Sometimes, TV makes it looks like anyone can sue you for getting hurt on your property. While it is possible, however, there are many things you can do to protect yourself.
What Is Premise Liability Law and Who Is Protected?
Premise liability law is simple. Basically, you have a responsibility to ensure your property is safe enough for visitors. If there is a danger, you should fix it or at least protect yourself by warning visitors of the problem. If someone does get hurt, and you were aware of the problem, but didn’t take reasonable steps to fix it, you could be responsible. Worse, even if you weren’t aware of the issue, but the courts decide a reasonable person would have been aware and fixed it, you may be responsible. People protected under this include people you invited onto your property and welcome visitors.
What About Trespassers?
Trespassers are not generally welcome on your property. They sneak on without your consent or knowledge. Because of this, in many cases, if a trespasser is injured on your property, they won’t win a lawsuit against you. There are some exceptions, however.
First, if you know people frequently trespass (your property is a good shortcut, it has something that attracts people, such as a river, etc.), then you do have a responsibility to ensure their safety by posting warning signs of potential dangers. Last, if you purposely try to injure someone who is trespassing, you may be responsible, unless the trespasser was trying to hurt you or your family.
What About Children?
Children are a special case. You have an additional responsibility to ensure you don’t have any attractive nuisances that children can access. This can include anything that is dangerous but attractive to children, such as a pool, fort, machines, etc. As long as you try to secure these nuisances, so kids can’t access them, you should be safe. The age of the child plays a big role in determine if they share any blame. A 17-year-old knows a lot more about rules and trespassing than a 2-year-old.
What if the Victim Is Also at Fault?
Sometimes, the victim is also partially to blame. Everyone has a certain responsibility to keep themselves safe. You can’t walk across someone’s yard with your eyes closed and wearing headphones, and then blame them when you trip over a hazard. Laws vary from state to state, but most states follow the comparative fault system. This means that if the victim is partially responsible, their settlement will be reduced by that much.
Protecting yourself against premise liability claims and lawsuits is not hard. Use common sense to know what is a potential danger. Fix problems, secure attractive nuisances and warn people of possible hazards.