An Overview on Premises Liability Law
What you need to prove when you are injured on someone's property
on December 15, 2016
Updated on June 30, 2022
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. While these lawsuits are common after slip-and-fall accidents, they can cover many more injuries that happened because someone didn’t take care of their property.
The following is a brief overview of what you need to prove—and what can prevent you from recovering even if you prove your case.
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 connection to the property, which in turn led to your injuries.
The level of care the owner owes 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 levels of care depending on your status on their land.
This status applies to people who entered the land of another to do business with the possessor of the land. There is implied permission when a shop is on the land and open to the public. This status also applies to the possessor’s friends, family and neighbors. 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 people like salespeople who are coming onto the possessor’s land for their own purposes. The landowner usually does not owe licensees the same level of care they owe invitees, and they must only warn of dangerous conditions that create an unreasonable risk if the landowner knows about it and the licensee is unlikely to discover it 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. Landowners do owe a duty to avoid reasonably foreseeable risk to children caused by artificial conditions, like a swimming pool.
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 and comparative negligence.
In contributory jurisdictions, you may be barred from recovering at all if you were even a little bit at fault for what happened. 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 an attorney for the first time.
- Does my accident fall under premises liability?
- 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?
Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs
It is important to approach the right type of attorney—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.
Why Super Lawyers?
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. As Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public. You can learn more about the selection process here.