When Property Owners Are Liable for Injuries on their Property

By Peter DePaolis

Under certain conditions, courts can hold property owners liable for accidents that occur on the owners’ property. This is an area of law known as premises liability. Slip and fall accidents are one such area of premises liability. These accidents commonly occur during inclement weather and in nursing homes and commercial businesses.

Another area of premises liability involves landowners and their duties to keep property safe for their tenants. A Florida university student won a landmark case several years ago in this area of law when she sued her apartment complex and owners after she was carjacked and shot in the head three times. She miraculously survived and won her lawsuit against the apartment complex for $15.7 million. The jury found the complex liable for failing to take acts despite hundreds of police calls about crime in the neighborhood, poor lighting in the complex, and the fact that the complex cancelled security in order to save money. If a property owner’s negligence has resulted in injury to you, a Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Northern Virginia personal injury attorney can discuss your case with you and inform you of your rights.

When Courts Can Hold Property Owners Liable

Premises liability can depend on who is the property owner and how you came upon the property. Property owners are those who fall under one of the following three categories:

  • They occupy the land with the intent to control it
  • They occupied the land in the past with the intent to control it and no other person has replaced them
  • They are entitled to immediate occupation of the property, provided no one else possess it

For people on the property, there are three main categories that will determine what your rights under the law are:

  • Trespassers — a property owner must only refrain from willfully injuring or entrapping trespassers. For anything else, the owner is not liable.
  • Licensee — such people are informal guests, and the property owner owes the licensees duties to warn about dangers that a guest would not have likely discovered.
  • Invitees — customers who enter a store and anyone else who a business or owner publicly invites onto land are invitees. Property owners must warn invitees about any dangerous conditions that the owner knew about or should have reasonably known about.

Several examples of cases where premises liability claims may arise include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Premises security
  • Owner’s animals causing injury
  • Faulty or dangerous equipment used on another’s property
  • Improper signage
  • Falling objects
  • Broken sidewalks

If you have suffered an injury on another’s property, contact a Maryland, Northern Virginia, or Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. to learn how you can obtain compensation and ensure that it does not happen to anyone else.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.