Prevailing in a Personal Injury Premises Liability Lawsuit

By: Stephanie Duran

Prevailing in a Personal Injury Premises Liability Lawsuit

Premises liability cases occur whenever someone is injured on another’s property. In Virginia, plaintiffs must prove certain elements in order to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit:

  1. The landowner owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
  2. The landowner’s duty of care was breached by some action or inaction that resulted in injury to the plaintiff;
  3. The injured was not responsible for the injury due to his own actions or carelessness.


The duty of care owed to the plaintiff or guest varies based on the classification of the plaintiff as either an invitee, licensee or trespasser. An invitee is someone who is either explicitly or implicitly invited onto the property of another, such as retailer shoppers. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care, which includes the landowner taking every necessary precaution to insure their safety by using reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition and to warn the invitee of any hidden dangers. Landowners are responsible for removing any known dangers or hazards on their property. Landowners are also responsible for exercising ordinary care in discovering any hazards that may exist on their property.

A licensee enters the property for his own purpose, but with the permission and knowledge of the landowner, such as a social guest. A landowner is responsible for alerting a licensee of any known hazards, but is not necessarily responsible for immediately removing the hazard.  A landowner may be found liable for injury to a licensee where the landowner had knowledge of a hazardous condition, the landowner failed to use reasonable care to make the condition safe or warn the licensee of the condition, and the licensee had no reason to suspect a hazard existed.

Trespassers enter a landowner’s property without any right and without the knowledge and consent of the landowner. Landowners generally owe no duty of care to trespassers and are therefore not responsible for taking reasonable care of their property or warning trespassers of concealed hazards. However, trespassers who incur injury may still prevail against the landowner if the trespasser can prove that the landowner knew it was probable that trespassers would enter the property. This is especially true when the trespasser is a child and the landowner’s property contains something appealing such as a pool, pond or playground, which may not ultimately be the source of the injury, but would cause the landowner to reasonably suspect that trespassers would enter the property.

If you have been injured on another’s property, contact our office for a consultation.

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