What is Premises Liability? | Scott Goodwin Law

What is Premises Liability?

by / Tuesday, 03 January 2023 / Published in Personal Injury
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If you’ve been injured in an accident, one concept that might apply to your case is premises liability. Premises liability is a legal concept that applies to certain types of accidents where the owner/tenant of a property was negligent in showing reasonable care and maintenance of their property. When property owners and tenants fail to meet this standard, it can be very easy for people to get hurt on the property.

For premises liability to apply to a case, the owner/tenant of the property needs to have been aware of the problem (or reasonably should have been aware of the hazard), had a reasonable amount of time to fix it, and failed to do so. This means that just because someone is injured while on another person’s property, the property owner/tenant isn’t necessarily going to be legally liable for those injuries.

Let’s say a homeowner has had a burned out lightbulb by the steps leading up to their front door and that light has been out of commission for a few months. Then one evening, a neighbor stops by to drop off a package that had been delivered to their house by mistake. As the neighbor tries to leave, they miss a step and fall because they couldn’t see well. That would be an example of premises liability because the bulb hadn’t been working for a long time, it would have been easy to fix, and it’s reasonable to understand that poorly lit stairs can be dangerous.

On the other hand, let’s say this same homeowner had a functioning porch light and turned it on before leaving for the night, but the light had burned out by the time the neighbor stopped by to drop off the package. In a case like that, it would not be considered negligence because, as far as the homeowner knew, they had a functioning light by their stairs and it’s unlikely they would have known the porch light burned out after they left for the night.

While premises liability commonly applies to slip and fall accidents, it can potentially apply to other types of personal injury cases like dog bites and swimming pool accidents.

Who Does Premises Liability Apply To?

Whether or not premises liability applies to a case can also depend on who, exactly, was on the property at the time of the accident. Legally speaking, there are three types of people who may be on your property: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Property owners/occupants have differing levels of responsibility depending on what type of person the visitor is. 

Invitees refer to people who have been given express or implied permission to enter someone’s property. This generally includes friends, family members, and neighbors. The law requires homeowners/tenants to take steps to make sure the property is reasonably safe for invitees. 

Licensees are also people who have either direct permission or implied permission to be on a person’s property, but are coming onto the property for a specific task. This can include letter carriers, people delivering packages, and utility workers. Homeowners/tenants still need to show a reasonable amount of care for licensees, but there is a lower legal standard involved. In this situation, a homeowner is only required to inform a licensee about a hazard if they are aware of a problem and the licensee might not notice it on their own.

Since trespassers do not have a legal right to be on your property, homeowners/tenants do not have a legal obligation to make sure their property is reasonably clear of safety hazards. However, there may be exceptions that apply if the unauthorized person on your property was a child who was interested in something that may be considered an attractive nuisance, like a swimming pool, playground equipment, or a trampoline. 

Contact a Michigan Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in an accident of any kind, it’s important to have a personal injury lawyer on your side who can help make sure your case is handled correctly so that you get the justice you deserve. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in handling a wide range of personal injury cases, including slip and fall cases, car accident lawsuits, dog bite cases, and more. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.