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Homeowners' duty of care to prevent injury varies

If you suffer an injury at someone's home due to a dangerous condition, such as falling due to a rotting step or being hit by a chandelier that wasn't properly attached, you may be able to take legal action against the homeowner. More likely, the homeowner's insurance policy will be able to compensate you for medical bills and other costs that result from your injury.


However, it's important to note that under the law, there are three categories of people who can be on someone else's property. Which of those you qualify as could impact whether you are successful in a civil legal action. That's because homeowners have different levels of responsibility to keep the property safe for these three types of people.

Invitees are people who are specifically invited onto the premises, whether for personal or business reasons, as long as that reason is lawful. Homeowners have a duty to use care to keep their property safe for invitees.

Licensees are people who may not necessarily be known to the property owner but are either implicitly or expressly allowed on the premises. For example, if someone has a holiday open house gathering for the neighbors, they may not know or even see everyone who walks in, but they've been implicitly invited onto the premises. They're required to at least exercise the necessary care to prevent someone from being injured in any area of the property they'd reasonably be expected to enter.

The third category is trespassers. While homeowners may feel that they shouldn't be responsible for what happens to people who illegally enter their property, that's not altogether true. There's a legal term called "attractive nuisance." This often applies to swimming pools, but it can also include pathways, wells and other areas that children, in particular, may be drawn to. Property owners may be held liable for injuries suffered by those drawn to these things.

Further, if a homeowner has seen evidence that someone has been trespassing, they have a responsibility to exercise ordinary care to prevent injury. It is not legal to do anything to intentionally injure those who might trespass on your property.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury on someone else's property that you believe could have reasonably been prevented, an attorney can help you determine what your options for legal recourse are.

Source: FindLaw, "Homeowner Liability: Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers," accessed Jan. 31, 2017

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