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Premises Liability Overview

February 6, 2020

Premises liability is important in personal injury cases, especially if a person is injured from defective or unsafe property conditions. For example, if a visitor slips and falls, gets bitten by a dog, or is hurt in a swimming pool, these injuries can lead to premises liability claims.

Most of these are based on negligence, so the injured person needs to prove that the property owner’s negligence caused the incident to occur. If it is shown that the owner did not use reasonable care with their ownership and maintenance, they may be held liable.

How Virginia Laws Apply

Virginia personal injury laws specify that all claims must show that the property owner breached their legal duty and that the breach caused the injury to occur. Virginia property owners have certain responsibilities and duties that apply to people who are on their properties, like making sure that the property does not have unreasonable hazards.

The Code of Virginia differentiates between the types of plaintiffs injured in premises liability cases, and the duty owed to them depends on which category they fit into. These categories include licensees, invitees, and trespassers.


Licensees are people invited by a property owner to enter the owner’s property. This could include friends or family asked to dinner, party guests, or business associates. The invitation could be implied or explicit. When a licensee experiences an injury on the property, a showing of recklessness or negligence by the owner is needed. Otherwise, a licensee may not be able to be compensated for their injuries.


Invitees includes people who are expected to be on the property. This most commonly applies to an open business, where property owners expect customers and others to be on the property.


Trespassers enter properties without the property owner’s permission, owners do not expect them to be on the premises and are unable to predict their presence. Therefore, the owners are not responsible for providing standard care. Unless the owner had traps or purposely harmed the trespasser, they would likely not be held liable for any injuries.

Prior Knowledge

Once it is established that the owner had a legal duty, the plaintiff then needs to prove that the owner was aware that a defective condition existed on the property. If the defendant states that they were unaware of the problem, the plaintiff may need to establish constructive knowledge. This means that the problem existed for a long enough time that a reasonable owner should have been aware of the problem. The plaintiff may need to prove when the defect first occurred and how long it was there.

An example of this could be a grease spill on the floor of a restaurant dining area. If the spill occurred early in the day and the owner was aware of the spill but neglected to clean it, they may be held liable for a fall. A restaurant patron who slipped and fell on the grease may be able to prove the property owner’s negligence.

Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyers Help with Premises Liability Claims

If you were injured due to a property owner’s negligence, contact one our experienced Virginia Beach personal injury lawyers today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we will guide you through the legal process and help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. Contact us online or call us at 757-352-2237 for a free consultation about your case. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients in Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910