If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you might have a premises liability lawsuit.
For example, many people slip and fall in businesses, in parking lots, or on private residences.
In Washington state, judges have created premises liability law, which you should be aware of if you want to bring a lawsuit.
Your Status: Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser
Owners and occupiers owe visitors to their land a duty of care. However, the precise duty they owe will depend on the visitor’s status. There are three types of visitors:
- Someone walking into an open grocery store is a business invitee. These people are invited onto the property, often to do business.
- Licensees visit with the owners’ implied consent. For example, someone visiting a friend is a social guest and therefore a licensee.
- Trespassers have no right to be on the land or to stay there. Someone who sneaks onto another person’s property when there is a “No Trespassing” sign is a trespasser.
Duties Owed to Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers
The duty an owner or occupier owes you will depend on your status:
- Owners must exercise ordinary care and keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. To discharge these duties, owners and occupiers must inspect their property for dangerous conditions and correct them. Business owners also owe their clients a duty to protect them from criminal conduct they know or reasonably should know is occurring.
- An owner or occupier is responsible for injuries if they know of a dangerous condition or should have known of one but did not take reasonable care to make the property safe or to warn the licensee of the condition.
- Owners and occupiers owe trespassers no duty of care. However, they cannot intentionally or willfully and wantonly injure them.
For example, Samantha might visit a local grocery store and slip on a puddle of water that formed just outside the freezers. Under Washington law, the business owner owed Samantha a duty to periodically check to make sure the floor was free of liquids and to mop up any in a prompt fashion. If he failed to perform these duties, Samantha can hold him legally liable for her injuries.
By contrast, if Samantha decides to spontaneously visit her cousin, he does not have a duty to inspect his property as soon as she arrives. Instead, he should fix any hazards and warn her of any that he has not yet fixed.
Duties Owed to Children
Landowners and occupiers owe additional duties to children, even when the children are trespassers. In particular, owners must make the property safe if it contains an attractive nuisance that might draw children onto the property.
For example, an uncovered swimming pool or a piece of machinery might be attractive nuisances because children would be tempted to play with them. Trespassing children can become injured, so landowners can be legally liable for any injuries.
If your child was injured on someone’s property, speak to an attorney to discuss whether you have a valid legal case.
Contact Your Washington Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured in an accident, you probably need compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages. At Kapuza Lighty, our Yakima personal injury attorneys excel at representing injured visitors in lawsuits against landowners, and we are here to talk to you. Schedule your free consultation by reaching out to us today.