Every premises liability case is unique, and will involve an evaluation of the legal duty of care that the premises owner owed to the injured person. In Virginia, slip, trip, and fall injuries occur most commonly on residential as well as business premises owned by another party. Public spaces such as broken pavement, defective elevators, or debris on the road may also cause accidents where local government agencies may be liable.
Legal Duties and Responsibilities of the Premises Owner in Virginia
Whether a landowner or a business owner can be held liable in Virginia for your injuries that take place on their premises due to their negligence will depend on your legal status at the time of the accident. In other words, the premises owner’s legal duties and responsibilities can significantly vary depending on your legal status as an injured person.
Liability if the Injured Person is an Invitee
Under the premises liability law in Virginia, if the landowner or business premises owner was expecting you to visit their property, you will be considered as an invitee. For example, if you visit a departmental store as a customer during regular business hours for shopping, you will be legally viewed as an invitee.
Similarly, if you are a door to door salesperson visiting a residential property to offer your goods, you will be treated as an invitee. Every commercial or residential property owner in Virginia is required by law to keep their property free from unreasonable and knowable hazardous conditions in order to protect all invitees from injury.
If the property owner fails to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises, which results in injury to the invitee, they could be held liable for damages.
Liability if the Injured Person is a Licensee
Under Virginia law, if the property owner has invited you to visit their premises, you are considered a licensee, or a guest of the premises owner. The invitation from the owner does not necessary have to be explicitly stated, and even an implicit invitation would make you a licensee.
The premises owner has a legal duty of care to the licensee. If you get injured as a licensee on their property, and are able to establish that the accident and injury occurred because of the property owner’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
Liability if the Injured Person is a Trespasser
A trespasser in Virginia is an individual who enters another’s premises without the property’s owner’s knowledge and permission. When the property owner has neither expectation nor an ability to predict the entry or presence of an outsider on their premises, that person will be considered a trespasser.
For instance, a burglar who unlawfully breaks into a house would be a trespasser. Property owners in Virginia do not owe a legal duty of care to trespassers, and cannot be held liable if the trespasser gets injured on their premises.
However, an exception to this law is that if the property owner intentionally lays a trap which causes harm to a trespasser, they could have breached their standard of care under Virginia’s premises liability law, and could be held responsible for the damages caused to the injured person.
Three Critical Elements in Premises Liability
To establish a successful premises liability case against a property owner in Virginia, the following three elements should be present.
The Defendant Had a Duty of Care
The premises owner should owe you a reasonable duty of care if you have been injured on their property due to their negligence. This duty of care will depend on your legal status as an invitee, licensee, or a trespasser under Virginia law.
The Defendant Breached their Duty of Care
While you may establish the property owner’s duty of care, it will not be sufficient by itself to make a successful claim for damages. You will need to prove that the property owner, landlord, or premises manager actually breached the minimum expected duty of care.
For example, if you slip and fall on a wet floor in a retail store, the premises owner’s duty of care would likely be breached if they had failed to clearly mark and seclude the wet area from the customers with prominent warning signs.
The Victim’s Injuries Resulted from the Defendant’s Breach of Duty
Finally, it’s crucial to establish in a Virginia premises liability case that your injuries occurred because of the breach of reasonable duty of care by the property owner.
To prove this link between your injuries and your accident that occurred on the defendant’s premises, it is vital that you seek prompt medical attention, collect and preserve all possible evidence, make a record of the sequence of events, and file a premises liability claim with the help of an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Schedule a Consultation with our Premises Liability Attorneys Today
If you have suffered injuries on another’s premises due to their negligence, you may be able to claim damages from the property owner. At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, our seasoned premises liability lawyers in Virginia will provide the best legal advice to protect your rights and help you obtain the maximum possible compensation. Call us today at 800-752-0042 for a no-obligation, free consultation.