Personal and Premises Liability: Are they the same?

The lines between personal and premises liability often appear blurry to the average person. Knowing when each of these legal terms applies can help you gain the upper hand in a case. The insights into these terms and their respective situations will help equip you against a legal suit, expose you to premises liability lawyers’ services, and let you know when you need their services.

Personal liability  applies when the actions or inaction of a person lead to the harm of another person. Premises liability, on the other hand, applies when personal injury is caused due to unsafe conditions around a property.

You may file a personal liability suit when a taxi driver gets you injured due to his negligence. In some cases, the plaintiff may sue both business and individual in a personal liability suit.

Are They the Same?

Both personal and premises liability result from someone’s negligent act, and they both make the victim eligible for compensation. However, they differ. Premises liability claims involve unsafe conditions on another person’s property. On the other hand, personal liability refers to a person’s own actions. In any case, you may be able to obtain compensation if another person was negligent. Let’s have a more detailed explanation of both concepts to understand the difference better.

Premises Liability 

Premises liability often comes up when one’s property or business causes the injury of an unsuspecting visitor. You may think that you can negotiate for yourself in a premises liability claim. However, you need professional services. A premises liability lawyer can help you claim as much damage as possible if you fall victim to a property owner’s negligence.  Premises liability lawyers can also guide you on what course of action to take if you are put in the trust of a property.

When filing a premises liability claim, the injured person (plaintiff) should be able to establish the following:

  • The property owner (defendant) is responsible for keeping the property safe.
  • Negligence of the property owners leads to the inability to secure their property.
  • Damages or injuries were caused as a result of negligence in keeping the property or business environment safe.

The specific responsibility of the defendant to keep the property safe differs based on which category the visitor fits into at the time the injury occurred. Below are the categories of situations the visitors could fall in:

Licensees: In a situation where a visitor is granted  permission by the property owner before visiting the property, such a visitor is a licensee. The visitor also visits the property owner to benefit themselves—for example, a party guest or a salesman. 

Invitees: This is a person who entered a property with the owner’s consent and knowledge for mutual benefit—a business partner, after-sales service representative, etc. 

The owner must inform licensees and invitees of any harmful conditions before they enter the property. The harmful conditions could include damaged steps, stray dogs, holes in the ground, etc.

Alternatively, the owner may also repair damaged parts of the property or remove any potentially dangerous items.

Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who visits someone’s property without the owner’s permission. The only responsibility of the owner is not to cause harm to the trespasser deliberately or through gross negligence. 

Personal Liability Cases

Personal liability often involves a personal injury caused to the victim due to negligence of the other party. A taxi driver who causes injury to a client due to reckless driving can be held accountable. The person who caused the injury and the company that hired them can also be held accountable. The injured can file a personal liability claim if a personal liability lawyer sees enough evidence to support the claim.

When employees in an organization are involved in personal injury cases, the company lawyer can help both parties reach common ground. However, when negotiation fails, each party can seek expert advice from a personal liability lawyer.

A Typical Case of Premises Liability

Adam runs a grocery store. He calls Tom to inform him that the leeches he had ordered have arrived. Tom informs Adam he will be visiting the store to pick up the order, and Adam agrees for Tom to come. On getting to Adam’s store entrance, Tom slipped, fell to the ground, and broke a thigh. Adam rushed to the entrance only to find that the water he had spilled some minutes earlier and left unattended, was the cause of the incident.

Could Adam be held liable for Tom’s injury?

Tom is a visitor to Adam’s business. He was there for mutual benefit (to pick up his order and pay Adam for the order). Adam is under obligation to inform Tom of the spilled water before his arrival since Tom knew there was water on the floor of the entrance. Alternatively, Adam could have quickly cleaned the water before Tom’s arrival. 

In this case, Adam knew water was on the floor but failed to warn Tom. Hence, Adam could be held liable for Tom’s injury. You could be in the shoes of any of our hypothetical figures. Whether a plaintiff or defendant, it’s always better to be aware of your options, regardless of whether you are the defendant or the plaintiff. 

If you are the plaintiff (injured), you can ask witnesses to help take videos of the incident. Taking note of people present during the incident can also help you build a solid case. Personal liability lawyers often advise their clients on good medical treatment. After recuperating, you must submit your medical records to strengthen your legal position further. 

Most personal and premises liability cases are often settled out of court when the lawyers of both parties can agree. Proceeding to court might lead to more legal fees and damages for the defendant.

Final Thoughts

As we have already established the difference between personal and premises liability, it’s also good to know that in some situations, they could overlap. In this case, a premises liability lawyer will be the best person to reach.  If you have been injured, someone else may be liable. Ask a personal liability lawyer to help you clear your doubt. You may be able to file for a claim to cover damages caused by the injury.

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