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What is Premises Liability?

Understanding the Legal Concept of Premises Liability

One of the most common types of personal injury claims involves what the law refers to as “premises liability.” For the lay person, this term can be confusing. Is it really just another way of saying “slip and fall”? Not exactly. Here’s what lawyers mean when they talk about a premises liability claim.

In all states, the owner or possessor (could be a landlord, tenant or property manager) of residential or commercial property has a duty to keep the property (or premises) in a condition that minimizes the risk of injury to anyone legally visiting the property. As a general rule, this means that the owner or possessor must take reasonable steps to monitor the property for any potentially dangerous conditions. If any are discovered (or should have been discovered), the owner or possessor has a duty to either take reasonable measures to fix the problem, or to provide adequate notice of any known dangers.

The most common type of claim based on premises liability stems from a slip, trip or fall. Typically, this involves a slip or fall on slippery floors, sidewalks or walkways; on defective, torn or broken flooring, such as tile, linoleum or carpet; or broken steps or stairways. A property owner can also be responsible for naturally occurring conditions, such as snow or ice, if it can be shown that the owner or possessor could have reasonably taken steps to remove or remedy the problem before the accident occurred.

There are, however, other injury claims that can fall under a premises liability claim. For example, if property is located in a dangerous neighborhood and the owner fails to provide adequate security or proper lighting, there can be liability for any injuries that you suffer. Owners and occupiers of land can also have responsibility for injuries caused by pets or animals they keep on the property.

Property owners customarily have no duty of care toward people who are trespassing illegally on the premises, unless they know or have reason to know of the presence of trespassers.

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