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Albert Buzzetti & Associates, L.L.C.

Making a case for premises liability

If you are at someone’s home or business when you sustain an injury, you may be able to seek financial compensation if certain circumstances are present. Many people refer to these injuries as “slip-and-fall” cases, but you can hurt yourself many ways on both public and private property.

Recently, ABC reported that a man in Woodbridge was attempting litigation by faking a fall inside someone’s business. He mistakenly believed that all he had to do was fall down and he could hold the owner liable. What he failed to realize was that the process is quite a bit more complicated than that.

Presence of Risk

Before taking action, it is necessary to establish if any kind of risk was present on the premises prior to the incident. In the case of the man in Woodbridge, he had dumped ice on the floor to give his story credibility. His knowledge of its presence, however, removes responsibility from the business owner. Had the ice been there before the man arrived, and someone had mentioned it to an employee, the man may have had a case. 

The presence of risk may be irrelevant if the owner of the premises attempts to warn a visitor of the danger. For example, a wet floor sign would have alerted the man that the surface was slick, and he could have then taken the proper precautions to avoid slipping.   

Visitor Status

Some states use the visitor's status as a further determination of premises liability. New Jersey recognizes three different categories of visitors: an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser.

As an invitee, an authorized party has invited you onto the premises. You may be a customer at a retail store or a guest in someone’s home. These situations require the utmost level of care from the property owner.

A licensee has permission to enter and occupy the space for longer periods of time; for example, when you rent an apartment, you are a licensee. The property owner should warn you of any hidden, inherent dangers, but you are responsible for your own safety on the premises.

As a trespasser, you only have a case for premises liability if the owner of the property purposely causes you harm. A lack of invitation releases the landholder of most responsibility.

Regardless of your reason for being on the premises, each case is different. Many details can make visitor status murky. If you become injured while on someone else’s property, the owner may be liable for your treatment and extenuating hardship.

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