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Premises liability means the owner or occupier of land failed to meet the requisite standard of care and maintaining their premises, and their failure led to harm. When you spend time on another person’s property, whether it is a business, a neighbor’s home, a job site, or even public property, you have a right to expect the premises to be safe. Unfortunately, thousands of people are injured each year due to the negligence of property owners.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice,  the number of premises liability claims has declined somewhat in recent years – and this may be due to property owners’ increased awareness of the duty of care they owe to those who spend time on their premises. In any case, if you have suffered an injury while on another person’s property, speak with an experienced Winston-Salem attorney to discuss your options and how to hold the responsible party liable.

What are the Responsibilities of a Property Owner?

Property owners have a general responsibility to keep their premises in safe condition and in good repair, especially when they expect to have others present on the property. When a property owner knows or should have known of a danger present on the premises, he or she is obligated to warn those who will be visiting or using the property of those dangers or defects. The owner is also responsible for taking reasonable steps to mitigate or repair dangers on the property, when possible.

Duty of Care

Premises owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, which means they need to repair dangerous conditions that they know or should know exist or warn people of the presence of a dangerous condition. The property owner may be unaware, but the law says the owner should be aware of. The property owner or occupier has to perform reasonable inspections. If an owner has a rotten deck board that could cause someone to fall through the deck, they might have had a responsibility to inspect it.e Particularly if a person has customers there, they need to make sure the property is reasonably safe through periodic inspection. The duty of the property owner would only change between different classifications of visitors to the property when it comes to trespassers.

What Injuries are Caused by Third-Parties?

Property owners are often shocked to learn that they can be held liable for injuries that occur on their property, but were caused by the actions of a third-party. The grocery store slip-and-fall case is a classic example.

If a shopper breaks a jar of spaghetti sauce and another customer slips in the spill and is injured, the store owners could be found responsible. In determining whether the property owner is liable, the court will consider whether the store had notice of the danger or should have learned of the hazard within a reasonable time. These considerations are up to a person’s Winston-Salem premises liability lawyer to bring up in court

Invitees and Licensees

Sometimes, the level of care the property owner owes to those spending time on the property depends on who the visitor is and why he or she is present. So-called invitees are owed the highest level of care.

This includes people who are expressly invited on the property – visitors, friends, relatives, neighbors, as well as hired workers. A court may find that a property owner should have fixed broken porch steps before inviting friends over, for instance.

Property owners also owe a duty of care to so-called licensees – those who have a right to be on the property for specific purposes, even if they were not invited per se. Salesmen and utility workers are two examples of licensees.

While not expressly invited, the property owner should be aware that these licensees are likely to visit the property at some point, and ought to be warned of any potential dangers. The court may not require a property owner to have repaired broken porch steps, but the owner should have at least made any potential licensees aware of the hazard.

Common Types of Premises Liability Injuries

There are many different kinds of injuries a person may suffer while on someone’s property. Some of the most common injuries include but are not limited to:

  • Slip and fall incidents
  • Shopping cart accidents
  • Negligent landlord
  • Stairway accidents
  • Icy or snowy walkways
  • Tripping on debris
  • Ladder falls
  • Toxin exposure
  • Unsecured rugs or carpets
  • Elevator and escalator injuries
  • Defective products on site
  • Unsafe playground equipment
  • Sports and recreation facility accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Amusement park ride malfunction
  • Fires and floods
  • Explosions and electrocutions
  • Inadequate security measures

How Can a Winston-Salem Premises Liability Lawyer Help?

Not every property injury is due to the owner’s negligence. Your premises liability attorney in Winston-Salem will need to prove that you had a right to be on the property, since trespassers are typically barred from recovering damages for premises liability injuries, and that your own negligent actions did not contribute to causing your injury.

For this reason, it is important to choose a local attorney who has experience refuting trespassing and contributory negligence claims alleged by the property owner in an attempt to avoid liability.