Premises liability is a core component of personal injury law, especially when it comes to the rights of guests and invitees on someone else’s property. Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of property owners to maintain a safe environment for those who enter their premises. In Massachusetts, property owners owe different levels of care to visitors based on their legal classification.
Premises liability claims are not uncommon, and they often result in serious injuries. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), over one million people visit the emergency room each year due to slip and fall accidents, a common type of premises liability claim. If you’ve been injured on another’s property, it is in your best interest to seek immediate legal counsel.
Legal Classifications of Visitors
When it comes to premises liability, there are 3 different categories of visitors — invitees, licensees, and trespassers — and property owners owe a varying level of duty to each.
- Invitees — Invitees are individuals invited onto a property for business purposes or mutual benefit. This category includes customers in a store, clients in a professional office, or participants in an event hosted on the premises. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees, necessitating proactive measures to maintain a safe environment. This duty includes regular maintenance, prompt correction of known dangers, and adequate warnings about any hidden hazards that might not be immediately apparent.
- Licensees — Licensees are individuals granted permission by the property owner but for their own purposes. Social guests fall under this category, along with individuals entering the property for reasons other than business. While property owners owe a duty of care to licensees, it is generally lower than the duty owed to invitees. The obligation involves addressing known dangers and providing warnings, but the emphasis is less on proactive maintenance.
- Trespassers — Trespassers are individuals who enter the property without permission from the owner. Property owners owe the least duty of care to trespassers, but this does not absolve them entirely. In Massachusetts, property owners may be liable for injuries to trespassers if they engage in willful, wanton, or reckless conduct that leads to harm.
Duty of Care to Invitees
Those invited for business purposes should expect a high standard of safety and can hold property owners accountable for negligence leading to injuries. The duty of care owed to invitees includes:
- Regular maintenance to prevent hazardous conditions.
- Prompt correction of known dangers.
- Warning guests of any hidden dangers that may not be immediately apparent.
Landowner Liability for Negligence
If a property owner fails in their duty of care and negligence results in injury to an invitee, the injured party may have a valid premises liability claim. To have a successful claim, however, the following 4 criteria must be present:
- The existence of a duty of care owed by the property owner.
- Breach of that duty through negligence or failure to uphold standards.
- Causation, proving that the breach directly caused the injury.
- Actual damages suffered by the injured party.
Common Premises Liability Scenarios
Several situations can lead to premises liability claims, including:
- Slip and Fall Accidents — Wet or uneven surfaces, lack of warning signs, or inadequate maintenance can result in slip and fall injuries.
- Negligent Security — Property owners may be liable if inadequate security measures contribute to criminal activities on their premises.
- Defective Conditions — Poorly maintained buildings, sidewalks, or structures can pose significant dangers.
Protecting Your Rights as an Invitee
If you are injured while on someone else’s property, taking certain steps can protect your rights:
- Seek medical attention immediately, ensuring your injuries are properly documented.
- Report the incident to the property owner or manager.
- Gather evidence, including photos of the scene, witness statements, and any relevant documents.
- Contact a personal injury attorney with experience in premises liability cases.
Altman & Altman, LLP — Personal Injury Law Firm Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas
Guests and invitees have specific rights under Massachusetts premises liability laws, and property owners must uphold their duty of care to maintain a safe environment. If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, Altman & Altman, LLP is here to protect your rights and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.