Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

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Understanding Premises Liability Law

Posted Saturday, May 6, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Washington law holds property owners responsible for maintaining their premises and warning potential visitors of any hidden hazards. But what does that mean? The general rule is that if you are injured while visiting someone’s home or a business establishment, the owner might be liable for your medical expenses, lost wages and other related expenses.

That’s not the end of the story, however. Whether the owner can be held responsible (and what he has to do to keep you safe) depends on whether he owed you a duty of care. This standard is based on the visitor’s legal status. There are four different “visitor” categories: invitee, social guest, licensee or trespasser.

Who Is an Invitee?

If you are an invitee, that means you were invited onto someone’s property. Generally this means you were invited (explicitly or implicitly) for business purposes or public purposes (for example, the public is generally invited to visit public parks).

Property owners have a duty to exercise ordinary care in maintaining safe conditions where invitees are invited to go or reasonably expected to be. Business owners are also responsible for protecting invitees from certain types of criminal conduct.

Who Is a Licensee?

If you enter someone’s property with the owner’s permission for your own business purposes, then you are a licensee. For example, if you are a door-to-door salesman and you knock on someone’s front door, it’s not because you were invited but because that person “allowed” you to approach.

The property owner is only responsible for exercising reasonable care to fix unsafe conditions that he is or should be aware of, or to at least post a warning. For example, if a step on the owner’s front porch is rotting then he might be held responsible if he doesn’t fix it or warn potential visitors of the unsafe condition.

The caveat is that the licensee can’t know or have reason to know of the unsafe condition. In the case of the salesman, if he had been to that house before and knew the step was rotting, it’s difficult to claim that he wasn’t forewarned of the danger. He might not have a viable claim against the property owner.

Who Is a Social Guest?

A social guest is a subset of the “licensee” category. You are a social guest if you come onto the owner’s property for non-business purposes. So if it’s your friend with the rotting porch step, he owes you the same duty of care that he owed to the door-to-door salesman.

Who Is a Trespasser?

If you go onto someone’s property without permission, that means you are trespassing and you are doing so at your own risk. Property owners don’t owe you any particular duty of care other than not deliberately injuring you.

Contact Us Today

If you are injured at someone’s home or business, you might have a premises liability claim. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation. We will determine whether you have a viable claim and help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.