Property owners and possessors owe a duty of care to everyone who enters their premises. The specific duty of care, however, varies depending on whether the entrant is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. If you or a member of your family was injured on someone else’s premises because the property owner, possessor, or one of their employees breached the duty of care, you may be entitled to damages.
Read on to learn the key differences between invitees, licensees, and trespassers:
What Is an Invitee?
There are two categories of invitees: business invitees and public invitees. Business invitees are invited onto a premises for business dealings with the property owner or possessor. Examples include restaurant patrons and retail store customers.
Public invitees are members of the public who have the right to be on the premises. Those who visit a public park or library while it’s open—and are therefore not trespassing—are considered public invitees.
Property owners and possessors owe invitees the highest duty of care; they must keep their premises reasonably free of dangerous conditions by performing regular inspections and fixing hazards in a reasonable amount of time or posting clearly visible warnings. Even if an invitee creates a dangerous condition—for example, if a grocery store customer spills a gallon of milk on an aisle—the property owner may be held liable for any resulting injuries if the hazard had existed on the premises for so long that it should have been discovered through the exercise of reasonable diligence.
What Is a Licensee?
Like invitees, licensees are invited onto the premises, but not for the benefit of the property owner. Most social guests are considered licensees. Even if a licensee is formally invited onto a property, they are not owed the same duty of care as invitees. While property owners must still notify licensees about known hazards, they don’t have a specific duty to inspect the premises before allowing licensees to enter.
What Is a Trespasser?
Unlike invitees and licensees, trespassers do not have a lawful right to be on the premises. It may seem unfair, but property owners still owe a duty of care to trespassers. They cannot, for example, set up traps to injure trespassers.
If there’s an attractive nuisance on the premises and the property owner doesn’t take reasonable steps to protect children who might be inclined to trespass, the owner may be held liable for any injuries or deaths that result. An attractive nuisance is a feature that draws children to a property and has the potential to cause serious injury. Examples include tree houses, trampolines, swimming pools, farm machinery, and skateboarding ramps.
If there’s an attractive nuisance on the premises, the owner must take reasonable measures to prevent young kids from getting hurt. For example, it might be necessary to install fencing with locked gates around a swimming pool or to place netting with secure zippers around a trampoline.
I Was Hurt on Someone Else’s Property—What Should I Do?
If you were hurt on another person’s property, whether or not you have grounds for a personal injury claim depends on the circumstances of the accident. Generally speaking, you may be entitled to compensation if your injuries were the direct result of the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of the property owner, possessor, or one of their employees.
For example, if you slipped on a wet floor at the grocery store, you may be able to recover compensation by proving an employee knew or should have known about the spill but failed to clean it up or to post a warning sign within a reasonable period of time. Likewise, if you tripped over loose carpeting in the stairwell of your friend’s apartment complex, you may be entitled to damages if the landlord knew or should have known about the hazard. If the carpet became loose earlier that day, the landlord might not have had time to address it; however, if it had been loose for several weeks or reported by a tenant, you might have grounds for a claim.
Regardless of where and how the injury happened, there are steps you can take over the hours and days that follow to strengthen your claim. Such steps include:
- Photographing the hazard in question;
- Requesting an official incident report from the landlord or manager on duty;
- Obtaining the names and phone numbers of eyewitnesses;
- Requesting a copy of surveillance footage; and
- Seeking medical care as soon as you leave the scene.
Some of the most valuable evidence may be time sensitive. For example, the property owner might fix the hazard that caused your injury before it can be documented. It’s also possible that the property owner will withhold evidence of negligence such as surveillance footage. If you hire a skilled personal injury attorney right away, your lawyer will be able to conduct an immediate investigation, gather evidence, and file subpoenas to obtain evidence that’s being withheld. Your lawyer can also take over correspondence with the insurance company so you don’t provide any statements that can be used against you.
Call (562) 206-1939 for a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Premises Liability Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you sustained serious injuries on someone else’s property, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks to find out if you have grounds for a premises liability claim. Attorney Michael Waks has been representing the injured and their families for more than 30 years. In that time, he has earned a reputation as an aggressive, strategic, and tireless advocate for his clients.
Michael has an AV Preeminent rating from the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating service. There’s no charge for the initial consultation, and if you cannot come to us, a member of our team will come to you. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to set up a free case evaluation with a premises liability attorney in Long Beach. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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