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What You Might Not Know about Premises Liability

If you slip and fall in front of your neighbor’s house because of some oil he spilled on the sidewalk, is he liable? Yes, he is. abellawfirm.com

Premises liability can be a complex issue, but not in the above situation. Under premise liability law, your neighbor is responsible for keeping the sidewalk in front of his house clear and safe for the public. Your neighbor must have known the oil was potentially dangerous to the public, failed to clean up the oil (easily done with a piece of newspaper) or provide some type of warning about it to you or any passersby. If you sustained serious injury in your slip and fall, you can claim for compensation from your neighbor (or his insurance company) based on premise liability laws.

Premise liability statutes differ from state to state, but there are some general definitions that you should be aware of. This will help you identify when a premise liability claim can be made, and to ensure that you are never on the wrong end of a personal injury claim.

First of all, premise liability accrues to the person who is in possession of a physical property such as a lot, building, house, apartment, or establishment. A person is said to possess the premises when that person occupies and/or controls it. For example, a homeowner occupies a house and has control over what happens within and around the house. If a person rents an apartment but does not live in it, he or she is still said to be in control of it while the lease holds. A person does not necessarily have to own the premises to be in possession.

The second consideration in premises liability law is the nature of the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant in terms of the plaintiff’s presence on the premises at the time of the incident. There are three types of relationships under premises liability: invitee, licensee and trespasser. The first two categories of people may be considered to have a “legitimate” presence on the premises, and to whom the possessor owes a reasonable duty of care, which if absent and results in injury renders the possessor liable. For example, if Joe invites Linda to his house and a rotting tree branch in the backyard falls on her head, Joe may be liable for Linda’s injuries.

The third category of person may be considered an “illegitimate” presence on the premises, or one who has no right to be there in the first place. For example, if Nathan who lives behind Joe’s property decides to take a shortcut to his house by going through Joe’s backyard without Joe’s knowledge or invitation, and that same branch fell on his head, Joe might not be held liable for Nathan’s injuries.

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