Whether you own or rent commercial property, or for a matter of fact, if you’re simply a homeowner, you have a legal responsibility for conditions on your property. If someone slips on something and hurts themselves, you might be liable. They can try to sue you for the expenses they’ve suffered because of the accident.
Just because someone can sue you, however, doesn’t mean that you’re actually at fault. Premises liability law is complicated and your actual responsibility will vary depending on the specific circumstances.
In order for you to be held liable in a personal injury case, the first step is for the other party to establish that you bore a legal responsibility for their safety. This means they have to be a legitimate guest on that property in a clear relationship with you, the owner of the property.
They can be a tenant of yours, a customer, or simply an invited guest. All of those qualify as relationships that establish liability. What this requirement does, among other things, is protect you from having to keep your property safe for trespassers and anyone who isn’t supposed to be there.
Some states like South Carolina have also created other legal provisions to protect property owners who allow their property to be used for free for recreational purposes. If you give individuals access to your property without asking for or expecting any financial compensation, you may have some protection from litigation.
What Counts as Negligence?
The key disputed part of any premises liability suit is going to be about the accident itself and the conditions that caused it. The injured person has to show that the accident was not their fault and occurred because of some way that you did not keep your property safe.
If the victim fell on a wet floor or was hurt when something broke, they have to show not only that they couldn’t have avoided the accident, but that you could have prevented the accident yourself but failed to do so. That’s the legal standard known as negligence. To be negligent, you have to fail to meet a reasonable expectation of responsibility.
If something new unexpectedly breaks and there was no way you could have foreseen the problem, that shouldn’t count as negligence. However, if a floor was wet and unmarked, and you were aware of the problem but failed to react, then you will likely be judged to be negligent and at fault.
Find an Attorney
If you’re worried about opening yourself up to legal liability or you’re being sued for an accident that happened on your property, the first thing you need to do is seek out professional help. No one will know better than lawyers working in premises liability what your risks are and how to respond to any situations that arise.
Find an attorney you can trust to stand by your side and help you avoid the massive expense and trouble of a personal injury lawsuit.