What is Premises Liability Law?
What you need to prove when you are injured on someone's propertyBy Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 4, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- Overview of Premises Liability Law
- Common Questions
- Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs
- Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer?
If you were injured on someone else’s property—whether at their house or their store—you may be entitled to recover damages from them through a premises-liability lawsuit.
Slip-and-fall accidents are one of the most common types of premises liability cases—for example, when grocery store employees fail to mop up or warn about wet floors, resulting in a customer’s fall.
But there are many other types of injuries that can occur because someone didn’t address unsafe property conditions or because they failed to warn others—for example, swimming pool accidents, amusement park accidents, and dog bites.
The following is a brief overview of what you need to prove—and what can prevent you from recovering even if you prove your premises liability claim.
Overview of Premises Liability Law
Property owners have the responsibility to maintain a safe environment for people on their property, and they are liable for any preventable accident on it.
If you do bring a case, you will be required to prove specific elements to recover from the property owner, and you should also be aware that in some jurisdictions your own negligence can lower your recovery or even completely bar it.
Proving Your Case
Your premises-liability case will most likely be based on negligence. To be successful, you will need to prove that the owner failed to use reasonable care in the maintenance of the property, which in turn led to your serious injuries.
The level of care that property owners owe people on their property depends on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions require landowners to exercise reasonable care with respect to all persons, but some jurisdictions establish different levels of care depending on your status on their land. There are three general types of status: invitee, licensee, and trespasser. Let’s look at these in more depth.
This status applies to people who are invited onto another’s property in order to do business with the property owner, or because they have some contractual relationship with the owner.
Customers who come into a store to shop are a typical example. There is implied permission to enter the property when the shop is on the land and open to the public. The owner or occupier of the land owes an ordinary level of care to invitees, meaning the possessor is required to maintain the property in a way that a reasonable person would.
If the possessor does not do this, they will be liable for injuries that result.
This status applies to individuals such as salespeople who come onto the possessor’s land for their own purposes, rather than for the benefit of the property owner.
Social guests, or people invited onto the property for social gatherings, are another type of licensee. The landowner usually doesn’t owe licensees the same level of care they owe invitees.
Generally, property owners must warn licensees about dangerous conditions that create an unreasonable risk if they know about the dangerous condition but the licensee is unlikely to discover the dangerous condition before it causes harm.
This status applies to people who are not authorized to be on the owner’s land.
The general rule is that the possessor owes no duty of care to trespassers, but there is an exception for children under the attractive nuisance rule.
According to the attractive nuisance rule, landowners have a duty to avoid reasonably foreseeable risks to children caused by artificial conditions on the property that are alluring to children. Common examples of attractive nuisances include swimming pools, mounds of debris, or large pits that kids would be attracted to play around.
Limitations on Recovery
Most jurisdictions look at whether you, the injured party, failed to exercise reasonable care to keep yourself safe on someone else’s property. There are two main ways the law handles the plaintiff’s negligence:
- Contributory negligence. In contributory negligence jurisdictions (currently a small minority of states), you may be barred from recovering at all if you were even a little bit at fault for what happened.
- Comparative negligence. In comparative negligence jurisdictions, the court or jury will assign a percentage of fault to each party. If your injury resulted in $100,000 in damages, and the jury found that you were 10 percent at fault, your recovery will be reduced by 10 percent, and you will recover $90,000. Comparative negligence jurisdictions sometimes handle the award differently if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault. In some jurisdictions, you may be prevented from getting damages.
Below are some common questions you might want to consider when meeting with a premises liability attorney and getting legal advice for the first time.
- Does my accident fall under premises liability?
- I fell in a parking lot. Do I have a claim against the store owner?
- What level of duty does my landlord owe me on their property?
- Does it matter if I had been to the premises numerous times before my injury?
- What happens if I contributed to my injury?
- What kinds of damages can I recover? Will my medical bills be covered?
- My loved one died as a result of their premises liability injuries. Can I bring a wrongful death claim?
Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs
It is important to approach the right type of premises liability lawyer—someone who can help you through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory, and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location.
Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer?
Important elements of you case can change depending on where the accident happened or where you are filing. Because some states will completely bar your claim while others will simply lower the amount you are entitled to recover, it will be especially important to make sure you understand that law that applies in your case. An experienced lawyer will be familiar with the law and will know how to maximize your financial recovery.
A lawyer will further be able to anticipate potential problems with your case and advise you on how to approach them and will also keep track of deadlines and file all the paperwork with the necessary courts and agencies, giving you one less thing to worry about.
Additional Premises Liability articles
State Premises Liability articles
Find top lawyers with confidence
The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.Find a lawyer near you