What is Vermont’s Premises Liability Law?
Premise liability is a legal concept that allows victims to seek compensation when they are injured on public or private property. It applies to places such as amusement parks, banks, grocery stores, and shopping malls, and even private homes. As a general rule, property owners are liable for any damages that arise from unreasonably dangerous conditions on their property.
The keyword there is “unreasonable.” The Vermont Supreme Court says that the duty of a landowner is to use reasonable care for the safety of all such persons invited upon the premises. So the question is always going to be, how much “reasonable care” is necessary. Just because someone was injured on a property does not mean the owner is liable for that injury.
Snow and ice are the dangers we mostly get calls about at Larson & Gallivan Law. We’ll have more to say on this topic below, but for now, let’s talk about whether snow and ice are “unreasonably dangerous.” They are dangerous, certainly – loads of people slip on icy and snowy stairs and parking lots in Vermont every year and have broken bones, strains and sprains, concussions, and tissue injuries. But was it anyone’s “fault”? It depends. If you are at the grocery store and it has just started snowing hard and you slip on the snowy parking lot before the sand truck has a chance to get there, it’s probably nobody’s fault. If the property owner has hired a plow truck, and the plow truck is generally good about being there reasonably quickly, and there’s no reason to think anything is wrong, there’s probably no negligence. If you are there the next day though, and nobody has plowed because the property owner hasn’t gotten around to it, or hasn’t hired someone to plow at all, then it’s the owner’s fault – that owner hasn’t taken reasonable care to protect people from the danger of slipping on the snow.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Common incidents that fall under premises liability include:
- Broken walkways or sidewalks that have uneven places where it is easy to catch a foot
- Broken steps where the treads or risers are uneven, making it easy to miss a step and fall forward or backward
- Falling debris or snow and ice coming off of roofs or construction sites that the property owner should have known could easily happen without warnings or precautions
- Wet floors that cause slippery conditions
- Poorly lit hallways where people can trip
- Inadequate security where known problems of criminal activity, violence or dangerous behavior are happening without the attention or safety precautions the situation requires
- Dog bites are a type of premises liability case where a dog is known to be dangerous but the owner or property owner does not take reasonable safety steps to protect people (and the dog)
- Slip and falls are the most common type of premises liability claim
Premises Liability Attorney
Premises Liability in a Slip and Fall Case
Did you know that falls are the number one leading cause of death among older Americans? At Larson & Gallivan Law, we’ve handled a number of slip and fall (or trip and fall) claims and cases. We’d love to talk to you about your case. But we’re also careful to take cases that won’t be dismissed or have bad outcomes, especially if the case involves ice and snow. So give us a call and let’s talk about your case.
Premises Liability Attorneys in Vermont
Comparative negligence is also called a shared fault. In Vermont, if you are partially responsible for the accident that caused your injury, you can still recover damages. But comparative negligence can affect your compensation amount significantly. While you may still get a settlement, it will likely be a reduced amount if the defendant or its insurance company makes this argument. You will want to speak with an experienced premises liability lawyer about it.
Some ways that a property owner can claim comparative negligence include cases where:
- Your accident happened in a restricted area or a place you were not supposed to be
- You slipped and fell while on your phone or otherwise distracted.
- The present danger should have been obvious to you.
- The property owner took reasonable steps to make you aware of the hazard.
If you believe that comparative negligence could be a factor in your case, you should immediately discuss your situation with Rutland VT Premises Liability Attorney.
The Duty of Care of Rutland Property Owners
The duty of care of a property owner is no longer defined by their legal relationship to the entrant (except for trespassers). In Rutland (as in all of Vermont), a landowner owes the same duty of care to an invitee as to a licensee. This means that the safety of all visitors, whether business or social, is protected by the law.
By law, residential, and commercial property owners are mandated to maintain their properties in a safe condition. They are expected to take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of employees, clients, or visitors. Otherwise, they could be held responsible for damages if any of these parties get into an accident.
Have you been injured due to unsafe conditions on someone’s property? Contact Larson Injury Law to speak to a Rutland VT Premises Liability Attorney. We will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve.
Recreational Outdoors Activities
Vermont has a long history of protecting the public’s rights to use private land for recreation, such as hunting and fishing, hiking, birdwatching, etc. One way that Vermont ensures that private property remains open to such uses is by protecting landowners from lawsuits for injuries that occur when people are using the land for outdoor recreation. In Vermont, as long as the landowner doesn’t charge a fee for the use of the land, or otherwise have a business or financial reason to invite people to use the land, there’s no special duty to make sure the land is safe. If you use someone’s land for hunting, for example, and you fall out of your treestand, you probably can’t sue the landowner.
Really, this is just another instance of the “reasonable” part of premises liability. When we ask if we can cross someone’s property to get to a fishing hole or hike someone’s property to see a view, we don’t expect the property owner to prepare the land for us in any way. We just want to use it the way it is. As a result, unless there is a very dangerous condition that the property owner knows about or creates there’s no liability. What’s an example of such a very dangerous condition? A cable strung across an entry with no flags on it that catches a snowmobiler and injures or kills the person is an example of a human-made deathtrap that would be a good reason to sue a landowner even though the injured person was just passing through or even trespassing.
Most of the time, it’s the insurance company that ends up paying for the carelessness of the property owner. Homeowners’ insurance usually has liability coverage to pay out damages for people harmed by dangerous conditions on the land. Commercial property usually has higher limits of insurance than homeowners. But that’s something we want to know about before filing a lawsuit. Is there a source of funds to pay the damages in the case? Usually, there is, and it’s usually insurance.[/plain_text_section]
Landlord-Tenant Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability cases against a landlord by someone on the property, especially a renter, have some special rules. Vermont has statutory law that adds special protections for residential renters and requires that apartments and homes that are rented out to tenants are safe and healthy in a number of specific ways. This makes it much easier to sue for premises liability if you are a tenant of the property owner. One way to think about this is, again, the reasonableness question. Where there is a landlord-tenant relationship, Vermont says it is unreasonable to rent an apartment that is unsafe for human habitation. Give us a call at Larson & Gallivan Law if this describes your situation – we’d love to discuss your claim with you.
Vermont does not have a particular building code for residential buildings, but it does have codes for commercial structures. There are also sources of building codes that aren’t legally required to be followed in Vermont but are the source of the “reasonably safe” rule we’ve talked so much about already. Basically, if a generally accepted building code shows that a condition of the property is dangerous (i.e. it violates the building code), then it’s more likely that it’s an unsafe condition and anyone injured by the condition has a premises liability claim against the owner, builder or landlord.[/plain_text_section]
Schedule a Consultation with a Rutland VT Premises Liability Attorney Today
Accidents can be unexpected and stressful. The good news is, you don’t have to navigate the aftermath alone. If you have been involved in a premises liability incident, contact us at (802) 526-8040 to discuss your case with an expert.
Our Rutland VT Premises Liability Attorneys will guide you through the entire legal process of getting financial compensation for your injuries. We will also answer any questions you might have about premises liability cases.