In a recent premises liability lawsuit, a college student received $11.6 million in compensation after she fell 20 feet at off-campus housing in 2010. The former University of Pennsylvania student Lorna Bernhoft suffered injuries after falling through a skylight opening on the building’s fourth floor, which had only been covered by carpet and flex board. The fall left Bernhoft paralyzed.

Premises liability attorneys help determine who’s liable for injuries sustained on property owned by other parties. There are several aspects of premises liability cases that require consideration when filing a claim.

Levels of Responsibility

Premises liability holds both landlords and tenants responsible for preventable or predictable injuries occurring on their property. While many accidents are unavoidable, property owners are generally responsible for maintaining a safe area.

Level of responsibility is determined in part by the legal position of the visitor. Visitors are classified in three different categories, which are helpful to know when filing a claim with a premises liability lawyer:

  • Invitees are people who are on premises in order to conduct business, such as restaurant patrons or retail store customers.
  • Licensees are visitors who are on premises for social occasions, such as partygoers or friends of tenants. In Lorna Bernhoft’s case, she would have been considered a licensee, as she was a guest at a student gathering when her injuries occurred.
  • Trespassers are unauthorized visitors to a property, including burglars.


Understanding Your Rights as a Student Renter

Landowners aren’t the only ones responsible for damage and injuries occurring on residencies. Student tenants are required to maintain a safe environment for all visitors, so it’s important to know how to both prevent injuries from occurring and determine who’s responsible if they do occur. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Social host liability is when the host of a party or other social gathering may be held liable for accidents and injuries that happen on the premises, as well as alcohol-related injuries resulting from the host providing alcohol to minors.
  • One of the best ways to prevent injuries and accidents is to warn all visitors about dangers that you acknowledge, properly informing them of safety risks.
  • Landlords are expected to maintain a safe environment in a number of ways, including keeping the location habitable at all times and making repairs when they are required. Injuries will be less likely if you inform landlords of any safety risks of which you are aware.

If you believe you’ve sustained injuries as a result of a landowner or tenant’s neglect for safety, discuss your case with a premises liability attorney today.