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Are Homeowners Subject to Personal Injury Lawsuits?

You’re probably familiar with personal injury lawsuits filed against BIG businesses, such as theme parks, hotels, superstores, franchises like McDonald’s, and commercial buildings. As one can imagine, businesses, especially large ones carry sizeable insurance policies that are designed to compensate innocent parties who are injured on their properties.

But what about homeowners? What if someone is seriously injured or killed on someone’s private, residential property? What legal recourse does the injured party have? Read on as we explore lawsuits against homeowners in further detail.

What Was the Nature of the Visit?

Though the laws vary from state to state, there is one thing that all states have in common and it has to do with the type of visitor that the injured party was. In other words, was the injured party lawfully on the property? Was he or she invited? Or, was the injured party trespassing or breaking the law by being on the property? The answer can shape the lawsuit and determine if the injured party has grounds to seek compensation.

Visitors fall into three categories:

  1. Invitees have the highest level of protection because, the homeowner invited them to the house. In general, homeowners are obligated to keep their property’s safe for all invitees.
  2. A licensee falls in the middle of invitees and trespassers. He or she has the property owner’s implied consent to enter their property. Such a person may be a door to door salesmen, a postman or woman, a delivery driver, or a neighbor. Generally, such people come to the property for their own purposes. Even though they are not “invited,” the property owner has a duty to warn licensees of known dangers because such people are expected to visit on occasion.
  3. Trespassers are not authorized to enter someone’s property; for example, a burglar, someone who ignores a “no trespassing sign” or someone who’s up to no good. However, property owners do have a duty to warn trespassers who are children, especially if they have a body of water, a swimming pool, or some other extremely dangerous condition on their property and it’s probable that a child may wander on to their property.

As a general rule, homeowners can be sued if someone is injured on their property and negligence was behind the injury. Often, homeowners are sued for swimming pool accidents involving invited guests, dangerous stairway conditions, glass doors in unusual locations, and of course, dog bites and attacks that occur on residential property.

Claims against homeowners are typically filed against homeowners’ insurance policies and in most situations, the homeowner does not pay damages out of their pocket unless the homeowner happens to be wealthy and have the means to settle themselves.

Related: Can I File a Claim Against My Homeowner’s Insurance?