“Premises liability” holds owners and property managers legally responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on property. Liability will vary depending on the legal rules and principles in place in the state where the premises liability injury occurred.
There are, essentially, three classifications of people on your property:
- Uninvited trespassers
- Licensees—those entering with permission for their own purposes
- Invitees—those entering for the benefit of the owners and occupiers
Your obligations to each will vary, and your duty gradually increases as you move from trespasser to invitee.
Trespassers can be undiscovered or discovered. For an undiscovered trespasser, the obligation is not to willfully cause injury. A discovered trespasser should receive a warning of hazards that are not obvious. This is the same duty you owe a licensee.
The invitee garners the greatest obligation. Here the owner or occupier must act to keep the property in reasonably safe condition and warn the invitee of any latent defects.
For best results, employ and document daily property inspections. Have a plan in place that requires employees to keep an eye out for hazards and a system in place to document compliance with the process.
Nonetheless, injuries on your property can occur. However, liability is not automatic. If you have maintained a diligent inspection process and can document compliance, the claimant will have a difficult time proving that you knew or should have known about the condition causing the injury. This provides an avenue to escape liability.
Other traditional defenses center upon the comparative negligence of the injured person and can take many forms. For example, it includes the provision of warnings that go unheeded. It also includes hazards that are so obvious as not to require warnings, but nonetheless go unnoticed.