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August 31st, 2022

What Is the Difference Between Premises Liability and Personal Liability?

They sound similar, with the matching alliteration and words in each phrase. They both involve liability, a legal term that means someone is responsible for their actions or omissions. When those actions or omissions cause damage to another person or someone’s property, the person liable can be held accountable for paying for those damages.

Liability is at the heart of personal injury law, and it covers a vast range of accidents and malicious occurrences that lead to harm. While both premises and personal liabilities focus on damages done and who or what is responsible, they have separate functions in court. Here’s what you need to know about both.

What Is Personal Liability?

Personal liability involves someone being negligent and causing damage to another person or another person’s property. For example, if someone is biking while reading their phone and hits a car, causing damage to the vehicle, the cyclist could face a personal liability claim.

If the cyclist hits a person (also while not paying attention) and causes injury, that also qualifies as a personal liability issue. The key is that a person, rather than a condition, causes harm, even if inadvertently.

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability comes into play when someone is not directly the cause of damage to another person or property, as described above. Still, conditions are negligently allowed to become unsafe for various reasons. While a person is responsible for not taking proper care, it’s the premises that have the hazardous situation which is the focus of the claim. This usually involves entities like public buildings (think stores and hotels), swimming pools, schools, offices, and so forth. But individual homeowners fall into this category, too, if they’re negligent in keeping safe conditions for others. For example, if a homeowner doesn’t address icy sidewalks outside their home, and someone coming to their home slips and hurts themselves.

There are a number of conditions under which premises liability may be claimed:

  • Tripping/falling hazards
  • Lack of adequate security or security not working properly
  • Lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • Equipment not properly secured
  • Toxic chemicals in the air
  • Inadequate maintenance or defective conditions on the property
  • Water leaks or flooding
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Defective or poorly designed products

These are just a few examples. There are many more that qualify under premises liability.

What Responsibilities Do Property Owners Have?

In Texas, property owners are legally obligated to continually keep their property in reasonably safe condition for people who may visit the property, whether socially or for business, and whether or not the owner is present at the time of the visit. That includes any type of property owner, whether a homeowner, businesses, and government entities that own properties such as skating rinks or swimming pools. A slight exception comes from landlord-owners of rental units. They’re expected to deliver a safe place to new tenants, but as the tenants move in and live there, they become responsible for injuries that happen to any visitors to their specific unit.

Another factor in Texas courts is something called open and obvious condition. This means that any reasonable person could have seen unsafe conditions, recognized them as such, and taken steps to mitigate them. For example, if there’s a buildup of ice on someone’s sidewalk and the owner ignores it, they’re liable because it’s clearly visible and should have been taken care of. It’s a tricky part of law, because it doesn’t necessarily matter if the owner knew the condition was dangerous, just that a reasonable person should have seen it.

How Can a Liability Attorney Help Me with Personal or Premises Liability?

Because there are so many variables in liability cases, especially premises liability cases, an attorney experienced in these things can guide a client by helping them be aware of what their rights are, what options are available (many of which the client may not even be aware of), how to negotiate with the other party (or that party’s insurance company), when it’s time to consider filing a lawsuit, and if that’s the case, preparing for the court proceedings.

Among the factors the attorney will work with the injured party on is what the long-term effects of the harm done might be. That can have an effect on any damages awarded to them. In some cases, long-term medical conditions caused by the injury don’t appear right away. Having an attorney who understands that working on your behalf can help you dig deeper into your case.

I’ve Been Injured. Before Hiring an Attorney, Should I Talk to the Responsible Party’s Insurance Company?

Tempting though it might be to expedite the process and just go directly to the insurance company that covers the person or premises responsible, we strongly recommend that people don’t take this on themselves.

The insurance company is primarily interested in paying out as little possible and may try to lead someone to say something they can use to deny the claim. Remember, they represent the person or premise, not the injured party–they don’t have the latter’s best interests at heart.

These Texas Attorneys Can Work With You on Your Premise or Personal Liability Situations

Personal and premises liability cases are wide-ranging and complex. Working with a knowledgeable attorney is recommended, because they have the experience to provide remedies and legal options the client may not even be aware of. Contact us to set up a free case evaluation based on our extensive experience working with personal injury claims. The sooner we’re brought into the case, the better. But we can work with clients at any stage.

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