While you may not be familiar with the term premises liability, or the legal theory behind it, chances are you’re probably already familiar with a real-life example or two of the types of injuries it’s meant to cover. In a general sense, premises liability means that a property owner, whether of a commercial or residential property, has a duty to maintain a safe environment and to warn visitors of any potentially dangerous conditions. Property owners who fail to do so can be liable for any injuries that result.
A premises liability case could be a classic slip-and-fall, whether from an oil slick on the driveway or a wet spot on the floor, or a dog bite injury from an animal the owner knew was dangerous but failed to control. Swimming pool accidents also fall into this category. On commercial properties, premises liability issues could include inadequate security that leads to assault or injury, for instance, inadequate lighting in a parking garage or broken locks on an apartment building. Determining liability, however, can depend on whether the owner was aware or should reasonably have been aware that a dangerous condition existed, but failed to address the issue.
The duty a property owner owes to visitors can also vary depending on which of three categories a visitor belongs to: invitee, licensee, or trespasser. An invitee is a person who comes onto a property with the owner’s express or implied permission to conduct business; a commercial example might be a bank customer visiting their local branch, while a residential example might be a housekeeper coming to clean. A licensee is a person who has the owner’s permission to be on the property, but is not there for business reasons; examples might be family, friends, or neighbors coming to visit. A trespasser is exactly what it sounds like—someone who does not have the owner’s permission to be on the property. In the state of Arizona, the duty owed to people in the first two categories is not usually extended to a trespasser, unless that trespasser is a child or the property owner deliberately caused the injury.
If you’re injured at someone’s home in Phoenix, there are a number of factors you, as a victim, will have to prove to establish the property owner’s liability: that there was a defect in the property and that defect caused your injury, that the person you’re making the claim against is the owner or resident of the property (renters can be liable in a premises liability case as if they were the owner), and that person knew or should have known about the problem and didn’t warn you about it or fix it. In addition, you may not be able to collect damages if the defect is considered so obvious you could have been reasonably expected to spot it yourself. Thus, a premises liability case may be much more complex than it may seem at first glance.
While your first step in pursuing compensation for a premises liability injury would usually be to submit a claim to the property owner or their insurance company, you will want to enlist the help of a personal injury attorney with a strong background in premises liability law to ensure that you receive just compensation for your injury. If you’ve been the victim of a premises liability injury, the experienced attorneys of Hodes, Milman & Liebeck are there for you. Contact us online at hmlm.com or call 866-730-1976 for a complimentary case evaluation.