Pennsylvania Premises Liability

When you enter onto another person’s public or private property, you expect that it will be safe for visitors. Unfortunately, not all property owners and occupiers keep their premises free of hazards that can harm others, and when an incident occurs, the resulting injuries can be catastrophic for guests. Premises liability law protects the rights of injury victims when they are harmed by the negligent, reckless, or willful acts of a property owner and provides a path to compensation for those harmed by dangerous conditions. To learn more about your rights after being harmed on another person’s property, call or or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us at Disney Law today to schedule a free consultation of your case.

What is Premises Liability Law?

Premises liability law refers to the legal duty of property owners and occupiers to maintain their premises in a relatively safe condition for different types of guests. Premises liability applies to both public and private property, including single family homes, apartment complexes, mobile home parks, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, parking lots, movie theaters, grocery stores, retail shops, and many other places frequented by visitors and customers of the property owner or occupier. In Pennsylvania, guests who suffer personal injury because of a hazardous condition on another person’s property have the right in certain circumstances to seek compensation for their injuries, and the level of care required of a premises owner or occupier is determined by the type of visitor to the property.

Common Causes of Premises Liability Injuries

There are many causes of injuries that are incurred on someone else’s property, but certain circumstances cause more harm in the Pittsburgh area. Some of the most common causes of premises liability claims include the following:

  • Lack of adequate security
  • Poorly lit property
  • Unsafe walkways
  • Unsafe stairways
  • Wet and slippery floors
  • Snowy or icy conditions
  • Falling objects
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Malfunctioning elevators and escalators
  • Automatic door failures
  • Fires
  • Electrocution
  • Explosion
  • Building collapse
  • Toxic substances
  • Dog bite attacks, and more.

If you or someone you know has been injured while visiting someone’s home or place of business, it is critical that you speak with an experienced premises liability attorney as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, the law only allows the victim of a premises liability accident two years to file a claim from the date of the incident. Known as the statute of limitations, failure to file a claim in that time period can bar any attempts at compensation for your injuries.

Negligent Security 

An owner of property has the duty to ensure visitors are safe from accidents as well as the intentional conduct of others, when possible. This means that if the owner is aware of dangers posed by frequent criminal activity in the area, then that owner has a duty to put in place adequate security measures to keep visitors safe. This can look like ample lighting in parking lots, or hiring security personnel to monitor the premises during times when criminal activity is more likely to occur. When an owner fails to put security measures in place, but has cause to do so, this can be considered negligence. Any visitor to that property who is injured by the intentional conduct of another may have the ability to sue for damages in a premises liability case. 

Standards of Care for Visitors 

When it comes to premises liability cases, the level of care that a premises owner or occupier must provide is dictated by the type of guest on their property. Pennsylvania splits visitors into three separate categories — invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Each category of guest has its own corresponding duty of care.

  • An invitee has express or implied permission by the property owner or occupier to be on the premises for a business or social purpose. Examples of an invitee include a customer at a hardware store or a patron at a restaurant. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care because they are on the property for the benefit of the premises’ owner or occupier. Those responsible for the property have a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to either warn about or repair any hazardous condition that they knew or should have known about. This means that a property owner cannot avoid liability by claiming ignorance about a hazard that would have been discovered with a routine inspection of the premises.
  • A licensee is someone who is invited, either through express or implied means, to be on the property for a social or personal purpose that does not directly benefit the owner of the property. A common example of a licensee is a guest at a friend’s home. Licensees are owed a slightly less duty of care than an invitee. Property owners and occupiers have a duty of care to warn any licensees of any known hazards on the premises, but there is no proactive duty required to fix or inspect for dangerous conditions on the property.
  • A trespasser is someone who enters the property without permission by the premises’ owner or occupier. They are owed the least level of care from a premises liability standpoint. Owners and occupiers must only refrain from willful, wanton, or reckless conduct that could harm a trespasser on the property. A common example of this type of conduct that is prohibited is the use of spring guns and other traps used to protect property.


Compensation in Premises Liability Cases

Victims of personal injury in premises liability cases are entitled to compensation for their economic and noneconomic damages caused by the accident. Economic damages refer to all out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and the loss of future income and benefits. Noneconomic damages compensate a premises liability victim for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, and any disfigurement. However, like other personal injury cases in Pennsylvania, premises liability claims are subject to the state’s modified comparative negligence rule.

Under the modified comparative negligence rule, the court determines the degree of fault for every party involved in a case and reduces the overall compensation by that percentage. However, if someone is found more than 50% at fault for the accident, they are barred from collecting any compensation. For example, if a guest at a party slipped and fell, incurring $10,000 in damages, and was found 10% at fault the total award would be reduced to $9,000. In the same example, if the guest was found 60% at fault they would collect nothing for their claim. This is why it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney represent your interests in a premises liability case.

Call or Contact Our Office Now

If you or a loved one is injured while visiting the property of another person, you are entitled to receive compensation for any harm caused by an accident. To learn more about your legal options, call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us at Disney Law today to schedule a free consultation of your case.