When you invite people to your home, the possibility of an injury probably never crosses your mind because you keep your home safe. Premises liability is your obligation as a property owner. However, it covers more than the people you invite over and entertain as guests. It also includes delivery personnel, newspaper carriers, and anyone you do business with from your home. While you must maintain a reasonably safe environment, the person visiting can’t act in a deliberately reckless manner and then sue you for his or her injuries.
Determining the Legal Status of Your Visitor
When someone sustains an injury on your property, you must correctly identify his or her legal status. That determines whether you are responsible for paying that person’s medical costs and to what degree you are accountable for the injuries. An invitee is someone who comes to your home to do business with you for your financial benefit. An example of this is someone who works at home as a consultant with people who need help with their resumes and other practical job-search skills. Whether you see one client per week or several each day, you must make your home safe. That includes warning them of any potential dangers, such as a loose step or handrail upon approaching your door.
Most people who visit you at your home fall into the category of the licensee, which describes a visitor you invite to your home for mutual benefit. There may be one visitor, such as when you invite your friend over to chat, or several visitors at the same time, such as when you host your family’s Christmas gathering. As with the invitee, you must keep your home reasonably safe and warn a licensee of any potential dangers. Because this is your legal obligation, someone injured on your property could sue you if you didn’t meet it.
A trespasser is someone present on your property without your permission. Since he or she had no right to be there, your duty of safety is extremely limited. Legally, you don’t have to ensure the safety of your home or yard or warn the trespasser of any potential hazards. However, the law does not permit you to set a trap to injure the person.
Special Considerations When Children Get Hurt on Your Property
Children don’t have to meet the same legal standard as adults when it comes to exercising reasonable behavior to avoid injury on your property. That includes children on your property without permission. If you own something considered an attractive nuisance and a child sustains an injury because of it, his or her parents could hold you liable. Examples of what qualifies as an attractive nuisance include swimming pools, dangerous animals, and such machinery as lawn mowers, fountains, wells, and tunnels. You must post a notice warning of the dangers or take reasonable precautions to ensure that children can’t see or access items on your property that could hurt them.
Most states allow for comparative fault, which means that the property owner and injured guest both share some responsibility for the accident. If you receive a personal injury lawsuit or you’re the injured party, it’s essential to learn the laws in your state and seek legal guidance as soon as possible.