Understanding Premises Liability in North Carolina

A home is a wonderful asset, but the possibility of a premises liability claim can worry owners. If a friend or neighbor is injured on your property, what are your legal responsibilities and rights? This question is an important one to ask and answer, given that the implications of premises liability claims for personal injury can lead to significant payouts to the injured person. Knowing North Carolina law on this topic is crucial to defending yourself against spurious claims.

Your Duties to Legal Visitors

As the property owner, you have a duty of care to anyone invited onto the property for legal purposes, according to North Carolina General Statutes §38A-4. Though the legal language can be murky for non-lawyers, the gist is that you are required to remove any unnecessarily risky elements on your property and to inform your guests of dangerous elements that still exist on the property at the time of their visit.

For example, you should tell friends and family members about a roof tile that is in danger of falling (or get it fixed before they visit, preferably). You should tell them about a slippery hill in your backyard. Basically, if you can foresee any risk of injury, inform your guests about those items so that they understand the risk.

Your Duties to Illegal Visitors (Trespassers)

Sometimes, people enter your property illegally. As common sense would suggest, you do not owe these trespassers the same duty of care that you owe to people you invited onto the property. In fact, North Carolina General Statutes §38B-2 says that you “are not liable for any injury to a trespasser.” You do not have to warn the trespasser about any unsafe conditions on the property. However, you are not allowed to purposefully harm the trespasser unless you must stand your ground in self-defense.

Difficulties can arise when it comes to implied invitations. Additionally, it is possible for you to be liable for injuries caused to trespassers who are children if the court deems that the item that injured the child was an “attractive nuisance.” In other words, if there is something that could be seen to attract a minor to your property and then cause an injury, you can be held liable for that.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner can help you avoid tricky situations. For more information or help, contact our office here.

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