How Can I Reduce My Liability as a Property Owner?

According to federal and state premises liability laws, property owners have a duty to uphold a certain standard of care to every person who enters their properties. Standards of care include maintaining a safe premises, warning visitors of potential hazards on the property, and conducting regular safety checks. If you’re negligent with your duties as a property owner and a guest on your property sustains an injury because of it, you could face a lawsuit.

Understand Premises Liability Laws

To reduce your liability as a property owner, you must understand the premises liability laws in your state. Missouri law may not hold you responsible for an injury if you weren’t in control or possession of the property at the time. If you’re in possession of the property, the law requires you to use reasonable care to identify and repair any dangers on your premises. If you can’t repair these hazards, you must warn guests of them.

If a dangerous condition exists on your property and you know about it, you’re legally obligated to make a repair or post an adequate warning. A “dangerous condition” can mean slippery floors, an obstacle in the way, uneven curbs, or poorly maintained staircases – any condition that makes it unsafe for visitors. If you don’t take proper care to maintain safe premises, an injured guest or visitor can file a claim against you.

Improve Your Premises

The number one way to ensure you aren’t involved in a premises liability lawsuit is to maintain a safe property for guests. Pay special attention to potentially hazardous areas, such as swimming pools, stairwells, and walkways. For example, if your pool is too shallow for safe diving, put up a “No Diving” sign to warn visitors. Install fences with childproof locks around your swimming pool and keep pool chemicals safely out of reach. Check for unstable stairwell railings or clutter on your stairs that could pose a trip and fall hazard.

Conduct regular inspections to detect hazards, especially right before you host a party or gathering. Purchase a wet floor sign to put up if you have a spill you can’t clean up right away. Install railings on staircases to ensure guests can safely navigate your property. Deter trespassers from entering by putting up fences and gates with locks.

Your duty of care to others depends on what type of person is on your property. There are four classifications:

  • People you invite to your property for business purposes. This includes customers and job applicants.
  • People you invite to your property for social purposes. Licensees include your family members, friends, and neighbors.
  • People who enter your property without your consent. This includes strangers and thieves.
  • Trespassing children. The law makes exceptions for trespassing minors, including neighborhood children.

You owe the highest standard of care to invitees. You must repair and fix hazards and inspect for other risks regularly. You must still ensure your property is safe and free of hazards for licensees, but you don’t have to do routine inspections. You have no obligation to provide for the safety of trespassers, but you can’t purposefully harm them. You must provide for the safety of trespassing children.

Hire a Skilled Premises Liability Lawyer

The best way to safeguard yourself against a potential lawsuit is to hire a local Kansas City premises liability lawyer. Dickerson Oxton, LLC has experience with premises liability cases in Kansas and Missouri and can come to your defense if someone makes a claim against you. We can build a solid defense based on photographs of your property, an analysis of state laws, and custom solutions. Contact our firm today to speak with an experienced Kansas City personal injury lawyer about your case in detail.