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Premises Liability FAQ

Premises liability is a legal theory stating that property owners are liable for accidents and personal injuries occurring on their property. The kinds of incidents that may result in premises liability claims can range from a slip-and-fall accident in a grocery store or office building to an injury at the zoo.

Liability depends on the laws and procedures of your state. An occupier of land, like an apartment tenant, is treated in the same manner as a landowner in many situations. The following are answers to premises liability FAQ (frequently asked questions).

What are some examples of dangerous conditions on someone else's property that can lead to a premises liability lawsuit?

Examples of dangerous conditions that might lead to a premises liability lawsuit include curled-up rugs or uneven flooring, inadequate lighting, faulty elevators, and unruly or overgrown vegetation. This is just a sampling of possibilities.

What's the attractive nuisance doctrine, and how does it affect premises liability cases?

An attractive nuisance is a dangerous condition on someone's property that might entice children onto the property and pose a risk of harm to them. The doctrine creates an exception to the general rule that a property owner only owes a trespasser a duty not to harm them willfully or wantonly. Under the doctrine of attractive nuisance, even a trespasser may be owed a higher duty of care. Having a swimming pool on your property, for example, has the potential to expose you to liability under the doctrine.

How much time do I have to sue for a premises liability injury?

The time you have to bring a lawsuit against someone for a premises liability injury depends on the laws of your state. But the timeframe, known as the statute of limitations, generally ranges between two and four years from the time of injury.

If I fall and get hurt on a hotel's premises, do I have any recourse against the hotel?

A hotel might be liable if you slip or trip and fall on a hotel premises. For example, if you slip on spilled food or drink in a hotel bar or restaurant, snow and ice that hasn't been cleared from a walkway, or on wet tile floors or other slick surfaces, the hotel might be liable. You'd need to show that the hotel staff knew or should have known about the danger and failed to warn visitors or clean it up.

Can a hotel be held responsible if I'm the victim of a crime at or near the hotel?

A hotel usually can't be held liable for crimes committed on or near the hotel unless the hotel should have anticipated the crime (for example, the hotel is in a very high crime area) and could have prevented it, either by providing sufficient warnings or taking better security measures.

Can a college or school be held liable for an attack on a student that occurs on campus?

A student attacked on a college campus might have a negligence action against the college. In a developing area of premises liability law, courts have found entities like universities, motels, convenience stores, and shopping malls liable for attacks when they didn't exercise reasonable care in protecting victims. This could include failing to have adequate lighting in parking lots.

If I fall on a broken piece of sidewalk and am injured, can I sue the city?

Many states have statutes giving local governmental entities immunity, prohibiting recovery in various types of cases against cities or towns. But if there isn't such a statute or ordinance in place, you may have a case against the city. Municipalities have a duty to keep streets and sidewalks in good repair.

If I'm attacked after withdrawing money from an automated teller machine (ATM), can I hold the bank responsible for the attack?

Under the legal theory of premises liability, customers have sued banks for failing to protect them from assault at ATMs. In the past, banks had no duty to provide security against such crimes. But such a duty has since been recognized in several cases.

Do building owners have to have safety precautions, such as sprinklers and posted escape routes, in case of fires?

Building owners and management companies are required to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries in case of fire. They should help people on their properties escape. Safeguards likely include having sprinklers and posted escape routes.

Who's liable if I'm injured while walking on a public sidewalk next to a construction site after tripping over a brick from the site?

In some circumstances, you may be able to recover damages from the construction company. The company has a duty to take reasonable steps to keep public sidewalks near its construction site free from bricks and other debris. If the company fails to remove such obstructions and you trip and fall, the company may be liable for things like your medical expenses.

What if I'm injured while at the home of a neighbor who invited me there for a party?

If you're a social guest at a neighbor's home, you may be able to recover from your social host or neighbor, depending on how your injuries happened. Homeowners must tell guests about, or correct, any dangerous conditions guests are unlikely to recognize.

Have More Questions? Get Legal Help

If you or a loved one have sustained serious injuries on someone else's property, consider meeting with a local premises liability attorney to determine your legal options. A premises liability lawyer can offer legal advice on who's responsible for things like your medical bills and support you in taking legal action. It's even possible one of the law offices near you offers free case evaluations.

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