When you are shopping, eating at a restaurant, or visiting another’s property, you do not expect to get hurt. Property and business owners must maintain their premises to ensure your safety. Regrettably, not all landowners uphold the standard. When they fail to, and you are injured on their property, they can be liable under personal injury law. 

If you or someone close to you was injured or killed on another’s property, contact a Burlington premises liability lawyer to discuss your case. An experienced injury attorney could listen to your story and help you determine your options. If you have a viable claim, we can fight for your right to compensation.

Understanding Premises Liability Law 

When you sustain an injury on another’s property due to their carelessness or oversight, they may be liable to you for your damages. The idea behind the law is to create confidence that, in modern society, establishments must operate safe facilities for entrants, particularly ones invited to transact business.

If held liable, a defendant willmay need to compensate you for injury-related losses such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. An experienced attorney could help evaluate which damages you could recover depending on the circumstances of your case. 

The Duty of Care of Burlington Property Owners 

In a Burlington premises liability lawsuit, one critical question is what the legal relationship between the landowner and the visitor is. The answer helps define the duty of care owed by the landowner to the entrant. Vermont law recognizes three different legal statuses of property visitors.

In the recent decision of Demag v. Better Power Equipment, Inc., 2014 VT 78 (click on case name to view decision), the Vermont Supreme Court joined the growing majority of jurisdictions that have abolished the invitee-licensee distinction as failing to reflect current social values regarding premises liability.  The Court found that a visitor’s safety is no less worthy of protection by the law merely because he or she is a social guest and not a business invitee, and that “the arbitrariness, rigidity and complexity of the distinctions that have developed to separate licensees from invitees is one of the reasons” for abandoning the distinction.  In Demag, the court held that landowners now owe the same duty of care to licensees as to invitees and that the general standard of “reasonable care in all the circumstances” is a better reflection of society’s expectation of the duty of care owed by landowners to all lawful entrants.  The decision does not alter the duty of care owed to unlawful trespassers. 

Business Invitees

A business invitee enters or remains on another person’s property for a business purpose. A business owner owes a duty to the public to see that the premises or facilities usually used by invitees are reasonably safe. 

The owner is, therefore, answerable for injuries caused by hazardous conditions that they actually knew existed or apparent dangers. The landowner is also accountable for injuries caused by a condition that existed for long enough that they should have known about it and that it could pose an unreasonable danger to business invitees. 

Licensees 

A licensee arrives on or remains at someone else’s property for their own reasons with no benefit to the owner of the property. An example could be a person who stops at a gas station, without purchasing anything, to use the bathroom. 

A landowner is liable for the licensee’s injuries when caused by a hidden hazard that the landowner did not repair, remove, or warn the plaintiff about. Additionally, a landowner is responsible if they affirmatively do something to harm the licensee. 

Trespasser 

A trespasser is a person who comes on to another’s property without a legal reason to be there or without permission. If the trespasser’s presence was known or should reasonably have been expected, the owner has a duty to act with reasonable care towards the trespasser. The property owner may also be liable to a trespasser by an act done in the trespasser’s presence if the owner should have foreseen that it would endanger them. 

Finally, the owner must avoid wanton or willful misconduct that might cause the trespasser harm. This is intentional behavior that the property owner knows, or should have known, could likely injure someone.

Consult a Burlington Premises Liability Attorney

You deserve justice for the injuries you experienced because of another’s failure to maintain their property. Under premises liability law, you have the power to exercise your legal rights to hold the negligent property owner liable.

An attorney could help you navigate the legal process, starting by exploring your options for recovery. Contact a Burlington premises liability lawyer today to begin your case.