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Visitors and premises liability: Why were you on the property?

California law states that property owners are liable for injuries on their premises caused by dangerous conditions. If a business or homeowner fails to warn someone about a hazardous condition or repair it after being notified, they could be held responsible for any injury that results.

Plaintiffs, however, are held to different standards depending on why they were on the property where the accident occurred in the first place. If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, for example, one of the first questions an attorney may ask you is, “Why were you there?”

The legal status of different types of visitors

The type of person that steps foot onto a property is an important factor in premise liability cases. Let’s take a look at the 4 types of visitors:

  1. Invitees: This is someone invited to a property for some reason, like a client visiting a professional office or a shopper in a store. The invitation typically denotes that the property owner has taken reasonable measures to assure the safety of the property.
  2. Licensees: These types of guests enter the premises of their own free will but with the property owner’s actual or implied consent. For example, a salesman might enter a business to try to broker a contract with the owner or a delivery person may be dropping off a package.
  3. Social guests: These visitors are invited by the property owner for social reasons, such as a dinner party. As with invitees, the property owner is ensuring their guests’ safety.
  4. Trespassers: These types of people do not have permission to enter the property. In some cases, they may even be expressly forbidden entrance via signs or direct orders from the property owner.

Property owners owe the greatest duty of care to watch out for the safety of their invitees and social guests, and they may owe a similar duty to warn licensees of foreseeable dangers. Trespassers may have a much more difficult time asserting a claim for damages through a property liability claim.

Because premises liability claims can be complicated, it never hurts to learn more about all your legal options.