Property owners have a legal responsibility, or duty, to maintain safe conditions on their premises or to provide warning of any known dangerous conditions. The requirements differ based on the type of property, commercial or residential, and the status of the visitor. Since a business has a constant flow of people and safety is a main concern, the requirements, laws, and liabilities are strict. On the other hand, homes or other residential properties have fewer invited visitors, so the laws and liabilities are less severe. A slip and fall accident, one of the most common premises liability cases, can happen at either a business or residential area.
Slip and fall accidents occur when the property owner is negligent and fails to keep their property safe and secure. If you or a loved one slips and falls in a business establishment and wants to file a claim, you are required to prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to resolve it. Actual and constructive knowledge are similar but differ in one important aspect.
Actual Knowledge – The business establishment actually knows about the dangerous condition.
Constructive Knowledge – The business should have known about the dangerous condition. This can be proven by showing that the condition existed long enough to be known or that it occurred regularly enough to be predictable.
A business owner can be held liable if you walk into their store and slip and fall, whereas if you were to walk through a homeowner’s yard and slip and fall, the homeowner may not be held liable. The reason for this difference has to do with the types of visitors. When you walk into a store with the intent to shop, you are a customer and considered invited. However, if you walk through a stranger’s yard without permission, you are trespassing and not considered invited.
The status of the guest determines how liable a property owner is for their safety. If the guest is a social guest, such as a friend or family, or a business related guest, such as a repairman or a customer, then you are required to warn them of known dangerous conditions and refrain from misconduct that could injure them. Business owners hold a duty to regularly inspect their premises for dangerous conditions, whereas homeowners may not be held to this same level of duty. This means that the business owner can be held liable for dangerous conditions that he should have known about as well. The lines can sometimes be blurry on types of visitors, so what makes a visitor a trespasser and not a social guest?
Social – Friends, family, neighbors, or other guests who are on your property for a social purpose, such as a party. These people don’t necessarily need to be invited. For example, a fellow neighbor could stop by your party to say hello, even if you didn’t invite them.
Residential Business Related Guests – People that you invite onto your property to perform a service, such as a plumber, electrician, contractor, or repairman
Commercial Business Guests – Customers or shoppers
Trespassers – These are uninvited guests, but did you know there is a difference between a discovered and undiscovered trespasser?
A property owner is not liable if a person is injured while committing or attempting to commit a felony on the property. But what if someone is trespassing without the intention to commit a felony?The liability of the property owner is then determined by the status of the trespasser. There are two types of trespassers:
Discovered Trespasser – A person who enters the property without invitation and is detected by the property owner. This person is not considered invited unless the property owner issues an invitation to enter the property or clearly intends to hold the property open to use. To avoid liability, a property owner must refrain from negligence or misconduct that causes injury, and must also warn a discovered trespasser of known dangerous conditions.
Undiscovered Trespasser – A person who enters the property without invitation and was not detected by the property owner. To avoid liability, a property owner must refrain from misconduct, but has no duty to warn the undiscovered trespasser of dangerous conditions.
A property owner is not held liable for civil damages resulting in the death, injury, or damages to a trespasser if the trespasser was:
– Under the influence of alcohol with a BAC equal to or higher than .08%
– Under the influence of any illegal chemical substance
– Affected by any legal substance to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired
If you take your premise liability case to court and are able to prove that negligence or misconduct was the reason or cause of your accident, then you could be reimbursed for damages such as lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering. In some premise liability cases, both parties may share some of the blame. This is called comparative negligence; in such cases the percentage split of the blame determines how much each party will be awarded.
Since some premise liability trials are unpredictable and can be a public relations nightmare for a company, they often settle out of court. This works in your favor because you don’t have to go through the hassle of a court case and will still receive compensation. If you think that you have a slip and fall claim or other premise liability claim contact us by phone at (727) 269-5300 or by completing our Free Consultation form.
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