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Premises liability: Who is responsible?

Most things in life come with some amount of risk. We generally do a fairly good job of reducing risk and increasing safety, but accidents happen and there is no way to eliminate risk entirely. Sometimes, because of things outside of our control, even normal things like walking down a sidewalk can result in injuries.

If someone is injured while on another person's property because of some sort of hazard, they may wonder who is legally responsible for their injuries. Liability for these types of injuries can depend on a variety of factors, but there are some important things to know.

What is premises liability?

There are all kinds of injuries that can result from hazards on someone's property. The most common issue is slip-and-fall injuries, but being harmed by exposed building materials or exposed wires can also happen. These types of injuries fall under a type of liability known as premises liability.

Premises liability is a particular concern for business owners because a lawsuit resulting from a business owner's failure to maintain a safe environment can seriously impact their livelihood. This is because property owners have what is known as a "duty of care."

Duty of care

If a property owner knowingly has another person on their property, they have a duty to make sure any hazards on their property have been properly addressed. If they have not fixed the issue, they generally have to make sure people know about it. For example, they should put a wet floor sign out after a floor has been mopped.

Some common hazards include:

  • Wet surfaces
  • Ice and snow on sidewalks
  • Structural damages
  • Exposed wires
  • Cracks/holes in walking areas

Even though property owners have a duty to maintain a reasonably safe environment, people on their property also have a duty to maintain reasonably safe behavior.

Individual duty

When it comes to premises liability, people have a general duty to exercise reasonable judgment and caution. If they were injured because they were behaving recklessly, the property owner may not be held liable for their injuries.

However, if a person is injured on someone else's property, they should take certain steps:

  • Get appropriate medical attention
  • Document the scene as well as possible by taking pictures
  • Get the contact information of witnesses
  • Report the incident to the property owner/person in charge
  • Get a copy of the official report

These types of situations can seem overwhelming, but there are people who can help. If you are a property owner or a person involved in a premises injury, it is highly recommended that you obtain the services of a knowledgeable and experienced legal professional.

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