When is the Property Owner Responsible for injuries you Sustain While on His/Her Property?

Whether you were an invitee, a “licensee” or even a “trespasser,” the property owner generally will have some (if not all) responsibility for any premises injuries you receive while on the property.

An “invitee” is someone who is on the property because the owner invited them to be on the property, either through direct invitation or through belief that the property is open for their use.

Individuals under this definition may include business customers (shoppers at Wal-Mart), visitors to public places (museums or parks), and guests (social gatherings). Generally, if the property is open to the public and the property owner invites the public inside, the public is considered an “invitee.”

A “licensee” is someone who is on the property for purposes that directly benefit him/her and not the business. An example of a “licensee” is someone who goes into a store only to get change for a parking meter and not to shop, but slips and falls on some water on the floor. If there were no warning signs of the dangerous condition, the property owner could be held responsible to the person under the “licensee” definition.

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Under some circumstances, persons can also be considered “uninvited licensees” (persons who just loiter around the property and the property owner is aware of their presence).

A “trespasser” is someone who is on the property without invitation or license (as discussed above) from the property owner and is on the property strictly for his/her own self-interest.

Its important to understand the definition of a “trespasser” because the law looks at the duties of the property owner differently depending on the classification of the person on the property who is injured.

For example, a landowner is not responsible for a slip and fall accident if the person who fell is considered a trespasser. But the property owner has certain legal responsibilities regardless of the status of the person entering upon the property. Some of these responsibilities include:

  • Proper notice of any dangerous conditions of which the property owner may be aware;
  • Keeping the property in a reasonably safe condition;
  • Proper posting of “trespassing” signs or warning of harmful or dangerous conditions regarding the property; and,
  • Not creating a dangerous or harmful condition on the property, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

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