Charleston Premises Liability Lawyers
If someone was injured on your property, or you were injured on someone else’s property, you may find yourself involved in a premises liability claim. Property owners and occupiers have a legal duty to keep their property safe to protect customers and visitors from harm. This duty applies to the government, commercial businesses, industrial companies, private homeowners, non-profit entities and anyone else who allows people on their property. Property owners who neglect their legal duty may be held liable for the injuries and losses that result, including death.
The first determination that must be made in a premises liability case is the status of the plaintiff, which determines the duty of the land owner or occupier. South Carolina recognizes four general classifications of persons who come on premises: invitees, licensees, adult trespassers and children. Different standards of care apply depending on the person’s status.
An invitee is a person who enters upon the premises of another at the express or implied invitation of the owner or occupier of the property. The invitee is offered the utmost duty of care by the owner or occupier of the premises. The owner or occupier must exercise reasonable care for invitee’s safety and is liable for injuries resulting from the breach of this duty.
A licensee is a person who is privileged to enter or remain upon land by virtue of the possessor’s consent with the primary benefit being to the licensee. The land owner or occupier is under no obligation to exercise care to make the premises safe for a licensee, but must use reasonable care to discover him and avoid injury to him and to use reasonable care to warn him of any known concealed dangerous conditions or activities.
A trespasser is a person who enters or remains upon the land of another without any right, lawful authority, or express or implied invitation, permission, or license, not in performance of any duties to the owner or occupier, but merely for his own purpose, pleasure or convenience. Trespassers are owed a very limited duty by the owner or occupier of the premises to do no willful or wanton injury.
The lone exception trespasser’s rule in premises liability claims involves dangerous conditions that injure children. A property owner or occupier is subject to liability if he knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass and that children are likely to encounter or be attracted to an unreasonably dangerous condition on the land.
Complexities of Premises Liability Law
The numerous complexities of premises liability law highlight the need for experienced counsel. While status and duty may seem clear based upon the text above, in some instances, a visitor may change from one classification to another. For example, a worker may lose invitee status when they exceed the scope of work. Or if an invitee goes outside the area of his or her invitation, they may become a trespasser or licensee depending on if they go there without consent of the owner or occupier of the premises.
Oftentimes, the owner of property is not the same as the occupier. For example, a property owner may live in California but rent property to a college student in Charleston. Typically, if a tenant or visitor is injured on a landlord’s property, then liability depends on whether the cause of injury was a “moveable” or “immoveable object.” A landlord may not be liable for a tenant who injures themselves on a “moveable” couch, whereas they may be liable for an “immoveable” hole in the floor.
Premises Liability Defenses
There are a number of recognized defenses to premises liability claims. A property owner does not insure the safety of visitors. Just because a hazardous condition exists does not mean a property owner should be liable. A property owner must have actual or constructive knowledge of a hazardous condition. A visitor has a duty to avoid an “open and obvious” hazard. A visitor who is injured because of a hazard that a reasonable person would have recognized and avoided may have their verdict reduced according to how much their own negligence – not avoiding the open and obvious hazard – contributed to their accident and injuries. Furthermore, an owner or occupier of land owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by persons who have sought and obtained his permission to use it for recreational purposes.
Experienced Premises Liability Counsel
Premises liability can be a complex area of law that requires experienced attorneys who routinely handle such matters. Our attorneys at have extensive experience in a variety of premises liability matters including slip and falls, trip and falls, dog bites, animal attacks, falling debris, sexual abuse and assault, faulty elevators and escalators, inadequate security, swimming pool accidents and playground or amusement park accidents. Determining these facts requires an investigation by a legal team experienced with premises liability matters.
Consult with Premises Liability Attorney
If you are in need of a South Carolina or North Carolina premises liability attorney, our legal team at Clawson and Staubes is available to assist you. Contact us at (843)577-2026 to learn more about our services.