Claims and Challenges in Premises Liability Lawsuits (2024)

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins

If you’re injured by a hazard on someone else’s property, you may have grounds to file a premises liability lawsuit.

We break down the basics of premises liability claims to help you protect your rights and seek fair compensation for your injuries.

What Is A Premises Liability Claim?

A premises liability claim starts when you’ve been injured on someone else’s property due to unsafe conditions or negligence. In general, premises liability is based on the concept that property owners have a duty to maintain a safe environment for visitors and guests.

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Understanding Premises Liability Law

In order to prove a premises liability claim, you will need to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant was either the property owner or a tenant occupying the property
  • The defendant allowed a dangerous condition to appear on the property through direct action or negligence
  • The dangerous condition caused you to suffer an injury

Each element needs to be proven in order to succeed in a premises liability lawsuit.

Difference Between Premises Liability and Personal Injury Claims

While premises liability lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits are similar, premises liability only arises when your injury was caused by a dangerous condition on a property.

For example, consider that you were injured in a grocery store.

If another shopper was being irresponsible and injured you by ramming into you with their shopping cart, then you might pursue a personal injury claim against the shopper. The shopper’s negligence caused your injury, not a dangerous condition on the property.

If instead you fell and were injured after sliding in a food spill that the shop owner failed to clean up, then you might pursue a premises liability claim against the store owner. This time, the store owner negligently allowed a dangerous condition that caused you injury to stay present on the property.

Common Types of Premises Liability Claims

Premises liability claims can arise in many places, including retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and more. Some of the common types of premises liability claims are:

  • Slip and fall injuries. A slip and fall happens when a dangerous property condition like loose floor tiles or icy sidewalks causes a visitor to lose their footing and injure themselves by falling. Slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of US emergency room visits. Unsurprisingly, they are a very common basis for premises liability lawsuits.
  • Elevator defects. An elevator that is not kept in good working order could cause injuries or even death for unsuspecting visitors. Accidents can involve defective elevator doors, too much movement speed in operation, or open elevator shafts.
  • Inadequate security. These types of claims come up when a property owner is aware of criminal activity and fails to take preventative steps. For example, if customers complain of criminal activity in a parking garage the owner may have a duty to hire security or take other steps to warn or protect visitors.
  • Dog bites. Nearly 4.5 million people in America are bitten by dogs every year. Dog bites can be the basis for a premises liability claim if property owners were aware of a dangerous dog on their property and failed to warn visitors of the danger.
  • Construction accidents. Dangerous construction sites can cause severe injuries for workers or people passing by. Worker injuries are sometimes considered workers’ compensation claims rather than premises liability, but it depends on the circumstances.

Speaking with a lawyer is the best way to determine what type of claim your injury qualifies for. Fill out the form on this page to get started.

Duty of Care in a Premises Liability Lawsuit

Property owners and tenants have a duty to maintain a safe environment for visitors to the property. However, some states apply different levels of that duty depending upon the property visitor’s status. There is a nearly equal split between states that consider the injured person’s status and states that apply a reasonable care standard to most injured persons.

Status-based Duty Standards

If your injury occurred in a state where your status impacts the property owner’s status, then you need to know which of these apply to you.

  • Trespasser. Trespassers enter property without invitation or permission. A trespasser is owed the lowest duty of care, but a duty still exists in most cases. Property owners cannot create hazards to endanger trespassers. They also have to set out warnings of hazards if they know that trespassers regularly enter the property. Higher levels of care are expected when the trespasser is a child.
  • Licensee. A licensee has the owner’s implied consent to enter the property. For example, a friend coming to visit or a delivery driver bringing a package to your door would be considered a licensee. For licensees, owners have a duty to fix dangerous conditions they should be aware of, or provide a clear warning of the danger.
  • Business invitee. A business invitee is someone invited to the property for a business purpose. For example, retail customers and visitors to a business office are business invitees. Business invitees are entitled to the highest duty of care from a property owner. The owner must take care to maintain a safe property. They also must warn of any dangerous conditions or criminal conduct they should know is present.

Reasonable Care Duty Standard

States that apply a reasonable care standard in premises liability lawsuits expect owners and tenants to remove known dangers from their property. For example, a reasonable person would recognize that an icy walkway entrance to a store creates a slip hazard for visitors.

States that apply this standard are split on whether the duty of care extends to trespassers. Alaska specifically includes trespassers in their law. Meanwhile, Massachusetts excludes trespassers.

With different legal standards, it can be difficult to know whether you have a strong premises liability claim. Fill out the form on this page to get a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The statute of limitations for premises liability claims varies by state but is typically between one to six years from the date of the injury.

  • Seek medical attention immediately. Then document where the injury occurred, notify the property owner if they are not aware, and consult with a premises liability lawyer.

  • This depends on the state laws where your injury occurred. Many states follow comparative negligence laws that allow injured parties to recover compensation in proportion to their fault. A premises liability lawyer can help clarify how partial fault will impact your claim.

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