We’ve all experienced those embarrassing moments when we’ve tripped and fallen or wiped out on an icy sidewalk. Often, we only walk away a little sore (and perhaps with a bruised ego), although sometimes these kinds of accidents can cause major, even life-changing, injuries. And when that happens as a result of another’s carelessness, it’s a really sad and unfair situation.
Where does the law come in for these kinds of situations? Here’s a quick overview: If someone owns a home or place of business, they’re a property owner (or landowner). Being a property owner comes with responsibility. For example, property owners have a reasonable duty to try to keep certain people safe on their property. The law refers to this as premises liability.
Common premises liability cases might include:
- tripping over a recklessly-placed item or broken sidewalk
- falling as a result of broken stairs or damaged flooring
- slipping on icy or other slick surfaces
- missing a step due to inadequate lighting
If an unfortunate incident like one of the above happens on another’s property, the landowner can actually be held liable for the harm done.
Standards of Care
The law looks at what an appropriate standard of care should be for any given situation. For example, if you’re invited onto someone else’s property (this could be a residence or place of business), and you get injured there, the landowner might be liable if:
- The landowner knows of, or should have reasonably known about, a dangerous condition on their property that could potentially cause harm.
- Visitors or guests are not likely to discover or realize the danger on their own and therefore wouldn’t be able to avoid or protect themselves from it.
- The landowner doesn’t take reasonable care to protect or warn the invitee from the potential danger.
If the above statements are found to be true and injury occurs as a direct result, it’s possible that the landowner will be held responsible.
But what happens if a person isn’t invited onto the property? Are trespassers protected in the same way?
The answer is it is not likely. Even without explicit signage like a “no trespassing” sign, someone who enters property without permission—either implicit or explicit—can technically be considered a trespasser. In this case, there is no duty by the landowner to warn or take reasonable care to protect the trespasser from any accidental injury that might occur on the property until they know the trespasser is present. However, it’s important to note that trespassers are protected from intentional harm once their presence is discovered. In other words, you can’t purposely harm a trespasser just because they have come onto your property without invitation.
Premises liability cases are difficult and require an in-depth review of the facts of an individual’s incident to know if they have a strong case.
If you have questions about premises liability, or we can help in any way, please reach out to Kyle Cray at 765-742-9066.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.