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Understanding Premises Liability

A property owner is expected to take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries to guests, residents, and visitors of the property. In cases where the active conduct or the negligence of a property owner causes a personal injury, a lawsuit may result. Most attorneys evaluate such a lawsuit by considering the status of the victim. The victim injured on the property may be defined as an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.

A trespasser is someone who does not have the right or permission to be on the property. The property owner has a right not to willfully cause personal injury to the trespasser. If a property owner finds a trespasser on their property, they have an obligation to warn the trespasser of any possible dangers on the property which are not obvious.

In some cases, when a child trespasses onto a property, however, a lawsuit may still result. Usually, this occurs when it can be proven that there is an area on the property where the property owner knows that children may trespass. As well, these cases can often be brought about because it can be proven that the owner did not take some small actions to repair a known danger which is very dangerous to children. Generally, attorneys will argue that children are too young to appreciate a risk in a property. Often, this type of legal action occurs with children trespassing onto property and having a pool-related accident or near-drowning.

A licensee is someone who has the right to enter a property or who has been invited to enter a property. This may include a postal delivery person, for example. The property owner has the same obligations to the licensee as they have to the trespasser who has been discovered on the property; the owner must warn the licensee of any dangers which are not obvious and must not wantonly or willfully cause personal injury to the licensee.

A invitee is someone who has been invited onto the property by the occupier or property owner. In the invitation is the unspoken promise that the property may be safely used for a specific purpose. Therefore, the obligations to the invitee are greater. The property owner must ensure that the property is reasonably safe and that unsafe conditions are repaired or addressed. If there are any dangers which have not been repaired and which may not be obvious, the property owner must tell the invitee about them.