Personal Injury Lawsuits: What happens when someone is injured on your property?
Dan Levenson February 24, 2020
Injuries occurring on your business premises to a customer, visitor, guest, vendor, even a trespasser, may give rise to a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances causing the injury and individual’s status at the time of injury, you could potentially be held liable.
Circumstances and Status
By law, property owners are legally required to maintain their property in a good state of repair in a reasonable manner. If they don’t, they violate their “duty of care” to anyone on their property and it may be considered neglect under the law. A good example would be someone breaking an ankle in your parking lot because a pothole wasn’t repaired.
In some states, the duty of care can affect the property owner’s liability based on the status of the injured person. For example, if the person was invited, i.e., a customer or a guest, the duty of care expectation is typically higher than that of trespassers.
Personal Injury Lawsuits by Guests and Customers
If your business serves the public, you would typically put up orange warning cones or yellow wet floor hazard tents to indicate a danger zone. Likewise, if you are aware of any potential dangers, such as slippery surfaces or uneven floors, let your guests or visitors know.
However, only letting them know does not necessarily relieve you from your duty of care obligation. You should inspect the property thoroughly and make reasonable repairs to any conditions that are potentially dangerous to your visitors and guests, thereby avoiding future liability and negligence charges.
Your customers and guests are entitled to the highest standard of care. Whether a customer buys your services or product, your obligation to supply the duty of care for everyone on your property still stands.
Personal Injury Lawsuit by a Trespasser
Sadly, trespassers are also eligible for duty of care, though not to the same level as guests or customers. Property owners have the responsibility of warning of a hazard to any discovered or would-be trespassers. Posting a sign at the entrance is all that is required. However, property owners cannot create a hazardous trap that could cause harm to any would-be trespassers and owe no duty to trespassers to inspect or repair those dangers.
The property owner only owes the duty of not intentionally harming or entrapping the trespasser.
The “attractive nuisance doctrine“ holds property owners liable for injuries to children:
- who trespass and encounter features or objects on a property that attract children,
- and these attractions pose unforeseen dangers due to the child’s inability to comprehend the risks involved.
Therefore, the duty of care for child trespassers is vastly different. The responsibility of the property owner is to exercise reasonable care in reducing or eliminating the risk to any potential trespassing child.
Swimming pools, trampolines, deserted vehicles, and abandoned sheds are examples of attractive nuisances. Each case is considered individually as to whether the child can determine and comprehend the risks. Additionally, the property owner must have been reasonably able to anticipate this risk to a child trespasser to be considered negligent in their duty of care.
Consulting an Attorney
If someone has been injured on your property and has threatened to sue, you will need the services of an experienced Personal Injury Attorney. By carrying the right type of insurance coverage, you can mitigate those costs and continue to take care of your daily affairs while your case is being prepared.
Waiting until something happens to purchase the right kind of insurance may be too late. Our expert insurance professionals at insureyourcompany.com can help companies like yours secure proper insurance coverage by focusing on employing the right strategies to avoid legal issues and loss of business in the future.