Premises Liability Law and When Does it Apply?

Premises Liability Law and When Does it Apply?

No one is ever prepared for accidents such as slip and fall, dog bites, or even car accidents. Unfortunately, they can happen to anyone, and they can occur anywhere. There are occasions when these accidents are not due to someone else’s actions, but many times, they are.

Suppose you happen to be injured on the premises of a company or even at a residential home, and someone else’s actions could have avoided the accident. In that case, you may have a premises liability claim. Often, these kinds of accidents occur when there is neglect to a property, and the owners do not take the proper precautions or even corrections to the property. So how do you know the difference? And what can a premises liability attorney do for you?

Premises Liability Law

Premises liability law comprises the legal principles that make tenants and landowners responsible for any individual injured when entering their property. In all states, owners occupying a property have the obligation of making a reasonable effort to keep a safe environment for visitors that may enter their properties. Failing to maintain such safe conditions may result in “premises liability.”

In most cases, negligence is the basis of premises liability claims, although doctrine may be applied otherwise. “Common law” or the state case precedents is the primary source of premises liability law. However, state statutes, local building codes, and municipal ordinances may play a relevant role too.

Legal Terms For Visitors

Property owners must maintain their property reasonably safe and warn visitors of any hidden hazards. Premise liability can include any injury caused by a defective condition on the property. Whether a person can recover damages for another’s property injury will be based on several factors, including whether the injured was a trespasser, licensee, or an invitee.

Traditionally, most state courts decide premises liability matters depending on the injured plaintiff’s reason for entering the property. There are three different categorizations, and each of them is entitled to a different level of protection.

These are:

  1. Trespassers – People who entered the property without permission.
  2. Licensees – Individuals and social guests who entered to be invited or counted with the permission of the owner or occupant.
  3. Invitees – People who entered for commercial purposes of the owner (such as business clients or customers at a mall).

In many states, hurt trespassers have practically no right to recover at all, provided the owner or occupant refrains from trying to hurt trespassers. However, there is an exception to protect a child trespasser. The “attractive nuisance” doctrine demands landowners to repair dangerous conditions in areas that children may frequent. For instance, a swimming pool requires a higher duty of care to protect a child trespasser.

Who Can Be Held Liable For Premises Liability Injuries?

The property owner of any establishment may be liable for injuries or accidents which occur on the premises.

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Retirement communities
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Shopping centers
  • Parking garages and parking lots
  • Restaurants
  • Schools
  • Retail stores
  • Shopping malls
  • Grocery stores and supermarkets
  • Beauty salons
  • Department and clothing stores
  • Churches
  • Synagogues
  • Office buildings
  • Gas and service stations
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Resorts
  • Casinos
  • Water parks
  • Amusement parks
  • And apartment complexes

Additionally, more than one person or entity can be held liable for the injuries. For example, in addition to the property owner, a tenant, third party vendor, work crew, landlord, property management company, security guard, or company retained to secure the property may also be held responsible. Furthermore, individuals whose intentional criminal actions caused the injuries may also be held criminally and civilly accountable.

Is a Landlord Responsible For Anything That Happens to a Tenant’s Guest?

There is a question that a premise liability attorney frequently hears.

What happens when injuries occur at commercial properties that are leased or at apartment complexes?

As a rule of thumb, a landlord is not responsible for what happens to a tenant’s guest. It is presumed that the tenant is the one in control of the property’s conditions. Nevertheless, exceptions may apply.

Latent defects, for instance, are hidden, concealed, dangerous conditions before the tenant took possession of the property. Also, when the landlord is responsible for making all repairs for a tenant, such repairs must be done correctly and consciously.

Knowing When To Hire A Premises Liability Attorney

There are many different occasions where a premises liability attorney is necessary. For example, suppose you are renting a home and there are uneven areas of the walkway going toward the house that the landlord refuses to repair, even though it is a hazard. In that case, that is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. Say that you are walking in that area either to or from home. If you trip on the walkway and the fall results in serious injuries, then it is time to contact a premises liability attorney.

It is up to the landlord to provide safe conditions to prevent these kinds of accidents. If you look at that example, except the walkway is even and you slip because of ice buildup during the winter, you are less likely to have a claim. However, it may still be possible, so you should contact a premises liability attorney to see if you have a lawsuit.

With one example, it is evident that there is a claim. With the other example, it is far less likely but could still result in a lawsuit. In these cases, it is always better to play it safe than to be sorry later, especially if you have extensive injuries from the slip and fall.

How Are Premises Liability Cases Evaluated?

Premises liability cases typically rest on sufficient evidence, which can include:

  • Photographs
  • Videos
  • Surveillance
  • Witness statements
  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Slip resistance testing
  • Signage and lighting conditions
  • And the history of reported hazards

Premise liability experts can also be retained to testify on code and regulation violations, industry standard and building site safety violations, and facility design and construction defects. These experts can consist of engineers, architects, security experts, building and safety code experts and regulators, construction managers, and biomechanical experts.

What Types of Damages Are Available in Premises Liability Cases?

If you or a loved one has been injured on someone else’s property in Houston, you may be able to recover compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages in limited circumstances
  • Any other damages allowed by law or deemed fair and just by the Court

You may have grounds to file a lawsuit seeking damages. Since a statute of limitation could impact your rights, consulting with an attorney promptly is essential.

Consult With a Premises Liability Attorney

Sometimes it can be confusing to determine if liability applies or not, or at which degree depending on the plaintiff’s categorization as trespasser, licensee, or invitee. Fortunately, some experienced professionals are entirely dedicated to these complex legal matters.

If you or a loved one has been injured on another’s property, contact us today by calling (713) 999-8669 to schedule a confidential, in-person meeting to discuss the circumstances of the injury, potential claim, and your legal options. 

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