Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?
Whenever an accident occurs on someone’s property, regardless of whether it’s personal or commercial, the first question that tends to pop into people’s heads is who has responsibility for the incident. While determining premises liability is difficult to do without all of the facts associated with a particular case, there are a few basic principles that are involved during the court proceedings. Of course, if you or someone you know is concerned about the potential for a premises liability lawsuit, you’ll want to contact a lawyer in Texarkana TX and have them offer their advice. This guide should serve as an effective baseline though and will help you determine how to approach your case before you’ve found a lawyer you trust.
To begin with, there is a basic assumption leveled at the owner of any property, which essentially states that a property owner should make their property as safe as possible for those traveling through it. While some might not understand the need for a safe environment, consider a mailman trying to deliver mail. If people can’t expect a certain level of safety when entering a property, then it could have serious repercussions throughout more than just a single property. With that in mind, it’s important for people to take care in the maintenance of their property and ensure that a reasonable person would be expected to move through it safely.
Although there are a number of different accidents which could occur in regards to property liability, the most common is perhaps the “slip and fall” case type. These cases typically involve a person slipping and, as the name of the case implies, falling. Through a slip and fall case, a person can be held liable for any damages that resulted from the fall, as well as any necessary repairs to a property that are required as a result of the fall.
For those that don’t technically own their property, such as a tenant in an apartment, it’s worth mentioning that they are still treated as the owner in many cases with regards to their personal property.
For the person that has suffered from the accident, states typically afford them a variety of labels. While each state can differ in its specifics laws or regulations, there are a few common archetypes that can be referred to. For more information, it’s wise to consult a professional that is knowledgeable about that specific area, such as a lawyer in Texarkana TX. Otherwise, it’s worth noting that the four types of visitors are classified as invitee, social guest, licensee, and trespasser.
An invitee is someone who was personally invited into entering the property. In commercial terms, this could be a customer who has entered the property to make a purchase. Invitees are an important distinction because they imply that the the owner has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the property is safe for entrance. If it is discovered that this is not the case, then their responsibility for the accident can be much greater than would have otherwise been possible.
By contrast, a licensee is someone who has entered a property for their own purpose. This can coincide with someone labelled as a social guest, or it can be someone else that is simply on the property with the consent of the owner.
A social guest is simply the term for someone that is welcomed on a property.
A trespasser is someone that has entered a property without any permission, implied or otherwise. In both the case of trespassers and licensees, there is no guarantee of safety, and it is thus much harder to prove premises liability for the owner.
In addition to determining the type of visitor involved in the accident, it’s also worth noting the state of the property and the actions of the visitor which ultimately led to the accident. In both cases, there is a standard of “reasonable care” which applies to both parties. This ensures that both parties were acting in a reasonable manner before the accident occurred, and this is from which the judgment is made. In order to determine the “reasonable care” involved with the accident, the court will look at how the visitor entered the property and for what purpose, as well as how the property was being used when the accident occurred. In addition, the court will also look at what steps the owner took to ensure the property was safe and whether or not anything else would have been done under the ownership of a reasonable person.
While there are not as many restrictions placed on the owner in regards to trespassers, there is still a responsibility to warn them of potentially dangerous situations that have been artificially created by the owner themselves. For instance, if the owner owns a guard dog, then it is their responsibility to warn people of this ahead of time before the suffer from an injury. This is a similar restriction placed on the owners of property in which children are regularly or knowingly expected to pass through.
Given the complexity of proving fault in cases such as these, it’s often the case that both parties end up being found partially at fault. In these cases, most states institute some form of comparative fault system to cut into the damages awarded to the injured party. When an injured party is awarded damages and found to be at least partially at fault, the damages they are awarded are substantially reduced as a proportion of the fault that is relative to them.
For renting situations, where a tenant is being sued for an accident on their property, there are special rules regarding landlords. Typically, landlords are not considered to be liability for damages on their property once it has been rented out, but there are special circumstances which might implicate them in the suit. As with most legal queries, these types of special circumstances are best handled by discussing them with a legal representative.
If you think you might have a property liability case, then the best thing to do is seek out a professional legal expert that can give you more information relative to your specific case. A case involving an accident on a piece of property can have a variety of factors that sway the court on who’s at fault, which is why it’s so important to do your research ahead of time. By having a knowledgeable professional at your side, you can ensure that all of your bases are covered and that there aren’t any surprises regarding your liability. Of course, this also applies if you’re the one who has suffered from an accident and are seeking damages from the owner of a property as well.
If you have a concern about your legal rights, remedies, and obligations contact the experienced lawyers of the Law Office of Freeman & Chiartas.