What is Premises Liability?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2018
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Premises liability is a situation where someone who is in possession of a premises is considered liable for injuries that occur on site. Possessors are not universally liable for everything that happens but certain types of injuries can be considered their legal responsibility and they may be required to pay damages in order to compensate people for their injuries. Many people who are at high risk, like business owners, carry premises liability insurance so that in the event of a suit, the insurance will pay out.

Someone who is in possession of premises like a business or a home is assumed to be liable for injuries that occur as a result of the possessor's negligence. If someone is struck by lightning in a neighbor's yard while at a pool party, the neighbor is not liable. On the other hand, if a business owner fails to clear the sidewalk and a customer slips and falls, the business owner would be liable.

In premises liability cases, the court determines whether the person in possession of a premises behaved negligently by doing or not doing something that exposed someone to the risk of injury. If the court believes that this is the case, damages can be awarded to the person who was injured or to survivors in the event of a death.


There are several different classes of people who may be present on a property. The first is invitees, people entering a premises for the purpose of doing business. Licensees are people who are on the property with the permission of the possessor, but are not there to do business, such as social guests. Finally, trespassers are on property without permission. If a possessor is not aware of trespassers, there is no premises liability. However, if someone knows there are trespassers, is aware of a hazard, and fails to take action, he or she can be held liable.

A special type of premises liability can be seen with what is known as an attractive nuisance. Attractive nuisances are things that are known to be dangerous that also appeal to children. If children enter a piece of property to explore, the possessor can be liable for any injuries, under the argument that children are not like normal trespassers because they are not held to the same standards as adults and cannot be expected to comply with things like posted signs they cannot read.


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