Premises liability is the legal term that refers to the safety-related responsibilities of a property owner toward visitors and others who may enter their property. When unsafe property conditions lead to someone’s injury, the party who owns or occupies the property may potentially be held responsible for the losses of that injury victim.
A landlord who doesn’t maintain well-lit stairwells could be responsible if a visitor tumbles down a dark set of stairs and gets hurt. A business could be liable if poor facility maintenance leads to a shopper getting hurt. Property owners can even be responsible for injuries that passers-by incur on their property due to icy sidewalks. How can property owners mitigate the premises liability risks that come with the acquisition of real property?
Be proactive about maintenance
Maintaining safe premises requires regular review and investment. Any areas accessible to the public, including sidewalks and parking lots, need to be safe for visitors. In Massachusetts, property owners may need to hire professionals to remove snow and ice or diligently take care of frozen precipitation throughout the winter months. Failing to do so could lead to liability if someone slips on icy sidewalk and breaks a bone.
Property owners also have to consider if animals at the property could pose a risk to the public and whether any other property conditions put visitors at risk. From repairing uneven sidewalks to maintaining fences, there are many property investments that can significantly reduce the likelihood of a visitor getting hurt.
Invest in proper insurance
Homeowners often have to carry homeowners insurance because most mortgage companies require such coverage. Many renters also carry insurance because landlords require coverage. Businesses also invest in special types of insurance, including general business liability policies and specialized premises liability coverage. The premises liability coverage available through such policies can help cover the costs associated with someone’s injury if a visitor can bring a viable premises liability claim against a property owner or tenant. Always check with a reputable insurance agent to make sure that your properties are properly insured.
Proper Signage, when appropriate
As a final note, it is often incumbent upon those who own real property to have clear signage displayed when there are safety issues that could lead to someone getting hurt, like wet floor signs or warnings about dangerous facility conditions.
When a property owner does not take reasonable steps to mitigate their liability risks and someone is hurt as a result, an injury victim may be in a position to hold that individual or business responsible for their harm. Seeking legal guidance as soon as possible after an injury is a good way to start making informed decisions under such circumstances.