How to Protect Against Premises Liability Lawsuits
The holidays are right around the corner, and many people plan to host guests in their homes as part of their celebrations. Any time you invite someone into your home, you open yourself up to risks. Invited guests can and do get injured while on your property. Guess who is liable when someone gets hurt? The property owner. Even if the injured person is a relative or old friend, it does not offer a guarantee that they will not sue you to recover damages. Some of the nastiest legal battles can involve friends and families.
The answer is not to stop having guests in your home. There are steps property owners can take to safeguard themselves against premises liability lawsuits during the holidays and any other time of the year.
What is premises liability?
Premise liability falls under personal injury, or tort, law in New Mexico. What, exactly, does this mean? Simply put, when an injury is caused by a defective or unsafe condition on someone’s property, it falls under premises liability. Like other personal injury cases, premises liability is based on negligence. When a property owner fails to maintain their buildings and grounds, they open themselves up to lawsuits if that inattention leads to someone else’s serious injury. For premises liability claims to be successful, victims must prove the property owner knew or should have known their premises were unsafe and failed to take corrective measures.
Common causes of injuries in the home
The possibilities are numerous when it comes to the kinds of injuries guests can have in your home. As with anywhere else, slips and falls remain the number one reason people get hurt on someone else’s property. Whether from uneven sidewalks or wet staircases, trips and falls can cause broken bones, head injuries, and sprains.
Here are some other ways guests can get hurt on your property while visiting during the holidays:
- Burns that happen because of a preventable accident on your property can lead to premises liability claims from guests. For instance, if you have a working wood fireplace but do not properly secure it and a spark burns your guests, that can be considered avoidable.
- Dog bites or attacks from unsecured pets on your property can lead to premises liability claims from guests. Owners have an obligation to protect visitors from their pets by keeping their animals separated from them or adequately restrained. If you own a dog that is known to be aggressive and it bites a guest because you did not have it properly restrained, you can be responsible for medical bills and other damages if the person files a claim against you.
- Obstructions can cause head and other injuries, whether they are on the exterior or interior of your property. For instance, an overhang near an entrance or exit can pose a hazard to guests if they walk into it head-first. Loose carpeting on the flooring of areas where your guests will be spending time can lead to trips and falls.
How to reduce your risk of being sued
When it comes to safeguarding against premises liability lawsuits, one of the most important preventative steps you can take is to perform proper maintenance on your property. Fix crumbling sidewalks and stairways. Make sure you have handrails on all interior and exterior staircases. Provide adequate lighting to prevent slips, trips, and falls inside and outside your home. Be sure to keep areas clean and dry and free of debris.
No matter how many precautions property owners take, they cannot completely prevent the possibility of a premises liability lawsuit from their guests. Accidents happen even under the best circumstances. Carrying adequate homeowners’ insurance is another way to protect against injury claims and lawsuits from guests. While having insurance does not prevent you from being sued, it can keep you from becoming financially ruined if the worst-case scenario occurs. Consider taking out an umbrella policy in addition to regular liability insurance for added protection.
What to do if you are injured on someone’s property
If you are hurt on someone’s property because of their negligence, reach out to a personal injury attorney with experience in premises liability law in New Mexico. You may be able to file a claim to recover fair compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, and other damages suffered. Give us a call at 505-944-1050 or contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation.