owners Legal Responsibility

Every property owner is legally responsible for maintaining reasonable standards of safety on their property, whether it is public or private; these laws fall under the category of premises liability law.

Under premises law claims the injured party it is known as the litigant and the property or premises owner is referred to as the defendant. The litigants involved will fall under three general categories: licensees, invitees and trespassers.

A licensee is an individual who is invited onto the property by the defendant for non-commercial activities such as social gatherings or parties. Under premises law, the defendant is held legally responsible for damages and injuries to a licensee if three criteria are met. First, the defendant must have been aware of or should have been aware of the dangerous conditions on their property that resulted in the injury to the licensee and should not have any reasonable expectation that anyone else would know of the dangers. Second, it must be true that the licensee was not aware of, could not have been aware of and had no reason to be aware of the dangers and risks that resulted in their injury. Third, and lastly, the defendant did not notify or reasonably rectify the dangerous area and can be held legally guilty of negligence in exercising reasonable care.

A litigant may be referred to as an invitee if they were present because of the defendant’s commercial business. For example, a customer to a retail store or patron to a restaurant is considered an invitee. Defendants are legally obligated to exercise stringent duty of care to invitees. The defendant is legally responsible for warning and protecting invitees of any risks on their property that are unreasonable and for periodic inspections for dangers and hazards to maintain awareness of risks on the property and prevent injuries to others.

A litigant is considered a trespasser if they are injured while on another person’s property without permission. While common sense would indicate that defendants have no legal obligation or liability for injuries to trespassers this is not always the case. For example, a defendant may be legally held liable if they are aware of the trespasser but did not warn them of the hazards on the property.

Premises liability law is complicated and what is provided here is just a brief overview of the basics. If you or a loved one has been injured on another person’s property due to their negligence, then it is imperative that you hire a professional and experienced injury lawyer to represent your case.