What Is a Landowner’s Duty of Care to Visitors?
In California, anyone who owns land or property owes a legal duty of care to visitors. A duty of care is a responsibility or obligation to act according to the accepted standards of care, or in a way that a reasonable and prudent property owner would in the same circumstances. A landowner owes various duties of care to visitors depending on the situation. Understanding these duties can help you determine whether you have grounds for a premises liability claim in Los Angeles.
California’s Premises Liability Law
Premises liability is the area of law that deals with injuries and accidents on someone else’s property caused by the property owner’s negligence. Negligence refers to the failure to use ordinary care, resulting in harm to others. If a property owner engages in negligent premises maintenance or management, he or she can be held liable for an accident that occurs on the property. Common examples of premises liability claims in California are slip and fall cases, swimming pool accidents, and dog bite injuries.
Three Classifications of Visitors
The specific tasks that a property owner must carry out to meet his or her duty of care in California depend on the type of visitor who has entered the property. Ensuring that a property is safe for those visiting looks different based on the legal status of the visitor. There are three different types of visitors, each with different duties of care given to the property owner.
Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. Invitees are invited to enter a property, either through express or implied invitation, for the landowner’s own purposes or benefit. Examples include customers at a business, students at a school, children at a daycare center and contractors hired to work on the property.
Three basic duties of care are owed to invitees. The first is a duty to inspect the premises regularly to search for any potential injury risks. The second is a duty to repair property defects or hazards in a timely manner. The third is a duty to warn invitees of any injury risks that still exist on the property, such as by posting warning signs.
A licensee also has the property owner’s permission or invitation to enter the property. However, a licensee does so for his or her own benefit rather than that of the landowner. Examples of licensees are social guests, such as friends or family members. The same duties of care are owed to licensees as invitees in California, except the duty to inspect the property for any defects. This duty of care is generally not associated with licensees since the property owner is not always warned in advance of the licensee’s visit.
Unlike invitees and licensees, a trespasser in California does not have the owner’s permission to be on the property. Since he or she is illegally entering the premises, the trespasser is not owed any duties of care. However, a landowner in California is not permitted to intentionally cause the trespasser harm. If the trespasser is a child under the age of 18, the duties of care are closer to those owed to an invitee. Child trespassers are treated differently than adults.
What Are Your Rights After an Accident on Someone Else’s Property?
Although these three visitor types are not exclusively used to establish a property owner’s liability for an accident in California, they can help evaluate whether a landowner’s actions were negligent or reasonable. In general, if a prudent property owner would have done something different and prevented the victim’s injuries, the defendant will be found guilty of negligence and held liable for the incident.
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, contact a Los Angeles personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options. You may be eligible for financial compensation if the property owner was negligent.