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Understanding 'legal status of visitor' in premises liability

Whenever someone enters a property, they have a reasonable expectation not to be harmed. Property owners have most likely heard of premises liability, but even though that explanation seems fairly simple, the ins and outs of the legal area can sometimes be difficult to understand. While the area is too complex to tackle all in one post, a crucial element of premises liability is the legal status of the visitor.

There are three possible designations for a visitor in premises law. The first is invitee. An invitee is an individual who, as the name suggests, is invited onto a property. A customer of a store is a good example of an invitee. As the person was "invited" onto the premises, they can have a reasonable expectation not to be harmed as the owner has most likely taken precaution to prevent accidents.

The second designation in premises liability is "licensee." A licensee is on a property for a specific reason, such as a social gathering, and whose presence is consented by the owner of the property. These social guests are welcome visitors.

The third designation is "trespasser." A trespasser, as its name would suggest, enters a property without any consent to do so. For both trespassers and licensees, there is no implied understanding that the owner of the property has maintained it in a fashion that excludes the possibility of accident or injury.

After a person is labeled on of the above, several other factors come into play during the process of determining liability. We will examine those at a later date, but knowing the top-level basics of premises liability can help those involved in such cases handle them with greater care. Seeking the assistance of an experienced attorney can also prove helpful in some situations.

Source: Findlaw, "Premises Liability: Who Is Responsible," Accessed Feb. 13, 2015

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