Who Is Liable for an Accident on Private Property?

When an injury or mishap occurs while away from home, it often leads to the question of who is liable for an accident on private property. You may suffer injuries that require medical treatment and recovery time. How will you pay for those unexpected expenses and recover any lost wages from your job? Before pursuing legal action against the property owner, however, you’ll first need to determine who is at fault and who can be found liable for the accident that caused the resulting injury.

Who Is Liable for an Accident on Private Property?

While all property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property in a reasonably safe manner to avoid causing harm to others, they don’t always comply. When this happens and an accident occurs, the property owner may be found liable.

The laws surrounding personal injury liability vary from state to state. However, in most instances, much will depend upon whether the private property is used for residential or commercial purposes.

Residential Private Property

A homeowner’s private property liability relies heavily on the reason you were on their property to begin with. In most states, you will be classified as one of the following:

  • Invitee
  • Licensee
  • Trespasser.

For each of these classifications, the property owner has certain obligations. If these are not met, the property owner may be liable for the accident.

Invitee: An Invitee is one who is on the residential property for business purposes. The property owner has an obligation to take reasonable measures to ensure the property is safe at all times for these invitees.

Licensee: The Licensee is anyone who is on the property with permission but is not there for any business purpose. These include invited guests for social occasions. For these individuals, the residential property owner has a duty to provide warnings of any dangerous, hidden conditions on the property. Once the licensee is fully warned, however, the property owner is no longer liable for potential accidents involving those conditions.

Trespasser: A trespasser is defined as one who is on the private property without the owner’s permission. The property owner is obligated to avoid conduct that can intentionally injure any person on their property, including the trespasser; beyond that, however, they have no further obligation to these unexpected visitors.

Commercial Private Property

With commercial private property, there is an obligation to practice a higher standard of care in terms of maintaining safe conditions and a safe environment at all times. This obligation is for the benefit of visiting individuals and customers.

In particular, commercial properties are required to make reasonable inspections of their property and keep it free of defects and dangerous conditions.

If an accident occurs and it is found that a reasonable inspection would have identified the dangerous condition or defect, the answer to who is liable for an accident on private property may be the property owner.

One example of how a business can ensure a safer environment is to take anti-slip measures, such as for recently mopped floors or floors that have become wet from rain or snow. The owner can put down mats or install signage warning customers or visitors of the slippery conditions. These measures may free them of liability if an accident occurs.

The property owner may also be free of liability for most accidents or injuries that occur as the result of a third party, such as an assault while on the property. However, if such actions are foreseeable, the property owner may be expected to prevent them.

Generally, regardless of whether the private property is used for commercial or residential purposes, the owner has the legal responsibility to ensure guests are safe. When they fail to meet this responsibility, they risk being found liable when an accident occurs, and you may have cause to bring a lawsuit to gain deserved compensation.

How to Prove Liability for an Injury on Private Property

When private property conditions are unsafe, defective, or neglected, debilitating problems, such as head injuries, can result. Other injuries may include back injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and internal bleeding.

Proving liability for these injuries becomes imperative and is why consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is necessary. Once presented with all the facts surrounding your case, your attorney will work diligently to establish the essential elements to file a successful premises liability claim.

Elements to prove a claim of premises liability or liability for an injury on private property include:

  1. The private property owner has a duty of care to others.
  2. The owner was negligent in some way in that duty of care, leading to a hazardous condition.
  3. An injury occurs because of that hazardous condition.
  4. Proof of injury exists, which may include medical records and bills, witness statements, and so forth.

Not all premises injury cases will be straightforward when it comes to liability, however. Two factors, in particular, can complicate matters.

One of these factors involves commercial property. Many times, the business owner does not actually own the property but instead leases it from someone else. For this reason, when an accident occurs, the determination will need to be made as to whether the business owner, the property owner, or both have any liability.

A second complicating factor, whether involving residential or commercial property, is the prospect of shared liability. That is, the property owner and the injured individual may be found partially liable for the accident.

It’s no wonder, then, that proving who is liable for an injury on private property can become a complicated maze to navigate. For this reason, seek the guidance of a legal team highly knowledgeable in both premises liability and personal injury law to ensure you receive the best possible outcome.

Contact Strong Law Attorneys in Oregon or Washington Today

When an accident and injury occurs on private property, proving liability is your first step to filing a claim and recovering deserved compensation for damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and more. This is where Strong Law Attorneys can help. Serving clients in both Oregon and Washington, our premises liability lawyers will evaluate your case and discuss your options during a free consultation. Call 206-741-1051 today to get started.

Attorney Jed Strong

Attorney Jed StrongJed Strong is the founder of Strong Law. He knows that accident injuries can be devastating to individuals and families, so he does everything in his power to ensure his clients recover every bit of compensation they deserve. Prior to representing accident victims, Jed worked for GEICO insurance company as one of its in-house attorneys – representing the insurance companies. After learning the inner workings of insurance companies, he quit and began representing accident victims. [ Attorney Bio ]

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