You Can Be Held Liable If A Guest Becomes Injured On Your Property
It is board game night, and everyone is having a lot of fun at your house. When a guest gets up to leave, they trip and fall on that loose floorboard you have been meaning to nail down for the last two years. It turns out that, as a result of the fall, your friend has suffered a personal injury. Now, they want you to cover their medical bills.
This is not that uncommon of a situation. And yes, you may be on the hook for your friend’s medical bills. It is called “premises liability.” Premises liability can arise when a guest suffers a personal injury on an individual’s premises. Read on to learn what the law is in Illinois.
About the Illinois Premises Liability Act
Under the law in Illinois, property owners and operators have a duty to guests to make sure those guests are safe from any foreseeable injuries. This does not just apply to those you explicitly invite to your property. For instance, if you shop at a store, the store has a duty to ensure that the store is safe. The thought is that any guests or visitors should be able to enjoy the time on the property without wondering if there are any hazards that could harm them.
What is a Duty of Care?
A duty of care is a duty that you have towards another person in certain situations. If a guest is on your property, you have a duty to ensure that the home is reasonably safe. More specifically, if you know of a defect in the home on which a person could get injured, and they actually get hurt, you can be held liable.
These are the duties you have:
- You must keep your property in a reasonably safe condition.
- You must reasonably discover unsafe conditions.
- You must fix any dangerous parts of your property that might harm your guests.
- You must warn guests about any dangerous property conditions that have not yet or cannot be repaired.
How Can I Avoid Liability?
Be Careful Who You Invite on Your Property
You do not need to invite everyone who wants to go onto your property onto your property. For instance, if the neighbor children want to use your pool when you are not home, you do not need to let them. If they have an accident in your pool while you are away, you might be liable.
Scout Out Property Dangers
Pretend you are a guest in your own home. We tend to get used to the quirks of our own properties. While you might know that the third step up the stairs is not quite steady, a guest might not know that. Identify all of the things that a guest could slip or trip or otherwise become injured on.
Fix Any Problems
Hire a handyman or get out your own tool belt. Take a weekend and fix all of those nagging issues. A small amount of money and time could save you quite a bit of money and time down the road if someone becomes injured on your property.
Provide Warnings for Dangers on the Property
Some dangers cannot be avoided. Unique architectural features of the home, such as steep stairs, could cause someone to fall. Do what you can to mark those dangers by providing a warning.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Other than investigating your property for defects and correcting any damage, there is something that you can do to protect yourself: get liability insurance. Liability insurance is generally a component of homeowners insurance policies. Here are the things that liability insurance typically covers:
- Pain and suffering. If a severe injury happens to a guest while on your property that causes chronic pain or emotional distress, liability coverage will help pay for the cost of a settlement.
- Lost wages. Someone who is injured may need to take time off of work to deal with their injuries. This will cause them to lose their income during this time. Liability insurance will cover those wages for the property owner.
- Medical payments. If your guest has injuries that require medical attention, the liability insurance will pay for those medical bills.
- Death benefits. The liability coverage will give death benefits to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
Are There Exclusions to Liability Insurance?
There are exclusions. One big exclusion is intentional injuries. For instance, if a guest comes to your property and you physically assault them, and that causes medical injuries, liability insurance will not cover those medical expenses.
When is a Homeowner Not Liable?
There are some instances where a homeowner will not be liable.
- You Could Not Reasonably Discover the Defect
Suppose a guest is sitting in your living room when, all of a sudden, the ceiling caves in and injures the guest. If this was due to water damage that was not evident, then you could not have known that there was a risk that the ceiling would cave in.
- You Do Not Control the Property
You are only liable for the property that you have control over. If you own the property, you typically have control over the property. However, there are instances where this is not true. Suppose there is a store renting out a building and a customer suffers an injury in the building. The person who owns the building may not necessarily be liable if, for instance, a store fails to mop up water in an aisle.
- A Reasonable Person Would Have Avoided the Hazard
You are not on the hook for every choice a guest decides to make. If a guest becomes inebriated and walks through a window, causing bodily damage, you are likely not responsible. They should have realized that the window was there.
Avoiding Premises Liability
Thinking like a guest in your home and routinely reviewing and repairing hazards can help avoid problems in the future. While you cannot anticipate every hazard and hazardous situation, being proactive can save you time and money down the road. If you have questions or concerns related to premises liability, contact our office today.