When an individual enters on to a property, they typically have a reasonable expectation of safety. In other words, they should have no reasonable fear of being injured. What this means is that property owners, or non-owner residents, have an implied responsibility to ensure that their property is reasonably safe. What may be considered within reason, as far as safety is concerned, will be dependent upon the type of property. For instance, a person who enters a construction site should have a greater concern of being injured than a person who enters a residential premise, but both should have a reasonable expectation of safety.
In essence, the property owner has a specific responsibility to ensure that their property is safe; however, the person who is visiting the property has a certain responsibility to not put themselves in harm’s way.
The General Rule of Liability
Generally speaking, if a person is injured on a property other than their own, the owner of that property has a level of liability for the personal injury, unless the property owner can prove that the injury was sustained as the result of negligence on the part of the injured party. Assume you are the owner of a residential property and a courier slips on the oil-slick driveway and breaks their hip. You would be held liable for the accident, and you would be responsible for damages. However, if the courier was intoxicated at the time of the fall, they would be considered to be negligent, and the liability would shift to them.
Premises Liability Laws Vary by State
Each state in the U.S. establishes liability for the residents in that state; however, there are some key concepts that are applicable regardless of the state in which an incident occurs. For instance, you have a right to expect to be safe when you enter a retail store, and if you suffer a personal injury through a fall, or by another person, you would have a natural and legal recourse to seek compensation for damages, and in some instances, compensation for pain and suffering.
The Legal Status of the Visitor
In states that place the focus only on the status of the visitor to the property, there are primarily four different labels that apply to visitors: invitee, licensee, social guest or trespasser.
- An invitee is considered to be a person who is invited onto a property of another, such as a customer entering a retail store. This invitation is usually considered to be implicit that the owner has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the property is reasonably safe.
- A licensee is a person who enters a property for his own purpose, or as a social guest, being present at the consent of the owner of the property.
- A social guest is self-explanatory, being a welcome visitor on the property
- The trespasser is an individual who enters the property without any right to do so, and in this case, there is no implied promise of safety.
In most instances, the implicit promise of safety for people entering a property applies to every type of visitor, except the trespasser.
The Complex Nature of Premises Liability Law
Although the basic elements associated with premises liability are quite clear, as with most laws, how things are interpreted and specific elements surrounding the incident can impact liability. This is why it is imperative for an individual who has been injured on the property of another or a person who owns property on which someone has been injured to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney. An attorney may be able to offer a better understanding of either party's legal rights. The attorney can also represent the party throughout the legal process.
At Tate Law Group, we represent those who have been injured on someone else’s property. If you have suffered such an injury, contact our law office in Savannah, Georgia today.