When you enter someone else’s property, you have reason to believe the premises are safe and that you will not sustain an injury. In fact, property owners have a duty to ensure a certain level of safety, a responsibility called “premises liability”. If you were injured due to unsafe or dangerous conditions on someone else’s property, this is known as a premises liability accident. Such accidents can be at commercial buildings, residences, or on public property such as parks, streets, or public transportation. The premises liability lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm explains who may be held responsible if you get injured on someone else’s property.
Duty to Keep Property Safe
Any case that may be an example of a premises liability will involve the legal duty of reasonable care. The owner or the occupier of a property has a responsibility to anyone entering its premises that there will not be an unreasonable risk of injury due to the property’s condition. If the condition is unsafe, the owner or occupier may be held liable for any accidents that occur. A premise liability claim will prove that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, and failed to take steps to resolve the condition, thus breaching on his or her duty of reasonable care by allowing harm to visitors.
Three Visitor Categories Explained
There are three main categories of people who may visit another person’s property—invitees, licensees and trespassers. Property owners have a different level of responsibility toward each category, owing the most to invitees, and the least to trespassers.
Invitees are individuals invited onto the property by the property owner. Property owners owe the highest duty of care toward those classified as invitees. The property owner not only has a duty to repair known dangers, but also has a duty to discover and correct any hidden or unknown hazards as well. An example of an invitee would be customers that enter a business.
Licensees are individuals visiting the premises for personal reasons. An example of a licensee would be someone visiting a friend at a rental property. The property owner must ensure a reasonable level of safety for the licensee, but it is a lower duty of care than that owed to invitees. They do not have the extra duty to discover or correct unknown dangers.
Finally, trespassers are individuals that enter a property without their permission and are otherwise unauthorized to be on the premises. Property owners are not required to protect trespassers, but each case is situational. Sometimes a property owner can be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries if they were intentionally hurt, or if the owner failed to notify the public of any serious risks on their property. If the trespasser is a child, then the property owner still owes a reasonable level of care to ensure the safety of the property and to rid of any unsafe things that may attract children—also known as “attractive nuisances”.
Oftentimes, the owner is not the occupier of the property. A business or a tenant may be renting the space to run their company or live in. Generally speaking, the occupier of the property is held liable for injuries given they had control of the premises during the time of the accident. However, premises liability can be complicated, so you may wish to proceed by filing a claim against both the owner and occupier of the property.
With commercial properties, liability is usually determined based on the terms of the business contract, and may depend on where the accident happened. If you are injured inside a rented apartment, the tenant is held liable for the moveable things inside the apartment, but may be responsible for the immoveable things if they fail to take action to fix the dangerous condition.
However, there are cases when the owner can still be liable for injury. This can occur if there is an injury when there are no businesses or tenants renting the space. Additionally, landlords can be held responsible for shared spaces within an apartment building like staircases or hallways, as well as immovable things inside such as the floors or walls. An owner can also be held liable if he or she rents the property knowing there is a dangerous condition without warning the tenants. Finally, if the lease agreement requires the owner to fix certain conditions, and fails to repair the condition that then leads to an injury, then the owner will be held liable.
In order for a premises liability case to be successful, you will need to provide proof of negligence. Proving negligence can be complicated, and will involve providing evidence to establish the following conditions. The first condition is that you are owed a duty of care by the property owner or occupier. You must establish that they are required to provide a safe environment to a reasonable degree to protect visitors on their property. The second thing you must prove is that they failed to act with reasonable care when maintaining the conditions of the property. This will likely require that the owner or occupier had some knowledge of the hazardous conditions of the premises but failed to act in order to repair the condition and ensure safety in a timely manner. The third thing you must establish is that you were injured as a direct result of the negligence of the property owner or occupier. Finally, you must establish that your injuries have resulted in harm and provide proof of damages that can be alleviated through compensation such as medical bills or proof of lost wages.
Modified comparative negligence
There may be cases in which you are partly responsible for the accident. Some common arguments might be that you were using your phone at the time of the incident or not paying enough attention, wearing footwear that contributed to the accident, or the dangerous condition should have been obvious to you. Pennsylvania follows the modified comparative rule for negligence, meaning that you will not be able to recover anything if you are 50% or more at-fault for the accident. Additionally, the compensation will be reduced by the percentage you are at-fault. For example, if the court determines you are 20% at-fault for your injuries, and the damages total $40,000, then you will only recover 32,000, or 80% of the total amount.
Call our Property Liability Lawyers Today
If you sustained an injury due to the dangerous condition on someone else’s property, you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering. The Reiff Law Firm has over thirty years of experience handling complicated premises liability cases, and will advocate for you to ensure the best possible outcome. Call our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at (215)-709-6940 to receive a free consultation.