Alabama Accidents and Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?

Premises liability lawsuits can be brought against the party who is responsible for maintaining the property. For example, the landlord in an apartment building is usually responsible for maintaining the common areas of the building as safe areas, but a tenant who creates a hazard, such as placing heavy pots on a balcony railing or hanging a chair from the ceiling, may be liable for injuries caused by those actions. A Safeway store that leases the building space where the store is located is still responsible for cleaning up spills in the aisles to prevent slip-and fall accidents and stacking products so they won’t fall on the customers.

In Alabama, the duty that the landowner or controller of land owes to the person who comes on the premises depends on the status of the visitor. There are three categories and three different levels of care required.

Business Invitee

Invitees are people who come to a premise for the purpose of some kind of business. The most obvious examples are customers who come into stores, restaurants, or other businesses like salons or medical offices. It also includes people who go into banks or offices to do some kind of business, such as negotiating a contract or paying a bill. Licensees of commercial enterprises like health spas with exercise classes or amusement parks may be most at risk of injury. People who come to private homes may also be business licensees. For example, the meter reader, the housecleaner, and a repairperson, all fall into that category.

People who own or control property owe the greatest duty of care to business invitees. They are required to exercise due care and diligence to keep the property in a safe condition and to warn invitees of any danger the owner knows or should know about.

Licensees

The next category of visitors to a property is licensees. These are people who come as some sort of guest, that is, with the actual or implied permission and knowledge of the property owner. This includes guests in private homes and visitors who come to a business for a non-business purpose, such as someone who goes to visit a friend in an office.

The person responsible for maintaining the property must not intentionally injur an invitee and is required to repair or warn about any danger that the owner has discovered. This is a little less care than a person must show to invitees. With invitees, there is more of a duty to check and be aware of dangers. With licensees, the owner generally has to correct what is known.

Trespassers

The last category, and the one owed the least amount of care, is trespassers. Trespassers are people who are present on the property without the knowledge or permission of the owner or occupier. That could include someone up to no good or someone who just takes a shortcut across the corner of a lot.

The law distinguishes between adult and child trespassers. The basic duty of a landowner to a trespasser is not to intentionally injure, such as by setting a trap. But if the landowner knows that the trespassers are on the property—i.e. on a commonly used path—the owner has a duty to warn about a known danger.

Owners owe a greater duty of care to children who trespass if the danger has been created by the owner or tenant. For example, an owner of lakefront property isn’t responsible for protecting trespassing children from falling in the lake, but if a homeowner puts in a private pool and knows there are children who may come around the pool, the owner has the responsibility to protect the children from falling in the pool or from getting close to dangerous machinery.

Recreational Use

Alabama has a recreational use statute that protects owners from some forms of liability if they make their property available for public recreation.

If you were injured due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, contact an experienced Alabama premises liability lawyer or slip and fall attorney right away. A qualified premises liability lawyer can provide expert advice on your rights and the merits of your case, as well as how much time you have to file your premises liability lawsuit.

If you would like to have your case evaluated by an experienced Alabama premises liability attorney, fill out our case evaluation form at no cost or obligation.

Check out the following articles for more information about Alabama premises liability, filing an Alabama premises liability lawsuit and finding an Alabama premises liability attorney.