The Vastness of the Law

What Injury Clients Need To Know About Premises Liability

One of the simplest possible answers regarding who might be liable in an injury case is whoever owns the property where the incident occurred. That's not a sure-fire answer, but it's one worth exploring in several scenarios where a property owner's choices seem to be the cause of what happened. Here are three things all clients should know about the concept of premises liability in personal injury law.

What Makes It a Premises Liability Case

Generally, some specific choice, action, or failure on the part of the property's owner or their designees has to be the proximate cause of your injuries. This usually means that the injury was caused by something wrong with the property. If a nail was sticking out from a deck at an outdoor restaurant and you stepped on it while dining there, that might be a cause of action, for example.

Responsibility for Providing a Safe Location

Just how responsible someone is for providing a safe location depends on two things. First, there's the nature of why the victim was there. In particular, many commercial establishments open themselves up to premises liability by inviting members of the public to visit them. One of the reasons you'll see signs at businesses saying things like "Employees Only" or "No Customers Past This Point" is to revoke the invitation in non-public areas, such as stock rooms or work areas.

Secondly, residential property owners may also be liable. As with commercial locations, residential ones carry premises liability any time someone is invited there. Similarly, you may be liable for premises issues in open areas, such as hallways in apartment complexes or unclosed yards at single-family homes.


There are two notable oddities. First, there is the concept of negligent security. If a public establishment has a reputation for being dangerous, such as a bar where lots of fights occur, it may be liable for damages when patrons are hurt. The bar would have to fail to take reasonable measures, such as installing surveillance and posting bouncers. If it didn't do these things after the security issues became evident, that might put the business on the hook even though it was a patron who committed the assault.

Second, a few states subscribe to the theory that premises liability doesn't require an invitation. California is the biggest, and its theory of premises liability means that even intruders may have grounds to hire a personal injury lawyer and sue if they're hurt on someone else's property.

If you need help filing a claim, contact a personal injury lawyer.