What Is Premises Liability?

September 21, 2021

If you are injured on someone else’s property and you believe the owner may be responsible, you may have cause to file a premises liability lawsuit. What many people may not realize is that business and property owners have a responsibility to maintain a reasonably safe environment. The fact that someone was injured due to a hard impact fall or another incident may indicate the property owner failed to fulfill their duty to maintain safe premises.

By thoroughly answering the question “what is premises liability,” we hope to give you a more refined understanding of whether you or a loved one should seek a premises liability lawsuit consultation. In many cases, business employees, managers, and property owners cause unsuspecting people to incur injuries that should have been avoided.

What Is Premises Liability?

Perhaps the most prevalent premises liability lawsuit stems from injuries sustained in a slip and fall. All too often, debris, water, ice, and other dangers are not dealt with properly, causing a patron to slip and fall. The hard impact may result in broken bones, back spasms, skull fracture, and traumatic brain injury, among many other conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, upwards of 3 million of our valued elders are injured in falls each year. More than 800,000 require hospitalization for fractured hips or traumatic brain injuries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that slips, trips, and falls cause the highest number of fatalities in the construction sector year after year. All told, hard impact falls contribute to more than 8 million hospital or emergency room visits annually.

So frequent are premises lawsuits surrounding these circumstances that people refer to legal professionals who handle them as “slip and fall lawyers.” The factors below are among the common causes of premises liability injuries:

  • Snow and Ice: When business and property owners fail to remove snow, sleet, or ice from walkways, these conditions increase the likelihood of a slip and fall.
  • Inadequate Maintenance: Operating a business or property tasks professionals with ensuring safety. Accumulating leaves, overgrown vegetation, and other items that require cleanup increase the risk of someone’s getting hurt.
  • Defective Conditions: Assets such as handrails, secure steps, and other reasonable safety elements are typically required by local and state building codes. When the safety conditions deteriorate, you should not consider the resulting injury to be just an accident.
  • Dog Bites: Pet owners take on the responsibility to ensure their dogs are leashed or in a secure location. The courts frequently apply a “strict liability” standard when someone gets bitten.
  • Elevator Incidents: Mechanisms such as elevators and escalators must be properly serviced and inspected regularly. If you or a loved one sustains an avoidable injury, it may be worthwhile to pursue a premises liability lawsuit.
  • Security Failures: It’s not unreasonable to expect on-site security at apartment complexes and other commercial properties. Failure to implement security measures puts people at risk of physical assault.
  • Swimming Pool Incidents: Home and rental property owners take on a duty to secure a pool area and the surrounding space. Poolside areas typically call for non-slip surfaces.
  • Wet Floors: Slips and falls due to wet floors remain one of the most common ways people suffer injuries through no fault of their own. Businesses are required to post adequate signage warning that floors are slippery and to mop and dry spills promptly.

While these issues rank among other more common ways people sustain injuries, a wide range of others exist. Fires, chemical spills, and even malfunctions at amusement parks may require injured people to contact an attorney about a premises liability lawsuit to receive fair compensation for their injuries.

Is Premises Liability the Same as Negligence?

In many ways, premises liability and negligence are intertwined. Premises liability generally refers to the body of law that outlines the expectations for reasonable safety on a property. It asserts that business and property owners have a duty to take measures to protect people who have a lawful reason to be on the grounds. These are elements that are generally necessary to file a premises liability lawsuit:

  • Invitee: The injured person entered the property with either express or implied consent. An example would be a person who enters a restaurant to order food or goes to visit a friend in an apartment complex. A trespasser would usually not be considered an invitee.  
  • Conditions: A viable premises liability lawsuit operates under the notion that the business or property owner did not reasonably meet safety standards. In other words, unreasonable conditions led to injury or fatality.
  • Breach: When the person or business knew about the risk, or should have known, they may be considered in breach of their duty to maintain safety. Other instances of a breach of duty may involve failing to notify people about the danger.
  • Status: The business entity or individual designated as the defendant must typically meet the standard of a “possessor.” This means they had control over the space personally or through proxies.

The idea of premises liability weaves the concept of negligence through it. Within each element of a premises liability lawsuit, we see some level of responsibility. In essence, negligence is the failure to meet reasonable safety expectations that result in an “accident.”

In terms of what an accident means in legal circles, it is distinguished from intentional harm. Failing to clear snow, mop floors, fix handrails, service elevators, or perform other duties is no accident. These things are careless failures to fulfill a duty to protect unsuspecting people on their property from injuries and fatalities.

What is the Difference Between General Liability and Premises Liability?

Another item that sometimes confuses people outside the legal profession involves general and premises liability. Unlike the nuances involving negligence and premises issues, general liability is significantly different, even though it may encompass slip and fall lawsuits.

General liability tends to involve a broad spectrum of potential harms on another person’s property. Many businesses, as well as residential and commercial property owners, acquire general liability insurance coverage for protection in the event an unforeseen injury occurs, resulting in a lawsuit. These may include the following.

  • Advertising lawsuit
  • Customer injury lawsuit
  • Product liability lawsuit
  • Property damage lawsuit

General liability is non-specific. If someone suffers a loss due to a company’s or individual’s actions, they may seek compensation under general liability if the elements of the lawsuit can be demonstrated. The substantial difference between general and premises liability is that, in the latter, the business or property owner failed to meet a safety responsibility. In other words, a premises liability lawsuit typically must prove negligence.

It would be something of an understatement to say that premises liability lawsuits can be complicated. Perhaps the simplest way for everyday people who suffer a loss to secure full and fair compensation is to speak to a so-called slip and fall lawyer. If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to someone else’s carelessness, contact Wapner Newman at (215) 569-0900 and schedule a free consultation to find out if you might have a premises liability lawsuit.