Have you ever been to a theme park and had to sign a waiver? Maybe you’ve applied for insurance for your land and noticed that the price goes up if you own a trampoline or pool. If so, you’ve experienced premises liability laws. Let’s dig into what these laws are and how they work.
What is premise liability?
Premise liability is the legal responsibility of a land owner or occupier to ensure visitors are reasonably safe while on their property. In Texas, this includes both the physical features of your property and the activities that occur on that property as well.
Essentially, the law states that property owners must make sure their property is safe for others to visit. If it’s not, the owners can be held liable for any injuries that occur on that land due to those dangerous conditions.
What responsibilities do land owners have?
The legal responsibility, referred to as a “duty of care,” that Texas land owners have is different from many states. In Texas, there are three different types of premise liability depending on who is injured and why that person was on the property.
This “trichotomy” creates categories for three types of individuals: invitee, licensee, and trespasser. Each group of people is treated differently if injured.
An invitee is someone who is invited onto the land for business purposes, such as a customer visiting a store. The duty of care is the highest for invitees. A landowner is responsible for inspecting their property and making sure it’s free of any dangerous conditions or hazards. If there are any hazards, they must be reduced or removed.
A licensee is someone who has permission to be on the land but is there for social purposes, such as a friend visiting your home. The duty of care for a licensee is slightly lower than that of an invitee. In this case, a landowner has no duty to inspect the land and its conditions. However, if the landowner knows of a hazard, he or she is responsible for warning the licensee of the danger or fixing that danger.
A trespasser is someone who does not have permission to be on the land. The lowest possible duty of care is owed to trespassers. Generally speaking, Texas law does not impose any responsibility for the safety of trespassers. Landowners are not required to inspect or warn trespassers about any dangers present.
What are recreational use statutes?
In addition to the trichotomy, Texas also has what are called recreational use statutes that provide a degree of liability protection for landowners who make their land available for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and other outdoor recreation.
Under this law, landowners may not be held liable if someone is injured on their property unless there was some kind of gross negligence, intentional conduct, or bad faith present. However, if the landowners charge a fee for access or use of their land, they are no longer protected by this law.
Are there exceptions to these rules?
Yes, there are exceptions to the trichotomy system. One example is a specific type of special guest called “attractive nuisance,” which applies to children who enter your property and are attracted to something dangerous.
The presumption is that if a landowner has some feature or condition on their property that they know is dangerous and will likely be something that children will want to investigate or explore, they have a responsibility to protect children from harm. This could be anything from a pool, playground equipment, or a rusty old car that a child may find interesting and want to explore further.
Ultimately, landowners have a legal responsibility to make sure their property is safe for others who come onto it. If you’re a property owner and unsure of your responsibilities, or if you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, contact an attorney with experience in Texas premise liability laws to get the help you need.
This content was written to provide an overview of premise liability laws in Texas. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Always contact a lawyer with questions or concerns about premise liability.