Property owners are responsible for ensuring that their property is safe for the public.  For instance, property owners cannot leave ice that has built up on a sidewalk, keep leaky equipment in use as water puddles on the floor, or fail to repair broken parking lot pavements.  When someone is injured because a property owner does not fulfill this important responsibility, the attorneys of Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer are here to help.

Sometimes proving responsibility for a property owners’ wrongdoing is straightforward.  Other times, we call upon experts in accident reconstruction, biomechanics, metallurgy, or building maintenance and design to illustrate how a property owner failed to keep their property safe.  Over our firm’s 50-year history, we have represented individuals who have suffered severe injuries from an owner’s failure to keep his or her property safe, including escalator and elevator accidents, building and walkway collapses, the tipping over of apartment stoves, electrical safety accidents, and unsafe campgrounds.

Many people are injured each year while they are visiting the property of others.  Each state has its own laws and regulations which determine a property owner’s liability.  Under Pennsylvania law, individuals and businesses that own or possess property are liable to pay monetary damages to certain people who are injured while they are on the premises.  Business and private property owners and possessors have a duty to maintain their properties in relatively hazard-free and safe conditions under a legal theory called premises liability.  Premises liability lawsuits are pursued in cases in which an injury is directly or proximately caused by a defective or unsafe condition on the property of someone else.

Like most other personal injury lawsuits, premises liability cases are based on negligence – that the owner did something wrong.  To be successful in this type of lawsuit, the injured victim must prove that the property owner was negligent in the maintenance and ownership of the property.  This means that the property owner violated the duty to exercise reasonable care of the property.

It must be understood that a property owner is not negligent just because an unsafe condition existed on the property that caused an injury.  Rather, an individual must be able to prove that the property owner knew about the hazardous condition or reasonably should have known about it and failed to take steps to correct it or to warn of its existence.  At Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer, we can evaluate your incident and provide you with an honest assessment of your premises liability case.

Types of cases involving premises liability

There are several types of premises liability claims, including the following:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Inadequate maintenance of a property
  • Inadequate security that leads to assaults or injuries
  • Defective conditions that cause injuries
  • Escalator and elevator accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Fires
  • Dog bites
  • Amusement park accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Toxic chemicals and fumes
  • Flooding and leaks

While premises liability covers each of these scenarios, there is a commonality: an unsafe or dangerous condition on the property of someone else that is the direct or proximate cause of the victim’s injuries and accident.

What is the duty of care of the property owner?

Pennsylvania law defines the duty that property owners owe to individuals on their premises by the status of the visitor.  There are three different types of visitors recognized under Pennsylvania law: (1) trespassers; (2) licensees; and (3) invitees.

Trespassers are persons entering the property of another without an invitation, permission of the owner, or a legal privilege to use the land.  Because their presence on the property of another is unlawful, trespassers are owed the most minimal duty of care.  In general, property owners do not owe trespassers a duty of care.  Nonetheless, property owners cannot intentionally set traps to injure trespassers.  Children who trespass are owed a higher duty of care even though they are unlawfully on a property.  Thus, property owners must take steps to prevent children from being injured by conditions on their properties that could attract children.  A common example is placing fencing around a swimming pool.

Licensees are visitors who enter a property with the permission of the landowner.  These are individuals who visit a property for their own benefit (as opposed to the benefit of the landowner).  Generally, guests of a property owner are considered licensees as are people who come to a property for their own business purposes, such as salespeople, utility workers, and others.  Property owners owe licensees a duty of care to warn about dangerous conditions that they know about or should reasonably know about.  This includes conditions that are not reasonably likely to be discovered by visitors.

The highest duty of care for property owners is owed to invitees.  Invitees are people who are invited onto the premises by the property owner for the owner’s benefit.  Some examples of invitees include customers and individuals who visit a property for a reason related to the business, such as delivery personnel.  The business’s owner or operator must maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for invitees.

Premises liability case examples

Slip and fall accidents happen when individuals slip and fall while they are on the property of someone else.  These accidents can be caused by the following types of conditions on the property:

  • Slippery floors
  • Spills
  • Dark stairwells
  • Broken handrails or steps on staircases
  • Accumulated snow or ice in parking lots
  • Unsecured carpets or rugs
  • Hidden extension cords
  • Broken or loose floors or sidewalks

Cases involving inadequate security typically arise in offices, apartment buildings, or hotels.  The building owners must reasonably secure access to them, which is why large buildings usually have security guards and doormen.  Small apartment buildings typically require the tenants to keep the doors to the building locked.  If someone enters into a building by walking in through an unlocked door and injures someone inside, the victim may be able to file a premises liability claim against the building’s owner if the owner did not take adequate steps to ensure that the building was secured.

Most swimming pool accident claims involve children who are injured or drown after entering an unsecured or unsupervised pool.  Because many children are attracted to pools, most cities and states require property owners who have swimming pools to install fences with locking gates around their pools.  City ordinances and state laws may specify the height of the fences and other features that should be included around the swimming pool.  If a person or business leaves a pool unsupervised and unsecured, the person or business may be liable to pay damages in a premises liability claim.

Get help from the attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer.

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one because of a dangerous condition on the property of an individual or business, you may have a legal right to monetary compensation.  Premises liability claims can be complex and require a strong knowledge of the laws and regulations that apply.  The attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer have substantial experience with handling premises liability claims for our clients.  Contact us today at 800.535.1797 to schedule a free consultation about your incident.

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