Premises liability laws allow a person injured on someone else’s property to hold the owner (possessor) financially responsible for damages. These laws do extend to homeowners. If a homeowner is negligent in addressing hazards on their property, the injured party could take legal action. However, the homeowner’s level of liability depends on whether the other person was a licensee or trespasser.
When bringing a claim against a homeowner, you must prove that the owner knew of the dangerous condition and failed to repair or warn you of it. To build your arguments against the responsible party, you must take certain steps after your accident to gather the support you need for your case.
Explaining Premises Liability
When a homeowner has a guest on their property, they must ensure that the premises are safe for visitors. If they are aware of any hazardous conditions that could cause injury or death to another person, they must either fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time or notify visitors that the condition exists.
A homeowner failing to do what is reasonably necessary to keep their property safe can expose themselves to a premises liability claim or lawsuit. Their negligence may lead to an accident resulting in harm to someone else.
Various dangerous conditions at someone’s home can give rise to a premises liability case.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Slippery or wet floors,
- Uneven walkways,
- Faulty or broken stairs,
- Unsecured swimming pools, or
- Exposed electrical outlets.
The Homeowner’s Duty of Care
Like any other property owner, a homeowner owes a duty of care to their guests or other visitors. Essentially, the duty of care means that the homeowner acts in a way that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances to identify and address hazards on their property. If they are unable to repair the issue, they must warn visitors of it.
The homeowner’s duty of care varies depending on the visitor’s status: licensee or trespasser.
A licensee is a person invited to the property as a guest or visitor. Homeowners owe a higher duty of care to these individuals than they do trespassers.
A trespasser is someone who enters or remains on the property without permission or invitation (Missouri Revised Statutes § 537.345). Generally, homeowners have no duty of care for trespassers. They are not liable for injury sustained while on their property, provided that the harm did not result from the homeowner’s own “intentional, willful, or wanton act” (Missouri Revised Statutes § 537.351).
However, exceptions exist concerning a homeowner’s duty of care for trespassers. These include:
- Situations where the trespasser was a child, the property owner knew a child could enter the premises, the property owner was aware a hazardous condition existed posing a risk to children, and the property owner did not remedy the danger.
- Situations where the property owner knew that a person frequently trespassed on their property, the property owner purposely created a dangerous condition that could lead to injury or death, or the property owner did not reasonably warn the trespasser of a known hazard.
Bringing a Claim Against the Homeowner
As the person bringing a premises liability claim or lawsuit against a homeowner, you must convince the insurance company or a judge or jury that you are entitled to compensation for damages because the homeowner breached their duty of care.
Below are elements you must prove:
- A dangerous condition existed on the property.
- The homeowner was aware of the hazard.
- The homeowner failed to repair or fix the dangerous condition.
- The hazard caused your accident.
- You suffered injuries because of the accident.
Additionally, you may also need to show that you were lawfully on the property and that your own reckless or negligent actions were not the cause of the accident.
Making compelling arguments requires that you back up your claims with evidence. For this reason, you must take certain steps after the accident to help build your case.
Some of the things you can do are as follows:
- Taking photos or videos of the scene
- Getting contact information for anyone who saw what happened
- Receiving medical attention right away
- Consulting with a personal injury attorney
Schedule a Consultation with Bertram & Graf, L.L.C.
Premises liability claims and lawsuits have a lot of moving parts. Trying to juggle all of them while recovering from your injuries can be challenging. Allow our Kansas City team to handle the details of your case. We’ll investigate, interview witnesses, listen to your side of the story, and build your legal strategy.
To get started, call us at (888) 398-2277 or submit an online contact form today.