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How Responsible Are Property Owners For Their Property Conditions?

When a person is injured on someone else's property, be it private or commercial, there are always questions as to who is responsible for those injuries. Is the property owner responsible because they did not properly maintain their property, or is the victim liable because they were not an invited guest?

When discussing reasonably safe conditions and how they apply to serious personal injury cases in Mt Kisco, it helps to understand all of the aspects of these types of cases and the different dynamics at work.

Property Owners Guest Classification

The first part of determining a personal injury case is deciding how to classify the injured party. How they are classified has a lot to do with whether or not there can even be a serious injury case. The different guest classifications are:

  • Invitees - These are how business customers and other expected visitors of businesses (such as delivery
    people and job applicants) are classified. The property owner must take great care in making sure that their property is properly maintained for the sake of invitees.
  • Licensees - These are people who visit a property for social reasons. While the property owner is expected to make their property safe for licensees, the owner does not need to go to any great lengths to discover hidden dangers, as they would for invitees.
  • Trespassers - Trespassers are people who are not on the property by permission, which means that the property is not immediately responsible for their safety. However, if the property owner creates potentially dangerous hazards and does not post signs or take the necessary steps to warn people, then even trespassers can sue. Similar rules are required to protect from trespassing children, but property owners must go the extra mile to make sure that anything that would attract children is safe and secure.

What Are The Parameters For Reasonably Safe Conditions?

Visitors in any type of classification are expected to use reasonable caution when walking on a property. If the injury is the result of the victim being careless, then the property owner is not held liable. The same is said for obvious obstructions that the visitor should notice but either chooses not to or simply does not take the time to notice.

A property owner is expected to keep their property free from dangers, and they are expected to take sufficient steps to protect people from hidden dangers. For example, a stairway that cannot easily be seen upon approach needs to have warning signs or some other protection to let people know that there is a danger ahead.

Commercial Property Requirements

The rules are different for commercial property owners and private property owners. While commercial property owners must be diligent in finding and taking care of potential dangers to visitors, residential property owners only need to attend to obvious dangers and warn of any hidden dangers that the property owner themselves had created. Commercial property owners are expected to do routine inspections of their property and take care of any obstacles, but they are not required to have a staff large enough to constantly monitor every part of their property around the clock.

The idea of creating reasonably safe conditions for a property depends on who you are and what kind of property you are visiting. A customer at a retail store falls into a different category than someone who is breaking into a home in the middle of the night. Both types of visitors should expect a safe property, but the law treats each differently in the event that a serious injury results from them being on that property.

In any case, should an individual suffer harm due to slip or trips on a property, it helps having legal guidance in order to identify the condition of the property they were on in order to determine liability.

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Laurence P. Banville
Date Published: February 26, 2016
Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
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