Every property owner in the state of Illinois has a duty of care to maintain safe premises that are free from hazardous and dangerous conditions. But what happens when someone is hurt? As a property owner, if someone gets hurt while working on your property, are you liable? And what legal rights do injured victims have in this situation?
Table of Contents
- Property owners must provide safe premises for visitors.
- A property owner’s legal obligation sometimes depends on the type of visitor.
- An injured party may be entitled to both workers’ compensation benefits and a premises liability settlement.
What Duty of Care Do Property Owners Owe Visitors?
In general, property owners have a duty of care to protect visitors and to keep them safe from harm. This can involve fixing or eliminating a dangerous condition, hanging signs warning visitors of the threat, or blocking access to hazardous areas.
However, the extent of a property owner’s duty of care is also highly contingent upon the type of visitor that is on the property.
In Illinois, there are three different categories of visitors: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. A worker usually falls under the category of either invitee or licensee, depending on the circumstances of the job.
An invitee is someone who has been explicitly invited to a property, either with the express or implied permission of the owner. An invitee might be a/an:
- Customer at a grocery store
- Visitor to a museum
- Hotel guest
- Apartment complex resident
Invitees have the most protection under the law. Property owners are expected to take reasonably necessary actions to preserve the safety and well-being of invitees from the risks posed by dangerous property conditions.
A licensee is someone who was not necessarily invited onto a property by the owner, but instead is present for their own benefit. Just like an invitee, a licensee has permission to be on the property. The biggest difference between these two categories of visitors is their purpose for being there.
Since licensees have permission to be present, property owners owe them a duty of care.
Examples of licensees include:
- An unannounced visitor (like a friend or family member)
- Utility company workers accessing a water main
- An individual using a store’s restroom (but not shopping)
The biggest defining factor of the relationship between a licensee and a property owner is that it is only beneficial for one party, whereas the relationship between an invitee and a property owner is mutually beneficial.
A trespasser is an individual who does not have permission to be present on a property and is therefore owed the lowest duty of care. Barring certain exceptions, property owners are not liable for any accidents or injuries involving a trespasser.
A trespasser might be someone who is:
- Using part of the property as a shortcut
- Entering the property to commit a burglary or other crime
- Using any part of the property without permission
Although trespassers generally aren’t owed a duty of care that protects them from hazardous property conditions, they are protected from malicious, violent, or purposeful harm. This means that property owners cannot set traps that would purposefully harm a trespasser.
When Is a Property Owner Liable for an Injury?
A property owner is liable for an injury that occurs on their property if they:
- Knew about the condition and failed to fix it or failed to warn visitors of the hazard, or
- Should have reasonably known about the condition.
There may be exceptions to the typical understanding of liability for premises liability cases, though. For example, if an individual’s presence is related to their employment, any injuries they sustain while on the property might fall under the category of workers’ compensation rather than premises liability.
This is because accidents that occur through the course of employment are covered by workers’ compensation. This is true even when an accident does not occur at a person’s main work site.
Legal Options if You Were Hurt While Working on Someone Else’s Property
Even a minor injury can have a long-lasting or life-altering effect on a victim. So if you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, you need to understand your right to compensation. Depending on the circumstances that led to your accident, you may have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits while also filing a premises liability claim.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you were working for your employer while on another person’s property, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Illinois state law requires that every employer, even those with just one employee, maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Sole proprietors with no employees may also elect to purchase workers’ comp insurance for themselves.
Workers’ compensation benefits are not always sufficient for addressing the totality of a person’s accident-related losses. For example, workers’ comp covers all related medical expenses, but pays for only a portion of a worker’s lost wages. Benefits for noneconomic losses like pain and suffering are nonexistent.
Compensation Through a Premises Liability Claim
If your injury was caused wholly or in part by the negligent actions of the property owner, you may be entitled to pursue both workers’ compensation benefits and premises liability compensation. Filing a premises liability claim does not disqualify you from benefits guaranteed through the state’s workers’ compensation system.
Any settlement secured through this type of legal action can provide valuable compensation for damages not covered by workers’ comp. For example, civil law affords victims the right to recover the full cost of their lost wages as well as compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other noneconomic damages.
Understanding Your Rights if You Were Injured While Working on Someone Else’s Property
Your life was turned upside down by an injury. Now it’s time to get it back on track. If you were injured or hurt while working on someone else’s property, you may have multiple legal avenues to recover compensation for your related damages, including lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
You don’t have to become a legal expert overnight, though. At Thomas Law Offices, we provide no-cost case evaluations to injury victims and their families in the Chicago area. Whether you decide to partner with our law firm or not, we want to make sure that you have access to all the information you need to make a fully informed decision.
Contact us today by phone or through our online form, and we’ll schedule you for a completely free consultation with a lawyer who cares.