How Is “Premise Liability” Defined By Law

Most people have never even heard the term “premise liability” used, but it can be relevant in any situation where a personal injury occurs. This is how the law defines premise liability, and what you should do when you think you might have a personal injury claim.

“Premise liability” is an umbrella term under which most other aspects of personal injury law fall. Personal injuries might include: animal bites, slip and fall, danger on the premises, negligence, inadequate security, non-gated swimming areas, inadequate maintenance, unsupervised children, etc. 

But these types of personal injury are only included under the premise liability umbrella when the negligent party is the property owner. Usually, restaurant owners or retail management are responsible for keeping the brick and mortar “premises” safe and secure. 

You can always visit the company’s website to find the names of individuals who might have been responsible for increasing security at the brick and mortar location where you were at the time of an incident.

There are situations where the owner of the infrastructure might not be responsible for injuries that occur there. For example, a landlord might not be responsible for injuries that occur in your rental unit if the lease made you responsible for the underlying cause. For example, if a friend punches you in the face, you can’t sue your landlord for failing to establish adequate security measures on the premises. 

Then again, if your child drowns in the pool because the gate was broken — and your landlord knew about the maintenance issue but did nothing — then you have a case. The same is true if someone breaks into your apartment by taking advantage of a locking mechanism defect when that lock was recalled. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to know about these issues. Not knowing is tantamount to negligence. 

An example of liability of a store or restaurant owner might occur when the floor has been mopped but there is no “wet floor” sign to warn customers. There are less common occurrences, of course. Let’s say there’s a flickering light in the store. You walk underneath at the exact time the bulb explodes. A shard of glass lands in your eye. You’ll need surgery — and the store or restaurant owner is liable for the entire incident. 

“Duty of care” usually factors into premise liability cases. Duty of care is the measure of caution owed to a specific type of visitor. Sometimes state laws differentiate between “invitees,” or those who were invited to the property for business, versus “social guests,” who were invited there absent a professional relationship. 

Duty of care can also depend on other aspects such as age. A customer might not be owed the same duty of care as a child who swims at the apartment pool. Adults are expected to accompany children to these locations, but premise liability is why apartment complexes with pools usually have a lifeguard too. 

State law might also result in restrictions on how much a plaintiff might receive during a lawsuit or limit the amount of time someone has to file one.

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