Premises liability is defined by the owner’s “duty of care”: an obligation that a property owner must meet in order to ensure the safety of his/her visitors.
Property owners are held liable for accidents and injuries on their property to ensure that they meet the duty of care and provide an adequately safe property for their visitors.
Property owners are not always liable for injuries on their property. In order to better understand when and why property owners are liable for accidents on their premises, you must first understand the different types of visitors and invitations.
3 Types of Premises Visitors
Invitations to the property are granted to visitors from property owners, family, managers, or staff. There are three common types of visitors.
Any individual invited onto a property in order to conduct business with the property owner, manager, and/or staff.
- Example: contractors, business associates, groundskeepers
Any individual invited onto a property for social purposes.
- Example: family, friends, neighbors
Any individual who enters the domain of private property without a prior invitation from the property owner, manager, and/or staff.
- In general, trespassers do not have a claim against property owners for any injuries that occur while they are trespassing on the property.
- However, there are special circumstances that may hold the property owner liable for the injury.
- If the injury occurred because the property has been defined as excessively dangerous or because the property owner takes action with the intent to purposefully harm trespassers, then the owner may be held liable.
- The definition of excessive danger and purposeful harm differ state-by-state and even by local government regulations.
- If you have questions regarding trespassers and premises liability, contact a premises liability lawyer.
3 Types of Consent to Enter Premises
Visitors must be given consent to enter the property, otherwise, they are considered trespassers. Visitors can be invited onto a property through one or more of the following types of invitations:
any documented form of invitation consenting to a visitor’s presence on the property.
- Examples include letters, emails, mail, etc.
word-of-mouth consent granted in a conversation between the property owner, manager, or staff and the visitor.
- Examples include phone calls, conversations, etc.
consent that is implied due to a longstanding relationship, past invitations, or certain circumstances. This type of invitation is more subjective and harder to prove than others.
- Examples include family members visiting each other’s homes, patients visiting their physicians, neighbors walking on other neighbor’s property.
Once an invitation has been accepted, both the property owner and the visitor must meet expectations to ensure the visitor’s safety, otherwise a premises liability lawyer may be necessary to file a claim.