General Liability Insurance
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Premises liability insurance

Premises liability insurance covers legal costs when a customer or other non-employee is injured in an accident on your property.

What is premises liability?

Premises liability refers to a building owner or landlord's legal responsibility for injuries that happen on their property due to dangerous conditions.

This could include injuries from slips and falls, falling equipment, fires, or criminal acts. Such incidents could be covered through premises liability insurance, which is similar to a general liability policy.

Premises liability insurance provides coverage for third-party injuries and property damage that could be blamed on your failure to keep a property reasonably safe. However, it does not cover advertising injuries.

General liability insurance is similar to premises liability coverage in that it covers third-party accidents on your property. General liability also covers advertising injuries in the event you are sued for copyright infringement, libel, or slander in an advertisement, social media post, video, website, or other published piece.

When do I need premises liability insurance?

The right time to seek premises liability coverage from your insurance company is as soon as you rent or own a property for your business. You’re always at risk of an injured person filing a lawsuit that, even if you’re not at fault, could still result in legal bills and settlement costs.

Whether you rent or own your business property, premises liability law requires you to maintain a safe environment for visitors and to avoid an unreasonable risk of harm. Failure to do so can create “premises liability” and a potential lawsuit.

Among premises liability cases, perhaps the most obvious ones are slip-and-fall accidents that happen because of a wet floor or a worn carpet. While slip-and-fall cases are common, other personal injury cases could include:

  • Inadequate security that leads to an injury or assault
  • Snow and ice outside of a business or in the parking lot
  • Broken sidewalks, flooring, or stairs
  • Escalator and elevator accidents
  • Falling signs or merchandise
  • Hidden extension cords
  • Dog bites
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How does duty of care apply to premises liability claims?

Under the “duty of care” concept, individuals and businesses have a legal obligation to act in the best interests of others, to not cause harm to other people, and to act competently without taking on tasks that you can’t do safely.

It’s similar to the concept of “ordinary care,” which is defined as the prevailing business standards in a particular area for your business, and “standard of care,” which requires property and business owners to avoid injuries to those who visit a property with the owner’s consent.

Whether these obligations apply to you as part of a landowner’s duty, a licensee, or a rent-paying occupier, the failure to provide a reasonably safe environment could result in an injured party suing you for their medical bills, lost wages, and other costs.

To win premises liability lawsuits, a personal injury lawyer has to prove that:

  • You failed to adequately maintain the condition of the property.
  • You knew or should have known of hazardous conditions.
  • You failed to fix the problem or to warn visitors to your business or job site.

What about trespassers, and what’s an attractive nuisance?

In most cases, a trespasser would be unlikely to win a liability lawsuit. Legally speaking, trespassers enter a property with no expectation of reasonable care by the property or business owner.

The exception to this would be if the owner knows there’s a high risk of trespassing because the property has an “attractive nuisance” that would draw a child’s attention.

An attractive nuisance could be a swimming pool, trampoline, amusement park, large equipment, dangerous animals—even a rooftop, if it’s easily accessible.

In these cases, you’d face a higher liability risk if you’ve taken no steps to secure the property and keep kids away. Keep in mind that an unfenced property or a broken gate could be considered an “attractive nuisance” as well.

What’s the difference between premises liability insurance and other policies?

Terms like premises liability, general liability, and public liability refer to the legal risks you face as a property or business owner. It determines if you’re at fault for a customer or client being injured on your property.

  • Premises liability insurance protects you in case someone is injured on your property due to inadequate maintenance that you should have known about and corrected.
  • General liability insurance includes the same protections as premise liability insurance, but also includes damages that you or your employees may cause to a customer’s property, as well as advertising injury.
  • Public liability insurance is an old insurance term that refers to claims made by the public for injuries, as well as damaged or lost property that happens in connection to your business. Today, this coverage is included as part of your general liability insurance.
  • Commercial property insurance is another common policy for those who own or rent property for their small business. While business property insurance covers your physical assets, it will not provide financial assistance when your business faces a lawsuit. Since liability insurance provides coverage for different situations than property insurance, many businesses will carry both policies, often choosing to bundle both coverages in a business owner's policy (BOP)
  • Premises pollution liability (PPL) coverage (also called site pollution liability) provides first-party coverage for bodily injuries, property damage, or environmental damage that occurs at a location owned, operated, or leased by the policyholder. It is typically added an as endorsement to an environmental insurance policy.

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Updated: January 31, 2024
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