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What your clients should know about premises liability

Everyone knows that owning a home comes with a great deal of responsibility. As an insurance advisor, homeowners look to you to educate them about their risks and liabilities of home ownership. While taxes and lawn maintenance might be the first things to come to their minds, individual property owners shouldn't forget about two important words: premises liability.

What is premises liability?

This legal concept dictates that homeowners are tasked with ensuring a relatively safe environment for any visitors. If accidents or injuries occur, it is the property owner who is responsible.

Do you know the three categories of visitors? Here is a general breakdown:

  • Invitees: These are people that owners invite into their homes, like friends, family, neighbors or contractors. The landowner can give permission by implying it, inferring it with their behavior or expressing it verbally. In this scenario, the owner accepts a "duty of care" that they have ensured a reasonably safe environment.
  • Licensees: Social guests and salespeople fall into this category. They have the owner's permission to be on premises, but not the same rights as an invitee because they've entered the property for their own purposes. The owner owes the licensee a duty to warn if they are going to encounter a dangerous condition.
  • Trespassers: Someone who enters the premises without any authorization from the owner is a trespasser. There is no implication that the property is safe, but trespassers do have rights if they are injured due to the negligence of the property owner. For example, an owner can post a sign to warn trespassers of dangerous terrain. The homeowner is also not allowed to create a trap that purposefully injures someone. Children who trespass are typically treated differently - for instance, property owners are required to put a fence around pools to prevent injuries.

Premises liability laws involve an important set of guidelines for property owners to keep in mind. Knowing the rights of everyone who steps onto a homeowner's property is the best way for them to be protected from accusations of negligence in a personal injury case.

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