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5 misconceptions about premises liability lawsuits

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Premises Liability

When someone injures themself on another person’s property, it may lead to a premises liability lawsuit. These cases are based on the idea that property owners have a duty of care to ensure their property is safe for visitors. However, several common misconceptions exist about how these laws work and what they cover. Here are five misunderstandings we often encounter:

Misconception 1: Plaintiffs can only sue commercial property owners

Many believe premises liability lawsuits only apply to commercial properties like shopping malls, big box stores or restaurants. In reality, owners of residential properties can also be held liable. If a guest injures themselves at a private home because of unsafe conditions that the homeowner failed to address, the injured can file a lawsuit against the homeowner just like they would against a business owner.

Misconception 2: Trespassers have no rights

Many assume that someone who trespasses on a property and gets hurt has no right to sue the owner. While property owners have fewer duties towards trespassers, they still have responsibilities. For example, property owners can’t willfully harm trespassers or set traps. Washington also has special rules protecting child trespassers, particularly in cases involving what’s known as an “attractive nuisance,” like a swimming pool.

Misconception 3: If there’s a warning sign, you can sue the owner

Putting up a warning sign about potential hazards can help reduce a property owner’s liability, but it does not entirely remove it. Owners still need to take reasonable steps to ensure safety. If the owner could have fixed the danger or the warning sign is unclear or visible enough, the property owner could still be liable for injuries.

Misconception 4: All injuries on the property will lead to successful lawsuits

The property owner is not automatically at fault just because someone is injured. The injured party must prove that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the injury and failed to fix it. Moreover, the injury must be directly caused by the hazardous condition. The lawsuit may fail if the plaintiff’s attorney does not prove these elements.

Misconception 5: The property owner always pays Out of pocket for damages

Many people believe the property owner will have to pay for damages out of their own pocket. However, most property owners have insurance policies that include liability coverage. This coverage usually helps cover the costs associated with legal fees, settlements or judgments that result from premises liability claims. The policy helps mitigate the owner’s financial burden. Instead, their insurance company pays. However, this depends on the insurance policy’s specific terms and coverage limits.

There are other misconceptions as well

Understanding these five misconceptions can help property owners and visitors better handle situations involving injuries on the property. Still, it’s always wise to consult with a legal professional to get accurate advice tailored to specific circumstances, ensuring all parties involved are properly informed about their rights and obligations under premises liability law.