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Premises liability is the legal theory that property owners have a duty to keep their property safe for visitors. The law in Texas assigns different duties to property owners depending on why a visitor was on their property. The most stringent duties of care apply to owners who invite the public in to do business or for other activities of mutual benefit. Private property owners also have an obligation to protect visitors from harm.
When you get hurt while visiting a friend’s home, making a delivery, or otherwise on private property with permission, you could have an injury claim against the property owner. If your child was hurt while on someone else’s property, you could bring a claim for their injuries—in some cases, a claim is possible even if they were trespassing. Contact a Sugar Land private property premises liability lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Anyone who controls access to a property has an obligation to ensure people who enter with permission are not at risk of harm from unseen hazards. The person who controls access could be a property owner or a lessee. When the visitor is on the property for mutual benefit, they are an invitee. When they enter the property with permission but for their own purposes, they are a licensee. The distinction can be confusing, but a Sugar Land attorney can evaluate the circumstances and determine whether an injured person was an invitee or licensee when they were injured.
Examples of people who would be considered invitees are mail carriers, delivery drivers, babysitters, and contractors. An owner or lessee owes invitees the highest duty of care. They must inspect the premises for dangerous conditions and repair the danger or provide clear warnings. Depending on the circumstances, a private property owner might be liable if they allow an invitee access to an area with a hazardous condition and the invitee gets hurt.
Social guests, political canvassers, and salespeople are examples of licensees. A property owner or lessee has no duty to inspect for the benefit of a licensee. However, the owner must warn licensees of any hazard they are aware of that is not open and obvious. For example, if a bathroom tap is broken and the water is scalding, the property owner must warn anyone using that bathroom and would be liable if someone used the tap and suffered a burn. But if there is a broken porch step that is obvious to anyone approaching the house, the owner need not provide a warning.
Property owners generally have no obligation to trespassers, but there is an exception if the trespasser is a child. When a property contains a feature that might attract a child, the property owner must use any reasonable means to restrict access and prevent the child from getting hurt. This is called the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Features that could qualify as an attractive nuisance include a sandbox, playset, trampoline, or treehouse. Heavy equipment and abandoned appliances could also be attractive nuisances. Many attractive nuisance cases involve home swimming pools.
A Sugar Land attorney bringing a claim alleging a property owner did not take reasonable steps to prevent a child trespasser from gaining access to the attractive nuisance must prove several things: the property owner knew or should have known children might trespass onto the property, the child was too young to appreciate the danger the nuisance might pose to them, and the steps the owner could have taken to prevent access were not unreasonably inconvenient or expensive compared to the likelihood a trespassing child would suffer an injury.
Private property injury claims often arise when an injured person is the social guest of the property owner. The idea of bringing legal action in these circumstances might seem inappropriate, or the injured person might be concerned about damaging a personal relationship.
In fact, the property owner’s insurance will be responsible for paying the claim, and the insurance company representative’s only job is to limit how much an injured person receives. It is critical for a claimant to have an equally tough negotiator representing them to ensure an appropriate settlement. Using a Sugar Land attorney signals to the insurer that the claimant is willing to go to court if necessary to get reasonable compensation.
Although cases almost always settle before trial, it is imperative to have the threat of a lawsuit as leverage during negotiations. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003 allows an injured person only two years to file a lawsuit seeking compensation. When a child is hurt, they have the right to file a lawsuit within two years of their 18th birthday, but it is almost always preferable for the parents to bring a lawsuit on the child’s behalf. When the parents bring the claim, the two-year statute of limitations applies.
When you are hurt while on private property and you believe the owner did not exercise reasonable care, you could file a claim for compensation. The owner’s insurance could pay your medical expenses, lost wages, and money for your pain and suffering.
Do not hesitate to assert your rights in an injury case. Contact a Sugar Land private property premises liability lawyer today.