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When are property owners liable for accidents on their premises?

It's a story that's been told too many times: A patron is shopping at a grocery store and suffers a serious back injury after slipping on an unmarked patch of water. In another scenario, a person is visiting a private home and is injured after stumbling down crumbling cement steps.

Both of these hypothetical situations have a commonality. Namely, a person is injured on another party's property. Injuries, no matter where they are sustained, can prove to be painful and costly. As such, injury victims may be wondering whether or not the property owner in question is responsible for the damages that occurred as the result of the injury.

On a very basic level, New Jersey personal injury law would answer this question by first examining the relationship between the property owner and accident victim. By establishing this piece of information, then determining if the property owner had a duty of care is possible.

In the first hypothetical situation posited earlier in the post, a person was injured on commercial property. The individual would be considered an "invitee" if he or she was injured during regular business hours. Generally speaking, property owners do have a duty of care to invitees and should take steps to remedy any potential hazards or dangers.

The second hypothetical story involves private residential property. If a person is visiting a residence for social purposes, and is permitted to be there, he or she is considered a "licensee." Much like invitees, licensees also deserve to feel as though property owners have taken steps to maintain safe property.

Finally, there is a third category: trespassers. If a person is breaking the law to enter private property, then the owner will most likely not owe a duty of care to prevent injuries.

Children are one general exception to the rule regarding trespassers. A case for premises liability can be built on the idea that a young child is unaware of dangers on property, so owners should take steps to prevent a child from being injured on their property.

Of course, the details of every injury case are different. The circumstances behind an accident can make all the difference as to whether or not property owners are liable. This is why many people turn to a trusted attorney to see if local personal injury laws provide options to move forward.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Property Owners' Legal Duty to Prevent Injury," accessed Aug. 1, 2014

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