Who is at fault for an injury on another party's property?

If you're walking down the street and trip because of an open manhole, who's to blame? What about if you fall because of slick steps at a waterpark? If you slip on a wet floor at a restaurant, can you do anything about it?

These are common questions people have, and all of them have to do with premises liability. When you get hurt because of a business owner's or home owner's negligence or intent to harm you, you can generally hold him or her responsible for your injuries. You do this through a premises liability claim.

Can anyone sue for injuries on another person's property?

There is more to it than just being able to sue because you got hurt. First, you have to determine what kind of visitor you were. Were you invited onto the property? Were you a guest? Did you come as a social guest, welcome but not invited? What about trespassing? Did you trespass onto the property and get hurt despite not being allowed to be there? You'll need to determine which of these categories applies to you before you can do more with your case.

What's interesting is that all of these individuals have a right to safety on another person's property. Even trespassers, who may not have a right to be on the property at all, deserve reasonable warning about potential risks if they could cause serious injury or death. For example, many pool owners have signs signaling not to dive and that there is no lifeguard on duty. That way, anyone who trespasses onto the property was fairly warned of the risks.

How does the state decide if you're owed compensation?

Personal injury cases normally go through a "comparative fault" process. This means that the judge looks at the situation and decides if both parties are at fault or if only one is at fault. Once the percentages of fault are assigned, it's easier to determine a payout.

Here's an example. If you are a customer at a store who slipped and fell with no knowledge of risk, the judge may determine the store owner was 100 percent at fault. However, if you saw a wet floor sign and ran, the judge may determine you're 75 percent at fault while the business owner is only 25 percent at fault for having a wet floor. This will make a difference in your case and is something to consider.

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  • American Bar Association
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