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Property Owner Liability vs. Occupier Liability

By Dansker & Aspromonte

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Premises liability laws make owners or property occupiers responsible for injuries that occur to others on the property. Understanding how property owner liability and occupier liability differ is crucial because it determines which party you need to bring a claim against when recovering damages.

What Is Property Owner Liability?

A property owner has a duty of care to maintain safe premises. Therefore, they must take timely action to ensure the property is reasonably safe for anyone who might enter. 

A property owner may be held liable for accident injuries if they were aware of a dangerous condition but did nothing to fix it. A property owner may also be at fault if they should have known about a potential threat but did not take action to prevent the hazard from causing harm to others.

Imagine you are delivering packages but suffer a fall due to broken steps outside the front of the home. You could hold the property owner liable for your injury because they failed to fix or alert visitors of the broken steps, thus neglecting to maintain safe premises.

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What Is Occupier Liability?

While owners need to maintain safe premises, so do the people occupying a property. Like property owners, occupiers also have a duty of care to keep an area safe for all who may visit. Therefore, occupier liability applies to anyone who owns or rents a property that others may legally access. 

Occupier liability laws relate to private residences, such as apartment complexes and rental homes where tenants maintain the space. They also relate to public areas, such as shopping malls, restaurants, hospitals, and department stores.

If there are dangers on the property, the occupier needs to make others aware of them, such as placing caution tape around a pothole in a driveway. If the occupier does not fix or make others aware of potential hazards, they may be held liable for any injuries. The injured party can pursue compensation for their damages from the occupier by filing an occupiers liability claim.

Who Is Liable: The Property Owner or Occupier?

If a tenant is occupying a property, they must keep the area safe and clear of hazards. If they cannot remove a hazard, they must alert the property owner and make the danger known to anyone who might enter the area. 

If a property is not rented out or occupied at the time of the accident, the owner may be held liable for your injuries. However, there are circumstances in which a property owner may be at fault even if there is an occupier on the premises. They include:

  • The injury occurred in an area where the property owner retained control (such as a hallway or staircase in an apartment complex)
  • The property owner rented out the property in a dangerous condition without making the tenant aware
  • The lease between the owner and occupier states that the property owner is responsible for repairing certain conditions 
  • Structural problems which cause an accident is often the responsibility of the property owner

After an accident, it can be hard to navigate premises liability laws and determine who is responsible for your accident damages. But that’s where a premises liability lawyer can help. These types of legal experts can review your case to determine if you need to pursue a claim against the occupier or the property owner.

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How the Open and Obvious Doctrine Affects Your Case

Just like property owners and occupiers are responsible for maintaining safe premises, visitors also have a duty to act within reason. Therefore, when a danger on the property is open and obvious, the injured person can be held partially or fully at fault for avoiding it. 

An open and obvious danger is any defect that has potential risk. For example, imagine a brightly colored dish soap fell off the shelf at a grocery store and created a spill. As a visitor, you may have been able to see the colored liquid on the floor and take precautions to avoid it.  Every case is unique and a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer will help you defend against this defense.

However, if a clear dish soap bottle fell on a white grocery store floor, the spill may not be evident. The store would need to place caution signs around the area and remove the spill immediately to avoid injuries. If the store does not take action and you suffer a slip and fall, the occupier (whoever owns or operates the grocery store) can be held liable.

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Let Our Premises Liability Lawyers Take on Your Claim

Various factors determine if an occupier or property owner is liable for your accident injuries. But with the assistance of a skilled premises liability lawyer from Dansker & Aspromonte LLP Associates, you can feel confident that we will fight to help you recover the fair and reasonable compensation that you deserve.

Contact our legal team now for a free premises liability consultation. We will review the details of your accident and injuries.  If we are able to accept your case, we will conduct a careful and thorough investigation, gather and preserve evidence, and build a strong claim for maximum recovery.  Don’t delay as there are deadlines that limit your rights.  If you fail to file your claim in a timely manner, you may be prevented from recovering the compensation you deserve.

Call or text (212) 540-2984 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

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