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What Happens If You Slip And Fall On Someone Else’s Property?

If you fall and injure yourself on someone else's property, you may have a "premises liability claim." Legally, a premises liability claim involves the liability of property owners (or, under certain circumstances, lessees of property) for injuries that occur while someone is on their property.

A premises liability claim arises when injuries are caused by what are sometimes called premises defects, which are nothing more than unsafe conditions on the property. There are any number of different kinds of conditions that may qualify as a premises defect, including holes, spills, and other unexpected hazards.


The duty that a property owner owes to a person entering the property depends on the person's legal status. In Illinois, people entering property belonging to another fall into one of two legal categories: trespassers or licensees/invitees. The specific category dictates the amount of care the property owner owes to the person on the property.

Trespassers

As you might guess from the name, a trespasser is a person who enters the property of another without lawful authority, permission, or invitation. Because trespassers should not be on the property at all, the owner of the property does not have much responsibility to look out for the trespasser's well being. As long as the property owner does not injure the trespasser intentionally or through extreme carelessness, the property owner is not responsible for injuries the trespasser might suffer.

The trespasser is said to "take" the property as he finds it, and if he is injured, it is his own fault. The owner is not relieved of liability simply by putting up "no trespassing" signs, although this may be evidence that an individual was on the property without the owner's permission.

Licensees/Invitees

The second category consists of people who are licensees or invitees, commonly called guests. A licensee is a person who enters and remains on the property with the owner's consent, but whose presence does not benefit the owner. Invitees enter the property with the owner's knowledge and for the benefit of both parties.

The most common kind of licensee is a "social guest," while invitees, on the other hand, are "business guests." If you are asked over to a friend's house for dinner or to watch the football game, you are a social guest. Social guests are allowed on the property because the owner has consented to their presence, but their presence does not financially benefit the owner. Business guests are allowed on the property to conduct business that benefits both parties.

Because licensees and invitees are present with permission, the property owner owes them a higher degree of duty than he owes trespassers. As with trespassers, the owner cannot willfully or wantonly injure a guest, but the landowner also owes a guest additional duties. Illinois requires landowners to exercise "reasonable care" to either fix problems on the property or to warn those coming on the property of the danger, provided that the danger is not open and obvious.

For example, if the owner knows that his front steps are dangerous because they are uneven, he might have to warn guests to be careful on the steps, or else fix them. A guest injured by a premises defect of which the owner was aware and the guest was not may be able to bring a premises liability claim against the property owner.

However, if the danger is obvious, the guest has a duty to avoid the danger. For example, an open, 12 foot trench in the yard is an obvious danger, and the guest has the duty to avoid falling into the trench. Although a property owner is not legally required to warn of or repair obvious dangers, it clearly would be in his best interests to do so in order to help avoid both injuries and the potential for liability.

This article lays out the basics of premises liability claims, but there are hundreds of exceptions and special rules. For example, there are different rules for children and for injuries caused by trespassers. In addition, the question of what is and what is not a premises defect is often dependent upon the specific situation. You should always consult a qualified attorney if you have been injured while on another's property.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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