Premises Liability In Regard to Crime Victims
- Author Aaron Crane
- Published August 3, 2016
- Word count 800
Most people associate premises liability claims with slip and fall injuries or other injury resulting from an accident on the premises of a property owner. But premises liability can also be based upon intentional actions that caused a person or multiple individual injuries on the property.
When a crime occurs, property owners can be held responsible for actions that enabled the crime to occur or for injuries that were sustained. Crime victims are often able to gain compensation for their injuries when a criminal commits acts against them causing injury on another person’s property, as long as the plaintiff is able to show the elements of the case substantiating the owner’s responsibility. Damages may include compensation for medical costs, lost wages, emotional distress or pain and suffering.
--- Plaintiff Status in Premises Liability Cases ---
In most states, status of the plaintiff determines the type of care that the property owner must exhibit when guests are on their premises. There are three categories of guests, each providing a different degree of care. Those three are trespasser, licensee and invitee.
The trespasser is a person who enters the property without the right to be there, also without the property owner’s consent. The nature of the trespasser’s presence establishes the lowest duty of care owed by the property owner to the person. Some court cases have established that trespassers injured during a third-party crime cannot hold the property owner responsible because the trespasser is not legally present on the property, in the first place.
Land and property owners only owe trespassers safety from intentional harm. There can be no purposeful traps or other devices to hurt these illegal guests. But if a trespasser is known to be present and the property owner does not act to resolve the continued trespassing, the individual’s status may become that of a licensee, the next level of guest.
A licensee is a person with legal right for presence on a property. Licensees often have the owner’s consent for their presence. The guest may be a social visitor or, in some jurisdictions, categorized as either an invited licensee or uninvited licensee. There is usually a purpose for the individual being on the premises, with the property owner obligated to warn them against known dangers that can cause injury. Licensees are not allowed by some jurisdictions to submit third party claims if they are injured due to the criminal acts of someone not under the control of the property owner.
Invitees are those who are invited by the property owner to be present on the property. Invitees may be customers of a store on the property. There are often subcategories of invitees, such as business invitees who have a legitimate commercial purpose for being on the property. Or the person may be a public invitee, someone who is on the property in pursuit of services or reasons offered by the property owner to the public. Because the owner benefits from these individuals’ presence on their property, owners are obligated by the highest duty of care for invitees.
--- Foreseeability of Injury ---
Beyond the status of the injured person, it is important for a personal injury case related to premises liability to establish foreseeability of the injury. A crime’s foreseeable nature involves assessment of case facts, often with the plaintiff arguing that the crime was foreseeable due to location of the business in an area of high crime or because the property has a history of prior similar events.
Jurisdictions may use a liberal assessment in premises liability cases for determination of foreseeability. Other jurisdictions necessitate establishment of parallels between the case-involved crime and other crimes’ time, place and manner of occurrence on the property or nearby. It is usually required that the plaintiff shows how the committed crime of their case was similar to past criminal events committed under similar circumstances on the location of the injury.
--- Crime Victim Damages in Premises Liability Cases ---
If the victim of a crime is successful in showing how the property owner failed in duty of care and is liable for suffered injuries, damages for medical expenses, lost compensation, emotional distress and pain and suffering can be sought. Premises liability cases necessitate the experience and guidance of a personal injury lawyer with specific knowledge of the jurisdiction’s particular rules and procedures.
If you or someone you love suffered injury during a crime on someone else’s property, you should immediately consult with a personal injury lawyer who knows Arizona premises liability law. Statutes of limitations do apply in these cases, as they do for other personal injury matters. To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation regarding your case, call Cantor Crane now at 602-254-2701.
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