It’s one scenario we all dread. Friends, family, or kids are over at your house having a good time, enjoying themselves, not a care in the world or a cloud in the sky – and then someone gets hurt.
You may think that no one you know would ever hold you responsible, but the truth is, you have to be prepared. That’s why we’re answering questions about premises liability:
Who is responsible if someone gets hurt on your property?
What are your rights?
How should you protect yourself?
Read on for the tips and facts you need to know.
Colorado Premises Liability Law: Classification and Responsibility
Premises liability law covers injuries on both commercial and residential properties. Property owners do have some responsibility for ensuring that people are not hurt on their premises; however, there is also individual responsibility.
In Colorado, the Colorado Premises Liability Act (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-115) governs actions against property owners. Enacted in 1986, it was intended to set policy for the responsibility of “landowners and those upon the land.”
Recovery for the injured party is dependent on their classification: trespasser, licensee, or invitee. Invitees have the best chance of recovering damages.
Invitee: Someone who is on your property to conduct business – such as a customer or tenant.
In lawyer-speak, an invitee is “a person who enters or remains on the land of another to transact business in which the parties are mutually interested or who enters or remains on such land in response to the landowner’s express or implied representation that the public is requested, expected, or intended to enter or remain.”
Under Colorado law, because an invitee is generally on your property for your benefit, they may expect to recover for injury/damages if the property owner demonstrates “unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers” they knew of or should have known.
Licensee: Someone who is on your property with permission for social reasons (not to conduct business) such as a family gathering or birthday party.
Property owners have less responsibility to licensees than they do to invitees. However, injured parties may pursue damages if:
1. The landowner showed “unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to dangers created by the landowner of which the landowner actually knew,” or
2. If the landowner showed “unreasonable failure to warn of dangers not created by the landowner which are not ordinarily present on property of the type involved and of which the landowner actually knew.”
Trespasser: Someone who is on your property without consent.
It is typically difficult for trespassers to receive damages for injuries on personal or commercial property they were not invited to be on. A landowner must have intentionally committed harm against the trespasser for them to have a chance at recovery. The law explicitly states: “A trespasser may recover only for damages willfully or deliberately caused by the landowner.”
In personal injury cases, the judge will determine which category the plaintiff falls under. They will consider these factors:
The circumstances under which the person was on the property
The way the plaintiff was using the property
The foreseeability of the accident
The reasonableness of the property owner’s efforts to warn guests, visitors, or customers of any dangers.
What Happens If Someone Gets Hurt on Your Property?
In Colorado, if someone gets hurt on your property, the legal course of action is the Premises Liability Act. They cannot sue for negligence and also make a premises liability claim.
Typical injuries for which damages might be pursued include:
Animal bites or attacks
Slip-and-fall cases – such as an icy sidewalk
Pool accidents or drownings
Falling off a deck or porch
Nails in the grass
Again, the ability to recover for injuries depends on the classification of the plaintiff and the responsibility of the landowner pursuant to the plaintiff’s classification.
Property owners should assess potential risks on their property and mitigate these risks. If you’re a business owner, ensure you set up signs around hazardous areas like wet floors and install reasonable security, good lighting, fire safety precautions, etc.
If you have a pool on your property, you should make sure you implement reasonable safety measures to protect against accidental injuries and death, such as fencing and gates. You should ensure you have insurance that offers liability protection specifically for pools, and follow their requirements for coverage.
If you have a trampoline on your property, you should also implement reasonable safety precautions. Having a protective netting around the trampoline and a fenced yard with locking gates will also help, and these measures may be required by your insurance company to receive liability coverage.
Injuries typically happen when more than one child is using the trampoline, and orthopedic injuries from trampolines have risen in the U.S. over recent years. Advice from the medical community includes only letting one child on the trampoline at a time, discouraging flips and other acrobatics, only letting the trampoline be used under adult supervision, and not allowing children under six to use it at all.
The internet is full of standard, downloadable waivers, but these may not be acceptable in every state, and property owners are still responsible to ensure proper maintenance.
If you haven’t discussed adding liability insurance for a pool or trampoline with your provider, you should do this at once.
What Should I Do If I or a Family Member Is Injured on Someone Else’s Property?
If you are hurt while on someone else’s commercial or residential property, and you feel the landowner may be responsible under Colorado’s Premises Liability Act, there are a few things you should do.
First, understand what the law means by “landowner.” In Colorado, this could be any entity or person responsible for the condition of the land and the activities taking place on the land, including:
An authorized agent or a person in possession of real property
A person legally responsible for the condition of the property or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing on the property.
Event organizers or planners
When you or a family member in your care are injured, the first thing you should do is seek proper medical attention. Even if you do not present symptoms of an injury at first, you should be certain, especially to avoid potential complications from delayed medical attention. Then, you should gather evidence, file a claim, and hire a personal injury attorney.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible will streamline the claims process and help you make the strongest possible case for compensation or settlement.
Accident and Injury Attorneys in Colorado
At Doehling Law, we have over 60-years-combined experience to put to your case. We represent clients in Grand Junction, Telluride, Montrose, Glenwood Springs, and Aspen and other communities in Colorado and Eastern Utah.
Our mission is to provide personalized and compassionate representation and help our clients recover physically, emotionally, and financially from accidents and injuries. We’ll investigate the details of every case, identify liable parties, and hold them accountable for the harm they've caused.
Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.