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Premises Liability and Foreseeable Harm

SlechterLaw Firm, PLLC
The Book of Premises Liability on Office Desk

Premises liability law holds property owners responsible for maintaining safe conditions on their premises. It aims to ensure visitors, customers, or other individuals using another's property are protected from any potential hazards that could lead to harm. This area of law covers a wide range of situations, including slip and fall accidents, dog bites, swimming pool accidents, and more.  

One key aspect of premises liability is the concept of foreseeable harm, which involves anticipating potential risks that could harm individuals on the property and taking reasonable steps to prevent them. In other words, if a property owner knows about a dangerous condition on their property, they are obliged to take reasonable steps to address it and prevent harm to visitors.  

By fully understanding these principles, you can better grasp your rights as a property visitor—or your responsibilities as a property owner—and know how to go about seeking compensation in the event of an accident. 

Digging Into Premises Liability Law 

Premises liability laws are in place to protect both property owners and visitors. These laws establish a duty of care that the property owner owes to anyone on their premises. 

There are three categories of visitors: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Invitees are individuals who have been invited onto the property for business purposes or as part of a public invitation. Licensees are individuals who have been permitted to enter the property for non-business purposes, such as social guests. Trespassers are individuals who enter the property without any legal right or permission. 

Under the law, property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. This means they must take reasonable steps to inspect and maintain their property, as well as warn invitees of any known hazards. Licensees are owed a slightly lower duty of care, and trespassers are owed the least amount of care. 

To pursue a premises liability claim, an injured person would have to prove the following:  

  • The property owner owed them a duty of care. 

  • The property owner breached that duty of care. 

  • The breach was the cause of their injuries. 

  • They suffered damages as a result. 

If all these elements are met, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. However, it's important to note that premises liability laws vary by state. In Kentucky, you have one year from the accident date to bring a premises liability injury claim forward. So, for example, say you fall and hurt yourself on uneven steps while shopping at a retail store in Louisville. You would only have 12 months to file your claim.  

Different time limits and exceptions sometimes apply. In fact, a myriad of factors can impact how to go about your claim. That's why it's essential to consult with an experienced premises liability attorney who can assess your case and guide you through the legal process. 

Unpacking Foreseeable Harm 

As mentioned earlier, one key aspect of premises liability law is the concept of foreseeable harm. This means that property owners must anticipate any potential dangers on their property and take reasonable steps to prevent them. 

But what does "reasonable" mean? Reasonable steps can vary depending on the situation, but generally include things like regular inspections and maintenance of the property, fixing known hazards in a timely manner, and warning visitors of any potential dangers that cannot be immediately addressed. 

For example, if a retail store owner knows that there are uneven steps on their property that could potentially cause people to trip, they should take immediate action to fix it or warn visitors about the danger. If they fail to do so and someone gets injured and sues them, the store owner could be held liable for the injuries that should have been prevented. 

Foreseeable harm also extends to potential hazards that may arise due to weather conditions. For instance, if a property owner knows that heavy rain often causes their parking lot to become slippery and dangerous, they should take steps to address the issue, such as adding non-slip mats or warning signs whenever they know a storm is forecasted. Failure to do so could result in a premises liability claim if a customer visits the property and slips and falls because of the hazardous parking lot. 

It's also important to note that not all dangers on a property may be immediately obvious. As part of their duty to prevent foreseeable harm, property owners must also regularly inspect their property for hidden dangers and address them promptly. This could include things like loose floorboards, faulty electrical wiring, or broken handrails.  

When Harm Is Not Foreseeable 

While property owners are responsible for preventing foreseeable harm, there may be instances where they are not held liable for injuries sustained on their property. Consider these scenarios:  

  • If a visitor engages in reckless behavior or ignores warning signs and gets injured as a result, the property owner may not be held liable. In this case, the harm was not reasonably foreseeable because the visitor's actions contributed to the accident. 

  • If a property owner was not aware of a dangerous condition on their property and had no way of reasonably knowing about it, they may also not be held liable for any resulting injuries. However, this can be a tricky defense for property owners to use, as they are expected to regularly inspect their premises and address any potential hazards. An example of when they wouldn't be able to reasonably know about a dangerous condition is if it involves a hidden defect within the walls or structure of the property.  

Why Legal Representation Is Key 

If you've been injured on someone else's property due to their negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries under Kentucky law. Mr. and Mrs. Slechter at the Slechter Law Firm, PLLC are well-versed in this area of the law, and they can help you navigate the legal process. 

They understand that premises liability cases can be complex and that the laws surrounding them can vary. With their guidance, you can protect your rights and hold the responsible party accountable for their negligence. 

If you've been injured on someone else's property, don't hesitate to seek legal help. Remember, premises liability is about holding property owners accountable for their negligence. If you're in Louisville, Kentucky, or any part of the state, the Slechter Law Firm, PLLC is ready to help.