Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. This is a legal theory in which one person has a duty of care to another to avoid injuring that person. When they breach this duty, and someone else is injured as a result, the injured can hold them liable for their damages. For instance, a driver has a duty to other drivers on the road to exercise reasonable care so as to avoid injuring someone in an accident. A person who negligently injures another in an accident can be held liable for the injured person’s damages. There are other forms of duty that can apply in different ways.
Premises liability is the legal theory that can hold property owners responsible when a visitor is injured on their property. Under North Carolina law, property owners have a duty to their lawful guests to keep their premises reasonably safe, and to warn about any possible safety hazards. So, for example, a store owner should warn customers about a slippery spill and clean it up as soon as possible.
Property owners have a lesser duty to trespassers. Generally, a property owner need merely refrain from purposely harming a trespasser. For example, an owner may not want teenagers to run across his lawn at night, but he may not try to stop them by concealing bear traps in his grass.
However, there are some circumstances in which a property owner has somewhat more duty toward trespassers. Under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, courts recognize that owners have some duty toward trespassing children who may be attracted to an inherently risky property such as a swimming pool.
Courts don’t expect children to understand the risks involved, and so when the owner knows that children are likely to be present, the owner must take reasonable precautions. For example, swimming pools should be protected by fences so as to keep children out.
Premises liability allows the injured to recover compensation for their damages after they have been injured due to a landowner’s negligence. Cases involving premises liability and the attractive nuisance doctrine are highly fat-sensitive and legally complicated, but an experienced attorney can help the injured to understand their options.