Under a legal theory known as premises liability, landowners and tenants in South Carolina can be held legally responsible for injuries that occur on their property. Premises liability applies to businesses as well as private landowners, and may involve a wide range of injuries, from slip-and-fall accidents to swimming pool drowning and even criminal acts committed by third parties.
The extent of a landowner’s legal duty to protect visitors from harm depends on the type of visitor involved. In South Carolina, visitors to property fall into one of three categories:
- Invitees (business guests, such as customers at a restaurant)
- Licensees (social visitors, such as partygoers or dinner guests)
- Trespassers (people who enter a property without permission)
Customers who visit business properties like malls, retail stores or restaurants are considered invitees and are owed a higher duty of care from landowners than other types of visitors. Businesses have a legal obligation to keep their premises safe for visitors and must actively seek out potential dangers in order to protect visitors from hidden risks. A landowner can be liable for a licensee’s injuries caused by a hazard that the landowner either knew about or could have discovered through reasonable inspection of the property.
Social guests, or licensees, receive a lower duty of care than invitees. A social host is not required to inspect the property or ensure that it is safe, but must warn visitors about any known hidden dangers on the property. For instance, a social host who knows that a step is loose on the stairway can be liable if he or she fails to warn a guest who then becomes injured by tripping on the loose board.
Unlike social guests and business customers, a landowner generally has no legal obligation to protect the safety of adult trespassers. However, a landowner can be held liable for injuries suffered by child trespassers in certain situations. For instance, a homeowner with an outdoor pool may be liable if a child trespasses on the property and becomes injured in the pool, unless the landowner has taken reasonable steps to prevent such accidents from occurring.
For more information about seeking compensation for injuries suffered on property owned by another, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.