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Can You Sue If You Fall on Private Property?

By: Anapol Weiss

Every homeowner has a reasonable duty of care to provide to all guests who enter their property. The reasonable duty of care is maintaining a safe property the way another reasonable person would. If a homeowner breaches their duty of care and is negligent towards a guest and the guest is injured, he or she is entitled to sue for their injuries. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two years from the injury date to file a lawsuit.

If you are injured on private property and are looking to file a premises liability claim, there are a few specifics to understand before moving forward in pursuing a case. For example, if you are injured on a residential premises, there are three categories of visitors and you must determine which category you fell into to figure out who is liable.

The categories are: trespassers, licensees and invitees. Each one of these groups have different laws that pertain to premises liability and whether or not the property owner is held liable. Every premises liability lawsuit is different, speak to a slip and fall lawyer today for more information about your case.

Liability on Commercial Property

Business owners are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe environment for their store visitors. Failure to keep their premises safe can result in serious injuries to anyone to enters their property. Store owners must take safety precautions to prevent possible harm to their visitors. A few safety measures include ensuring floors aren’t slippery, torn up or cluttered which would enhance the probability of a slip and fall accident. If the floors are freshly cleaned and wet, the store owner must put a warning sign to alert customers of the potentially dangerous situation.

Anyone who enters a commercial or business property is entitled to the highest standard of care. This means that not only are store owners required to alert customers of potential danger, they must do routine inspections to prevent any possible harm. Additionally, any reasonable repairs done to the property must be solved promptly to keep customers safe on the store’s premises.

Negligence occurs when a store owner knew or should have known about an issue and failed to fix it, resulting in someone’s injury on their premises. If you are injured because the store owner was negligent, you have the right to pursue a premises liability case. If the error was structural, often times the landlord will be held responsible. If the injury occurred from the store owner being negligent by failing to provide safety signs, lack of safety inspections or poorly maintained floors or buildings, then the store owner would be held liable.

Liability on Residential Property

If you are injured at a residential property, you must first figure out which kind of visitor you were to understand your rights. A trespasser is someone who has no right or reason to be on the property. If there is a dangerous condition on the homeowner’s property, it is required to post a sign alerting anyone of the danger. If a trespasser gets injured on someone’s property, the homeowner would not be held liable because they have no responsibility to keep the unwanted visitor safe from injury. The homeowner owes the trespasser nothing beyond posting a sign and not intentionally harming the trespasser.

A licensee is anyone who is invited on the property for non-business-related reasons. The homeowner must warn their guests if there is a dangerous situation at their home; this does not include obvious danger. After this verbal warning is administered to the guests, the homeowner is not liable for any injury that follows.

Lastly, an invitee is a person entering your property for a business-related reason. Similar to the level of care a business owner owes their customers, a homeowner is responsible for providing their invitees with the highest level of care when on their property. This means the property owner must alert the invitee of any current dangerous situation and take safety precautions to prevent injuries.

Attractive Nuisance Law

The ‘Attractive Nuisance’ law pertains to the heightened duty of care a homeowner must pay to children who trespass on their property. The law states the property owner must provide reasonable care to reduce the risk of harm to a trespassing child. The law protects children who trespass on someone’s property and are injured because they are unable to understand the risk. These injuries typically take place on a trampoline or swimming pool for children. The property owner owes the child a reasonable level of care on their property to reduce the risk of any foreseeable harm.

Modified Comparative Negligence Rule

Pennsylvania uses the ‘Modified Comparative Negligence Rule’ which means if you share any liability in your injury case, the percentage of liability the court decides you are responsible for will be subtracted from the damages the property owner will pay you. If you are responsible for over 50% of your injury, you will not be able to recover any compensation.

There are different stipulations and laws about premises liability on private property based on your reason to be on the property, if you experienced negligence and how your injury was a direct result of negligence from a property owner. To prove a successful premises liability case, you must first demonstrate through documentation or picture evidence how your injury occurred. You must also prove how the dangerous situation, which the property owner had a duty to prevent, caused your injury.