Property owners owe a duty of care to anyone who steps foot on their property. However, the level of care required of a property owner depends entirely on the relationship between the visitor and the property owner. In many cases, a property owner may be liable for injuries that occur on their property. The victim may be able to recover medical costs, lost wages, and damages for pain and suffering, depending on the injury.
Premises Liability in Colorado
Premises liability is a legal concept that goes back centuries as a matter of common law. However, it was only in the past few decades that Colorado put those concepts into statute. Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) § 13-21-115 provides for legal actions against landowners. Liability is based on the legal status of the individual on the property of the landowner, classified as a trespasser, licensee, or invitee.
An invitee is a person who enters or remains on the landowner's property for business in which the parties are mutually interested, or in response to the landowner's express or implied representation that the public is requested to enter. Most often, invitees include customers entering a store or business. Even if your local grocery store never sent you an invitation to enter, you may be considered an invitee for the purposes of premises liability.
An invitee can “recover damages for damages caused by the landowner's unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he actually knew or should have known.”
Business owners understand that other business interests or customers may come to visit their property. Because of this representation that the public is requested to enter, business owners need to make sure their property is safe. Because a customer or visitor generally has no idea how safe the property might be, it is the owner's responsibility to provide a safe environment for invitees.
If a dentist's office had torn carpeting in their lobby, that could create a tripping hazard for patients visiting the dentist. If a patient tripped on the torn carpet and fell, injuring themselves, the business may be liable for damages. This could also include a spill in the grocery store. Even if the property owner was not made specifically aware of the spill, their duty of care may require them to check the areas open to the public periodically to make sure there are no dangers.
A licensee is a person who enters or remains on the landowner's property for their own convenience or their own interests. A licensee may also be known as a social guest. A licensee is different than an invitee because it is not an open invitation to the public for business. This may include family friends or party guests.
Property owners may be liable for injuries to social guests caused by the landowner's unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to known dangers, or by the failure to warn guests of known dangers.
If a guest went to a party at a friend's house, they may be considered a licensee. If the property owner knew of a loose step on the entry to the house and failed to fix it or failed to warn guests of the loose step, they may be liable for injuries caused by the loose step. However, if another party guest spilled a drink in the kitchen and another guest slipped on the spill, the property owner may not be considered liable if they were unaware of the danger.
A trespasser is “a person who enters or remains on the land of another without the landowner's consent.” While most people think they do not owe any duty of care to a person who trespasses without consent, a trespasser is limited to recovery only for damages “willfully or deliberately caused by the landowner.”
A trespasser may not be able to sue a landowner for an injury due to a loose rail on their stairway. However, if the landowner installed a trap like a tripwire, or covered a hidden hole to injure a trespasser, the landowner may be liable for injuries caused by the landowner's deliberate actions.
What should you do if you are injured on another person's property?
After an injury, you should immediately seek medical treatment. Accidents including tripping, slipping and falling, falling off an object, cutting yourself on an object, or other common injuries can be more serious than they first appear. A cut may not seem serious at first; however, these types of wounds can become infected, requiring hospitalization. Head, neck, and back injuries may seem minor but hours or days later, the severe extent of the injury may become apparent.
Gather information after an injury, including contact information of the property owner, or if it is a business, the store manager or owner. You should also consider getting the contact information of any witnesses present. You can also take photos or video footage on your phone of the accident scene.
After the injury, you may be left with medical bills and be unable to work. In some cases, the injuries could be long-term or permanent, leaving you without the ability to return to work. Other injuries leave the victim scarred or dealing with constant pain. If the property owner is liable for your accident, they should compensate you for your damages.
You may only have a limited time to file a claim. If the statute of limitations expires, you may be left without a chance to recover damages for your injuries. Most premises liability cases have a statute of limitations of 2 years. However, claims against the city, county, state, or federal government are much shorter. Talk to an experienced premises liability attorney about your case and make sure you file a claim in time.
Colorado Premises Liability Attorney
If you have been injured in a car accident, have a business dispute, or any other type of civil lawsuit claim, the Olson Law Firm will fight to get you the compensation you are owed. We will provide you with the personal attention you expect and deserve, and always keep the lines of communication open. It is our dedication and commitment that makes the Olson Law Firm one of Colorado and Wyoming's preeminent law firms. Contact our office today.