An owner, operator, occupier – in many cases, an occupier is a tenant — or third party can be blamed for negligence when a customer is injured, by slipping on an untreated icy patch or tripping over an unrepaired pothole in a parking lot. Property owners have been accused of failing to provide proper security to prevent an assault. An insufficient number of smoke detectors could be the reason a hotel patron is burned in a fire.
Property owners also are expected to warn visitors about dangerous conditions that cannot be corrected in a timely manner. Signs or barriers can be used effectively to keep visitors out of hazardous areas.
The duty of care a property owner must provide varies, according to state laws. Sometimes, the safety measures required depend upon a visitor’s status. For instance, a higher safety standard may be required for a store customer than a party guest, due to reasons they enter a property.
Property owners sometimes counterclaim they were not aware of a hazard or could not remove it in time to prevent an accident. It’s up to the plaintiff to prove the defendant knew or should have known about a danger.
For example, an owner might be blamed for failing to replace lights that went out in a parking lot. If a customer was assaulted or fell in the dark, a jury would want to know whether the lights were out for a month or a few days. The longer a danger goes unrecognized and unaddressed, the more likely property neglect is involved.
Attorneys evaluate premises liability claims and support victims in settlements and, when necessary, jury trials.