Understanding North Carolina Premise Liability Laws

You are at a friend’s beach house in the Outer Banks enjoying a BBQ. You begin to rest your arm on their second-floor deck. Suddenly, the arm rail collapses and you fall to the ground suffering extensive physical injuries. Who do you take legal action against to obtain the necessary compensation for your harms and losses? In North Carolina, property owners are required to keep their property "reasonably safe." If a property owner breaches this duty of care, they may be liable for any resulting injuries suffered by guests.

In Nelson v. Freeland, the Supreme Court of North Carolina eliminated an arbitrary distinction between licensees and invitees. Today, all property owners are required to comply with a standard of reasonable care toward all lawful visitors. This includes a landowner’s duty to warn a lawful visitor of a dangerous condition. An exception would be if the condition was "open and obvious" to the point where a reasonable person using their eyes in an ordinary manner would have recgonized the danger.


If you are not trespassing and are legally on the premises, a property owner has a duty to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances, and maintain a safe premise. Although this level of care is not required if you are a trespasser, a landowner still cannot willfully or wantonly inflict harm on an unlawful intruder. 

Unknown Dangers Present a Defense for Property Owners

The landowner is not required to inspect his land for unknown dangers. However, if the landowner knows of the danger he must notify the licensee. With respect to trespassers, a landowner need only refrain from the willful or wanton infliction of injury. Willful injury constitutes actual knowledge of the danger combined with a design, purpose, or intent to do wrong and inflict injury. Similarly, a wanton act is performed intentionally with a reckless indifference to the injuries likely to result.

Homeowner's Insurance Coverage

If you are injured at a friend or neighbor's home, you should not feel guilty about taking legal action to seek financial restitution for your injuries. Homeowners in North Carolina are required to carry insurance coverage that is designed to help compensate injured individuals in these types of situations. Nevertheless, obtaining the necessary information to file a claim can get complicated and would require you to contact and negotiate with a claims adjuster. You can avoid this hassle and stress by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer in the Outer Banks. Once you hire a lawyer, they can deal with the insurance company while you focus on getting back to 100 percent and rehabilitating from your injuries. Contact our office today to schedule free, confidential consultation.