The application of premises liability law is not always easy to understand. This may be in part because different states apply different standards of care to property owners and property managers. Different rules also apply to occupants of a property depending on their status as invitees, licensees or trespassers.
An invitee is expressly or implicitly invited to enter a premise for a commercial benefit to the property owner or possessor. The possessor of a property generally owes an invitee the highest duty of care. In addition to the duty to protect or warn an invitee of the presence of an unreasonable risk of harm the possessor knows about, in most jurisdictions the possessor may have a duty to periodically inspect the premises.
A grocery store owner, for example, may be obligated to regularly check the floors for broken merchandise or spills and place a visible warning sign in that area until the potential danger of slipping is removed.
A licensee, such as a social guest at a private residence, has express or implied permission to occupy the property for other than business or commercial reasons. The possessor of the premises is usually only liable for injuries to a licensee if, among other conditions, he or she did not use reasonable care to warn of a hazard he or she knew about, or failed to take reasonable precautions to make safe.
If, for instance, a homeowner knows that one of the steps leading to the basement is broken in a way that is not reasonably apparent, and a guest who was not warned is physically injured when the step gives way, the homeowner may be held liable for the resulting injuries.
An owner or possessor of a property may or may not have a duty to warn of potential hazards on the property depending on if he or she is aware of the presence of trespassers. The failure to warn of any dangers on the property, however, may expose the owner or possessor to liability for an injury or death caused to trespassers by any such dangers.
Regardless of what your occupant status was, if you have suffered a slip or trip and fall injury, or if you have received physical harm due to a dangerous or unsafe condition on a property you feel you should have been warned about, a premises liability attorney can assess if you should be compensated.
If the property owner or possessor of the property failed to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition, or to warn of the presence of a dangerous condition on the property, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
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