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'Known Or Should Have Known' — Proving Property Owners Liable For Hazards

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When you are injured on someone else's property, premises liability law means that the owner may be liable. But they must be deemed negligent in some way. What makes them negligent? One of the most basic standards is that they knew or should have known about a hazard. Here's what this means for you. 

Did the Owner Know About the Hazard?

The standard of care owed to visitors to a person's property varies by state. But one largely universal standard is that the owner must warn invitees and most others about known hazards or fix them. It's easy to prove that an owner knew about some hazards. If they are holding the mop that makes a floor wet when a customer arrives, they clearly knew about the wet floor. 

However, the owner may not need to have personal knowledge of the hazard. You may learn that employees knew about a spill that had occurred before you arrived, but they failed to clean it up. Employees are considered to be under the direction of their employer, so that employer/owner may be found by a jury to have 'known' vicariously. 

Should the Owner Have Known?

The second standard most juries will consider is whether or not the property owner should have known about a hazard. This is harder to prove, of course. The intent here is to prevent an owner from simply claiming ignorance of a hazard and getting away with leaving an unsafe environment for their guests. 

How might this work? Perhaps there's a shady, low spot on the sidewalk in which water regularly pools and which freezes over whenever the temperature gets too cold. You slip on that frozen spot on a cold morning. The owner may claim that they didn't know that it was frozen over today. But you argue that they should have known about it because it had a well-known history of being hazardous in these conditions. 

Intentional ignorance is also not a defense. What if the owner avoids using that sidewalk themselves because it's always wet, but they allow customers to use it regularly? In this case, they are not fulfilling their duty of care to customers because they aren't keeping themselves apprised of potential hazards. They have made themselves willfully ignorant of hazards that may exist. 

Where Can You Learn More?

If your case hinges upon a hazard that the property owner knew or should have known about, proving that is vital. Get help by meeting with a slip and fall accident lawyer in your state today.