Guide Property Manager in Reducing Personal Injury Lawsuits

To maximize your property’s value and profit, limiting premises liability should be a priority for you—and you should communicate this to your property manager, who’s most likely to hear about and react to injuries before you do. To make sure your property manager understands the importance of preventing personal injuries and reacting to them appropriately when they do occur, make sure she is familiar with:

What premises liability is. Explain that premises liability is the body of law that makes a property owner responsible for certain injuries suffered by visitors to the premises. In general, to win a premises liability lawsuit, the injured visitor has to prove that the owner of the premises created a dangerous condition, didn’t properly maintain the property, or knew that the premises weren’t safe and didn’t warn people of the lack of safety.

The types of incidents that give rise to premises liability claims can vary, but slip-and-fall accidents are the most common. Premises liability lawsuits can involve any type of injury suffered on, or sometimes even around, an owner’s property.

How courts determine liability. The extent of property owner liability varies, based on state law. For instance, some states resolve the issue of liability by focusing on the injured visitor’s status, while other states determine liability by focusing on the property’s condition and the actions of the owner and injured visitor.

The concept of “status.” The legal term “status” describes the injured visitor’s presence on the premises, and helps the court assess the property owner’s duty to that injured visitor. In lawsuits where the court uses the visitor’s status to determine owner liability, ascertaining the injured visitor’s status is the first order of business. The injured visitor will fall into one of three status categories: invitee, licensee, or trespasser.

Significance of property condition, actions. When courts look at the condition of the property and the actions of the owner and visitor, the courts treat invitees and licensees the same and require that the owner make reasonable efforts to ensure their safety while on the premises. But under these circumstances, the owner has no duty to provide the same level of care for trespassers.

To meet the reasonable efforts standard required by the courts, the owner has an ongoing duty to inspect the property, locate hazards, and either fix them or post appropriate warnings. If the owner doesn’t meet that standard, it may be liable.

Importance of keeping interior and exterior walkways maintained. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many lawsuits are generated from poorly maintained walkways. Something really minor and inexpensive to address, such as a crack in the sidewalk or a small spill, could end up costing you.

How to provide adequate security on premises. Premises liability lawsuits are not just limited to slips-and-falls. Tell your property manager to regularly assess the level of security you’re providing, in light of local incidents and potential new threats. Workplace violence also must be considered when attempting to limit premises liability.