What happens if I'm injured while I'm a guest in Maryland?
A social visit can quickly take a turn for the worst when a guests suffers injury or harm. When you are injured on another person's property, the legal doctrine of premises liability will govern your ability to receive compensation for your injuries. This branch of the law holds the owner of the property liable for injuries to guests and visitors to their property for any injuries they may suffer due to a lack of care or maintenance on their property. The level of liability of a homeowner or property owner depends on the status of the person who was injured. Maryland property law classifies plaintiffs into three categories: invitee, licensee, and trespasser. Maryland also has something called a bare licensee.
- Invitee: An invitee can be considered someone that is invited to the property for the purpose of the property owner's business. They can be thought of as customers at a store. The property owners must keep the property maintained and free of hazards for their invitees, in addition to regularly ensuring that the premises remain hazard free. If there is any hazard present for any reason, it must be clearly marked so that invitees can avoid it.
- Licensee: A licensee can be considered someone that is invited onto the property for purposes other than business. They can be thought of friends or guests at a party or get-together. The property owner must still ideally keep the property maintained and free of potentially dangerous conditions, as well was make clear any potential hazards to the licensee.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is exactly what it sounds like. Trespassers enter the property without permission, and as such, the property owner is not required to extend any protection to them form any potential hazards. The property owner is only responsible for not intentionally causing harm.
- Bare Licensee: A bare licensee is someone who enters the property with permission, but for their own business purposes. Property owners are not required to take an extremely great amount of care whenever they have a bare licensee on the property, however they must take care to not create any new hazards without warning.
If you are injured as a guest on another person's property in Maryland, the manner in which you were visiting the property will be an important issue. Obviously injuries to an invitee will be held to a higher standard than to those of a trespasser. If you are a customer at a place of business and suffer an injury on the premises you will have a much greater chance of building a successful case, than if you were injured while trespassing on someone's property.
Attractive Nuisance Law in Maryland
If someone trespasses on property with an "attractive nuisance" the owner may still be held liable for the injuries that are a result of the attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance can best be considered something that would attract a child onto your property that they may not be able to perceive as dangerous. One of the most common forms of an attractive nuisance is a swimming pool. Property owners with an attractive nuisance on their premises must safeguard it from any unauthorized or unwarranted entry. Failing to do so may result in liability for drowning accidents in Maryland that occur on the property, even if the victim enters without permission of the owner.
Negligence Law in Maryland
If the owner of the property was negligent in some way, you may be able to start building a case. Some forms of negligence from a property owner are:
- Failure to Remove a Hazard: If a customer at a store slips and falls on a spill, this may be considered negligent on the part of the store. It is not unreasonable to expect a safe environment when visiting a store.
- Failure to Warn a Visitor About a Hazard: If you visit another person's property it can be expected that you are warned of any danger on the property, such as an aggressive dog.
- Failure to Maintain the Property: If you enter a property that is unmaintained, the lack of maintenance itself presents a hazard. Homes that fall into disrepair can present hazards to any visitors. This such as decaying wood, or cancerous construction materials can be examples of maintenance failure.
Premesis Liability Law
Injuries can occur anywhere. Many people may be surprised to learn that where an injury happened can have a significant impact on whether you may be able to bring a civil claim to recover damages. If you sustained an injury while on someone else's property, you may be able to receive compensation to pay for expenses incurred, such as medical bills. Imagine that your child is visiting a schoolmate's home. The parents of your child's friend are in the process of completing work to their septic system and have a narrow, deep hole in their yard. During a game of catch, your child falls into this hole and sustains an injury. The owners of this property knew that there was a potentially dangerous condition on the property, but did not steps to notify visitors of the existence of this condition. Now you are faced with a series of medical bills. Legal theories are in place to remediate situations such as this.
However, filing a lawsuit is never a simple thing to do. If you have sustained an injury while on the property of another, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in order to determine how the law in your jurisdiction could affect your claim. Cases that involve injuries which occur in a place other than the injured party's own property involve the theory of premises liability.
Premises liability is the field of law that deals with whether someone could be held responsible for things that happen to you, when you are on their property. While premises liability is not always a factor in every case, as soon as you get hurt on someone else's land, it likely will become an issue. Premises liability can be an incredibly complex area of law, but the following is a basic overview:
There are numerous elements in each and every premises liability case. Who actually owned the property? Did the owner create or allow an unsafe situation on the property? In making or leaving this unsafe condition, should the owner have had you on his or her mind, or had a duty to protect you? Did that unsafe condition end up causing your injury? Were you hurt? How badly?
All of these things come up in a premises liability issue in a case.
Ownership or Possession of Property
The first, more basic thing that you need to prove, in order to get compensated for any injuries that you received while on someone else's property, is that the person you are suing actually owns, leases, or possesses the property.
This can be easy: If you stumble in a hole in someone's yard and hurt your foot, you sue the person who lives there, if they own the home, or, if it is a rental property, you sue either the landlord or the tenant.
However, it can also be incredibly difficult. If you are at a gas station and trip and fall on an underground gas tank nozzle that was not sealed after the tank was filled, you could sue the person behind the counter. But what if that is just the store manager? You could sue the gas company whose name is on the sign, but what if this station is a franchise? In a circumstance such as this, determining ownership can be a complicated endeavor.
Suing the wrong person can be catastrophic to a personal injury lawsuit based on premises liability. Not only will your case against that person get dismissed, but in the time spent in court against the wrong person, the statute of limitations might have run out to sue the right one.
Duty to Protect You
Even if you have filed a lawsuit against the right person, and that person did create or allow an unsafe situation on their property, the fight is not over. You still have to show that the property owner had a legal duty to protect you. This means that the property owner should have had someone like you on their mind, when they made the unsafe condition, or when they decided that it was okay to have you on their property.
This has a lot to do with what you were doing on the property. Different kinds of visitors are afforded different kinds of legal protection in premises liability law. This becomes even more complex when you consider that different states even have different labels for the kinds of visitors that you could be. This often makes it difficult to determine what kind of duty the property owner had towards you, without knowing the exact facts of your case.
Generally, though, states recognize three types of visitors: Trespassers, licensees, and invitees.
Of the three, trespassers are granted the fewest rights, and the landowner owes them the least responsibility to care for their wellbeing while they are on his or her property. A trespasser is someone who is on the owner's property without a lawful reason, or the owner's authorization, to be there. Typically, a landowner has very little responsibility towards trespassers: The only thing that a landowner cannot do is to willfully and unjustifiably injure a trespasser on his or her property.
Of course, there are situations that can make even this get complex. For example, if the trespasser is a child, then a landowner has more of a responsibility to make sure that they do not get hurt while they are on his or her land. If that is the case, then the landowner has a responsibility to make reasonably sure that the child does not get hurt on what are called “attractive nuisances,” or man-made changes to the property that tend to attract children, like swimming pools.
If you are a licensee, then you are owed more protection from landowners than you would get if you were a trespasser. You are a licensee if the landowner, or the person in charge of the property, has given you either express or implied consent to come onto the property. Social guests are good examples of licensees, and also show that you can turn from a licensee into a trespasser, if the landowner tells you to leave the property, and you refuse. Landowners have the responsibility to fix or warn licensees of any concealed dangers in the property that the owner knew about, and which the licensee is unaware of. For example, if you are visiting someone and they invite you inside the house for a tour, you are a licensee. The person you are visiting has to warn you of something like a loose step on the staircase, if they knew about it beforehand, and it is not obvious that the step is loose.
Lastly, there are invitees. Invitees are the type of visitor that gets more protection, under premises liability law. You are an invitee if you go onto someone else's property for their own financial benefit, or if you go onto property that is open to the public. If you are an invitee, then the landowner has to take reasonable care in maintaining the premises, and has the responsibility to make the property reasonably safe for you.
Failure to Uphold That Duty
Once it is shown what kind of visitor you are, and what responsibilities that a landowner has towards you, the next step is showing that what the landowner did, or what they failed to do, was a breach of that responsibility, and that this caused your injury. This is where the individual facts of each and every case makes a huge difference. Everything that was said or done could play a huge part in whether the landowner was aware of the dangerous situation on their property, and whether they took reasonable and adequate means to prevent you from getting hurt. Some of the many potentially important facts are:
- Where the dangerous condition was, on the landowner's property,
- How obviously dangerous that condition was,
- How many other people normally go through that area of property,
- Whether the landowner was expecting you,
- How long the dangerous condition had been there
Were You Injured on Someone Else's Property?
It is crucial to have an experienced attorney on your side during a case that has a premises liability issue. Experienced personal injury lawyers are not only better able to see which facts are important in determining whether a landowner did not uphold their duty to keep you safe, but they also understand the nuances of the law, as it changes from state to state. The team at Gilman & Bedigian has decades of experience in the area of personal injury law. Our team is well-versed in the often complex issues that can arise in a case involving premises liability. If you have suffered an injury on the property of another, please give our team a call. We are always willing to take the time to discuss what happened, with no obligation on your part.
What Can I Do If I Am Injured On Someone's Property in Maryland
The best thing you can do is get in touch with a Maryland Personal Injury Attorney right away. Providing a detailed account of what happened to an attorney will help them start building your case. A skilled attorney will know what to do to get you the compensation you deserve. Don't let someone else's negligence cause you undue loss. Contact us today and let us work for you.