Premise Liability

What is Premise Liability?

Simply put, premise liability is the liability someone may have if another is injured on or by their property. Whether injured as a guest, customer, or trespasser you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the property. Premises liability is a legal concept that often supports personal injury cases where the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property.

A property owner has a duty to maintain the premises and minimize the risk of injuries. When an accident happens and injuries were caused due to the negligent actions of the property owner, the victim can seek compensation based on a premise liability. Negligence is defined as the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the doing of something which a reasonably careful person would not do, under similar circumstances.

Examples of Premise Liability Lawsuits

  • slip and fall cases
  • snow and ice accidents
  • inadequate maintenance of the premises
  • defective conditions on the premises
  • inadequate building security leading to injury or assault
  • elevator and escalator accidents
  • dog bites
  • swimming pool accidents
  • amusement park accidents
  • fires
  • water leaks or flooding, and
  • toxic fumes or chemicals

Premise Liability Nuances

While premises liability looks similar to any standard case for negligence, there are important differences in the law based on visitor type and premise type. While the distinctions are subtle, cases are won and lost based on these subtleties.

Premises Liability Based on Visitor Type

  • Invitee: Someone who entered or remained on a person’s property for a business purpose (e.g. plumber, babysitter, persons attending a garage sale). The owner must inspect the property for any dangerous conditions and make repairs to address any hazards that are not open and obvious.
  • Licensee: Someone who came onto or remained on someone’s property for his own reasons and for no benefit to the owner of the property (e.g. social guest, friend, family member).
  • Trespasser: Someone who came onto or remained on someone’s property without permission from the owner or without a legal reason to be there. In general, the owner does not need to take any steps to make their property safe for trespassers but they do need to refrain from actively harming a trespasser. An owner or occupier will not be held accountable for injuries suffered unless he willfully and wantonly injures a trespasser. Since trespassers are breaking the law, premises liability law is less sympathetic in cases where they claim injury. 
  • Child Trespasser: A higher duty of care may apply to trespassers if classified as children. Under the doctrine of “attractive nuisance”, if a child is likely to be attracted by a certain feature, the owner should expect that they may come onto the property to explore and without invitation. This may require that the owner take reasonable steps to protect children from injuries caused by hazards inherent to the feature. The best example is a swimming pool which poses a high risk of drowning for young children. 

Premise Liability Based on Property Type

  • Homeowner: A homeowner has different responsibilities/duties of care with respect to the classification of visitor (invitee, licensee, trespasser, child trespasser).
  • Rental Property: If the property or structure on the property is being rented by another party “tenant”, the property owner (including property managers, landlords, lessees, or anyone in charge of maintaining, managing, or operating the premises) may not be liable if someone is injured in the part of the property the tenant controls. Liability is assigned based on possession, so in the case of a rental property, the tenant versus the owner would be liable. As with any liability case, additional nuances exist regarding exactly where the accident occurred (e.g. common areas) and/or whether the rented property was in a dangerous condition and the tenant was not warned. 
  • Commercial Property: Commercial property is owned or leased by a business entity or an individual for the purpose of conducting business (grocery store, coffee shop, gas station, restaurant, gas station, etc.). 
  • Government Properties: If the incident occurred on public property or government-owned property, it is crucial to fill out an accident/incident report and have it signed by a store employee, like a manager. If the establishment keeps the record, be sure to get a copy to get to your lawyer.

What to do in a Premise Liability Injury Case Situation

Due to the nuances with premise liability, it is highly recommended to contact a lawyer but in general, you need to do the following: 

  • Report the accident. 
  • Get eye witness contact information and attempt to secure a signed statement (note witnesses are not required by law to stay at the scene, provide accounting or sign any statement).
  • Take photographs at the scene of the accident and any hazards that caused the accident and your injuries.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and don’t wait — any delay can be used as proof that the injury occurred later and therefore juries will become skeptical as well.

Proving Premise Liability

Just because you were injured on someone’s property does not automatically mean the owner of the property was negligent. While the property had an unsafe condition does not guarantee that the owner was negligent. The injured party must prove the owner knew or should have reasonably known the premise was in an unsafe condition, and still failed to warn or fix said condition. In order to win a premises liability case, the injured person must:

  • Prove that a defect existed on the property
  • Injuries incurred are a result of the defect
  • The property owner knew about the defect and failed to warn or fix the issue

Get Legal Help for a Premises Liability Injury

If you or a loved one have suffered a premises liability injury, speak with one of our experienced Chicago attorneys to discuss your case and to ensure that your legal rights to compensation are fully assessed and protected.

Contact us today to get started with a confidential case assessment by calling 866-699-3339 ‌or‌ ‌complete‌ ‌the‌‌ ‌case‌ ‌request‌ ‌form‌.‌

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