There are over 7 million businesses in the US that have a paid employee. The majority of these have a physical premises of some kind, and these are affected by premises liability.
So, what is premises liability? If you have a premises, you have certain legal responsibilities in respect of it. If someone sustains an injury on your property, you may have to compensate them financially.
Equally, if you’ve suffered an injury on someone else’s premises that could have been avoided had they taken greater care to make the property safe, you may be entitled to a payout.
Read on as we explore premises liability and how it might relate to you.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is the legal doctrine which protects those who have been injured on someone else’s premises.
The laws in relation to the doctrine vary from state to state, with greater protection afforded to property owners in some cases and for visitors in others. However, all states require that property owners take some steps to create a safe environment for their visitors.
1] Common Events Giving Rise to a Claim in Premises Liability
Premises liability covers a wide array of potential circumstances. However, there are certain events that cause liability very commonly.
1) Slip & Fall Accidents
These are probably the most common cause of premises liability claims. If you fall and injure yourself while in a store or other business premises, you may very well have a valid claim.
Whether or not you do will depend on the responsibility of the premises owner for your fall. Was the floor wet, and, if so, was there a sign warning of it? Did you trip over something that should not have been there?
2) Inadequate Security
If you work in a premises like an office or a bank, your employer has a duty to take certain measures to ensure your safety. One of these is the provision of adequate security.
If an intruder gains access to your place of work and causes you harm, and this was only possible because of inadequate security, you may have a valid claim against your employer.
3) Dog Attacks
While most premises liability claims are taken against businesses, private property owners can be sued in this way as well. One of the most common reasons for such a claim is an attack by a dog.
If you suffer injuries from a dog attack while on someone else’s property, they may be liable to compensate you for these injuries.
2] How To Succeed In a Premises Liability Claim
To succeed in a premises liability claim, you must show that the property owner has breached his or her duty of care to you, and that this has caused an injury.
It is important to note that there are two separate requirements here, and that both must be fulfilled.
If you have been injured on someone else’s property as a result of something that was your own fault, you will not be entitled to a payout. Similarly, if a property owner exposes you to danger but you do not suffer an injury, you will not have a claim.
3] The Property Owner’s Duty of Care
The property owner’s duty of care is the standard he or she must meet to defeat your claim.
There are three different types of visitor which give rise to three different levels of this duty.
This is the category which involves the highest level of responsibility on the part of the property owner.
An invitee is someone who is on property with the permission of the owner. The people that fall into this category are usually relatives or friends.
A property owner must keep their property reasonably safe for invitees. Liability may arise where they fail to do so.
A licensee also enters onto property with the permission of the owner, whether this permission is express or implied. The difference here is that a licensee enters a property for their own gain. A salesman, for example, would be considered a licensee.
The duty of care owed to licensees is generally less demanding than that owed to invitees. A landowner is only required to warn licensees of dangerous conditions that they know about, and that the licensee would not easily be able to discover themselves.
Trespassers are people who enter property without permission. Generally, no duty of care is owed to trespassers.
Trespassing children are an exception to this rule. Landowners must take care to avoid foreseeable risks of harm to trespassing children.
4] Should You Have Premises Liability Insurance?
If you own a business with physical premises, premises liability insurance is almost certainly a good idea for you. This is especially true if members of the public regularly come onto the property (such as in the case of a grocery store).
The extent of the coverage you get should depend on the nature of your business. If visitors to the premises face certain hazards due to the nature of your business, you should cover these angles when working out your policy.
Insurance premiums are a significant expense, and all business owners want to avoid expenses. However, if a member of the public brings a claim against you, it could end up being the best money you’ve ever spent.
5] Staying on the Right Side of the Law
What is premises liability? Depending on your situation, it can be a blessing or a curse.
For those who have suffered injuries, it can provide an important payout. However, it can be disastrous for businesses who fail to cover their obligations properly.