Anyone who owns, manages or maintains a property in Colorado has a legal responsibility to keep the premises reasonably free from hazards. If a property owner falls short of this duty of care and someone gets injured as a result, the owner or another party can be held responsible with a premises liability claim.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Premises Liability Accident?
Premises liability is a legal concept that determines legal responsibility for any damages arising out of an injury that occurs on someone else’s property. Most premises liability cases name the owner of the property where the accident occurred as the defendant (at-fault party). This is because property owners have a legal obligation to properly use and maintain their premises.
However, they are not the only party that could be held responsible for injuries that occur on an unsafe premises. Potential defendants include:
- A private property owner
- A business owner
- A landlord
- A property management company
- A tenant
- A contractor
- An event planner
- A vendor
- Anyone else responsible for the condition of the property
To bring a premises liability claim against someone, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was the owner or controller of the property at the time of the accident. This will give that party a duty of care to reasonably prevent injuries to lawful guests, tenants, customers and property visitors. A duty of care is required to be able to hold someone legally responsible for a premises liability accident. Working with an Aurora premises liability lawyer can help you determine which party holds legal responsibility for your specific claim.
Three Types of Property Visitors
For a valid premises liability claim, the victim must show that he or she was lawfully on private property or public property at the time of the accident. Trespassers are not owed any duties of care by property owners in Colorado, with an exception for trespassers under the age of 18. This means that a trespasser typically cannot sue for an injury caused by a property defect, even if the property owner was negligent.
However, if a trespasser is a child under the age of 18, he or she is owed the same duties of care as invitees. An invitee has the highest standards of care: a property owner must search the property for potential hazards, repair any discovered defects and warn invitees of potential injury risks. Invitees are people who are invited to the property for the owner’s purposes, such as customers at a business.
The third type of property visitor is a licensee. This is also someone who has permission to enter a property; however, licensees visit for their own purposes. Examples include social guests and door-to-door salespeople. Determining what type of property visitor the injured victim was at the time of the accident will be necessary to understand liability.
Elements of Proof in a Premises Liability Case
In addition to establishing a duty of care based on the type of visitor, a plaintiff must also provide evidence of other case elements. Property owners are not automatically liable for injuries suffered by visitors. Their liability must be proven by the plaintiff with evidence of the following:
- The defendant was negligent in using an ordinary level of care.
- The defendant’s negligence resulted in an unreasonable risk of harm on the premises.
- The defendant knew or reasonably should have known about the risk but failed to remedy it in a timely manner.
- The property defect caused the victim’s injury and compensable damages.
An individual may have grounds to file a premises liability claim in Colorado with proof of these elements. The burden of proof is “more likely to be true than not true,” otherwise known as a preponderance of the evidence. While this is a lesser burden of proof than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it can still be difficult to meet without assistance from a personal injury lawyer in Aurora.