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Understanding Premises Liability: What It Is, Who Is Responsible, and How Damages Are Determined

If you get hurt on someone else's property and the injury was caused by some form of negligence on the owner's part, you may be able to seek a judgment on the basis of premise liability. To figure out whether your situation qualifies or whether you'll be able to receive damages, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the answers to a few essential questions.

Who Can Pursue a Premises Liability Case?

When you are invited onto someone else's land for any reason, the invitation is assumed to come with an unspoken promise that the property will be free of hazards. If someone is hurt because of a failure to maintain a reasonable level of safety, their recourse is to build a case for premises liability in order to receive a judgment for the costs of their recovery. The invitation does not have to be an active one: for example, a mail carrier who is bitten by a dog while delivering a package would be within his or her rights to seek damages.

In most areas, trespassers are exempt from the majority of premises liability claims, except in cases when inadequate warnings are provided regarding hazards on the property or when the owner purposefully attempts to make the area hazardous in order to harm unwanted visitors.

Who Can Be Held Legally Liable?

When it comes to legal liability for injuries sustained by guests on the property, restitution is usually the responsibility of the party currently occupying it, and not necessarily the owner. In legal terms, in order to occupy a piece of property, you simple need to reside there with the intent to control it, or to have been the last person to do so if it is abandoned. 

In situations with multiple tenants occupying the same property, all tenants can be held liable for any injury due to their actions or their neglect of a reasonable level of care. If multiple people divide a property among themselves, each one is responsible only for the piece that they control. However, injuries caused by hazardous personal possessions may be deemed the fault of their owner, even if the items are not on the owner's piece of property.

Property owners themselves can be held liable for injuries in select cases, even if other occupants are present. For example, common areas shared by all tenants are considered the responsibility of the landlord. Most states also have laws requiring landlords to be proactive in locating and repairing certain serious hazards on their property.

Landlords can also be deemed responsible for any injuries incurred due to hazards that existed before the tenant took up residence, even if those hazards were unknown to either party. This responsibility is only waived if the tenant is notified of the danger or personally responsible for making the repairs.

How Are Damages Determined?

Each state has its own specific rules for determining whether to award damages to a personal injury claimant and how much of the cost the liable party is responsible for paying. Most states follow a policy of comparative fault, meaning the visitor and the occupant are both weighed against one another to determine how much of the accident was the visitor's fault and how much was the occupant's. 

Whether you will be awarded damages depends on the policy used to decide fault. Under a comparative negligence policy, you can still recover 90% of the costs incurred due to your injury if the courts deem you 10% responsible for it. However, in a contributory negligence system, your part as claimant will automatically bar you from being awarded a judgment in your favor. Only a few states still use the contributory negligence system, however: Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

Understanding the intricacies of premises liability can be a daunting task, especially since the details vary from state to state, but don't let that dissuade you. With skilled legal counsel at your side, you just might be able to recover some of the costs your injury incurred. Find a personal injury lawyer at a website like http://www.lebaronjensen.com/.