In Pennsylvania, property owners are expected to use reasonable care to protect people who enter their premises from injury. The Commonwealth’s premises liability laws are designed to protect people who have been injured while visiting the property of others. These laws allow injured victims whose accidents are caused by a property owner’s negligence or wrongful acts to recover compensation. A Pennsylvania injury lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to understand your legal rights when you have been injured while visiting someone else’s property.
What is premises liability?
Premises liability is the liability of a property’s owner or operator when someone is injured on the property. Property owners have varying duties that depend on the status of the injured victim. If a property owner negligently breaches the duty of care, the injured victim might recover compensation for the resulting losses. To recover compensation, a victim must prove that the owner’s negligence caused his or her accident and injuries.
Types of premises liability cases
People can be injured in many different ways while they are visiting the property of others. When their injuries are caused by the property owner’s negligence, the property owner may be liable to pay damages.
Here are some of the ways in which an accident might happen because of the negligence of a property owner:
- Falling objects that were improperly placed
- Failing to block off dangerous areas
- Slip and fall accidents from spills, uneven flooring, poorly maintained floors, broken steps, and other issues
- Escalator and elevator failures because of poor maintenance
- Explosions and fires because of poor maintenance
- Malfunctioning rides at amusement parks
- Swimming pool accidents and drowning
- Dog bites
- Inadequate security at hotels or in parking lots
- Inadequate maintenance of the property
- Exposure to toxic chemicals or fumes
What is the duty of care for property owners?
To succeed in a premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The property owner’s duty of care was owed to the victim.
- The property owner failed to fulfill the duty of care.
- The property owner’s breach of the duty of care caused the victim’s accident and injuries.
- The victim suffered damages as a result.
The duty of care refers to the property owner’s legal obligation to follow a standard of reasonable care to prevent harm to others. For example, if you are shopping at a grocery store and are struck by items that were carelessly stacked on a shelf, the property owner may be liable to pay damages because of negligently stacking the items on the shelves.
While property owners owe a duty of care to visitors, the duty varies based on the visitor’s status. Property owners owe different duties of care to trespassers, licensees, and invitees.
Property owners owe the lowest duty of care to trespassers. These are people who enter or stay on the owner’s land without consent. In this type of case, the only duty the property owner has is to avoid intentionally harming the trespasser. The property owner will not have a duty to maintain the property safely to protect a trespasser. However, the property owner cannot set a trap to intentionally injure a trespasser.
Licensees are people who enter the property owner’s land for the benefit of the licensee instead of the owner. Licensees have the property owner’s permission or consent to enter. Property owners owe a higher duty of care to licensees than they do for trespassers. For licensees, the property owner must warn them of any dangerous conditions on the property so that they can avoid accidents and injuries.
The final class of visitor is an invitee. This is someone who enters the property owner’s land for the benefit of the owner. For example, an invitee includes a person who enters a retail store to purchase clothing. Since invitees are invited onto the property owner’s premises to benefit the property owner, they are owed the highest duty of care. Property owners must regularly inspect their properties and correct hazards to protect licensees. They must also warn them of any dangerous conditions that exist through signage or other means.