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Who Can Actually File a Premises Liability Claim?

Written by John D. Hawkins on . Posted in .

If you suffer an injury on someone else’s premises in Charleston or throughout South Carolina, you may have the right to sue the property owner. Your ability to bring a lawsuit depends upon your status as a visitor. Property owners owe different duties of care to visitors depending on their classification. The law in South Carolina recognizes three main types of visitors: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Learn who can file claims for premises liability, and which might end up paying for their injuries out-of-pocket.

#1. Invitee

Invitees are the most esteemed category of property visitor. An “invitee” is a person the property owner invites to enter the premises. An invitation can be explicit, such as inviting someone to a birthday party, or implied. For example, a grocery store owner gives an implied invitation to customers who want to come shop. Property owners owe invitees the highest duties of care of all types of people. These duties entail:

  • Recognizing property hazards and taking steps to remedy them in a timely manner.
  • Searching for unknown, hidden, or new property hazards before welcoming visitors.
  • Posting signs or warnings of hazards that exist on the property and that might not be obvious to the average visitor.

Extending an invitation is the property owner’s promise that he or she has taken reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the property. Failure to fulfill the duties owed to invitees can lead to injuries from slip and falls, structure collapses, toxic substances, and other hazards. If your status was as an invitee during your accident, odds are you have grounds to file a premises liability claim after an injury on the property.

#2. Licensee

A licensee is a step below an invitee on the scale of property owner duties, but licensees still enjoy certain protections by law. Licensees are individuals that enter a property for their own purposes. Property owners still invite these people to enter the property, but licensees do so for their own reasons. Examples of a licensee is a salesperson, repair person, or social guest who comes to visit. Property owners owe the following duties of care to licensees:

  • Repair defects they know or reasonably should know about that could cause harm to the licensee.
  • Warn licensees of dangerous property conditions that could cause harm, if the licensee is not likely to discover the condition on his/her own.

Property owners do not owe licensees a duty to search for unknown hazards before they enter the property. The only time a licensee can file a premises liability claim is in the event that the property owner fails to complete the two above-mentioned duties, and if this failure causes the licensee’s injury.

#3. Trespasser

The final visitor category is that of a trespasser. You might think trespassers never have the right to sue property owners, but this isn’t true. In South Carolina, child trespassers (those under the age of 18) are entitled to the same property owner duties of care as licensees. Property owners must maintain safe premises for potential child trespassers – especially if they have attractive nuisances on their properties, such as swimming pools or trampolines. Parents of child trespassers can bring claims if the property owner did not take steps to reasonably prevent foreseeable injuries.


For more information on premises liability claims and personal injuries in South Carolina, contact Hawklaw, P.A. t0day.

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Written By John D. Hawkins

John David Hawkins is the Founder and Owner of HawkLaw. He has been licensed to practice law in South Carolina since his graduation in 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Focusing on litigation, Mr. Hawkins is experienced handling Worker’s Compensation, Personal Injury, Social Security Disability, Administrative Law, and Criminal Law matters.

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