If you’re a Colorado landowner, it’s to your advantage to understand the Colorado premises liability laws. If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, knowing the laws will help you understand the importance of consulting an injury lawyer immediately after being harmed.
In 1986, the Colorado legislature wrote the Colorado Premises Liability Act. The purpose of this legislative action was twofold:
- To promote a state-wide policy regarding the responsibility of landowners regarding reasonable care to protect against dangerous conditions on their property
- To establish guidelines for a person who was injured on someone else’s land in Colorado to collect for damages
Who Is Responsible for the Condition of the Property?
In Colorado, the landowner is usually the person who has possession or authority over the property, activities and circumstances. In some cases, a tenant or a contractor may be the responsible party. The court may find that more than one person or entity is responsible for the premises.
Classification of Persons Who May Sue for Damages
The premises liability section of the Colorado statues defines three classifications of person who enter another person’s property. Many other states use the same classifications. Each classification carries a different level of burden for the landowner as to his or her responsibility toward providing a safe environment.
1. The Invitee
An invitee is someone who has been invited onto the property, such as a customer who comes to a store, restaurant or other business. Tenants are invitees. It’s understood, express or implied, that invitees are welcome onto the property for the mutual benefit of the property or business owner and the invitee.
2. The Licensee
A licensee enters onto someone else’s property for his own benefit, not for a mutually beneficial purpose. However, he is there with the consent of the property owner. Examples of licensees are social guests or volunteers. A social guest of a tenant is a licensee when he is not on the property to transact business with the landlord. For example, he may be there to borrow something or to cross the land to another destination. The property owner is aware of these actions.
3. The Trespasser
A trespasser is someone who is on the property without the landowner’s consent. Consent can be either expressed or implied. For example, he may be there to cross the property without permission or to steal something. The trespasser may have passed by “No Trespassing” signs. He may have been asked to leave the property by a person in charge of the premises and he refused or returned.
The classification of the injured party is significant because the statute places a higher level of responsibility toward the invitee than the licensee. The lowest standard of safety is granted to the trespasser.
In the case of an invitee, licensee or trespasser, a lawsuit would be filed because of a measurable injury sustained because of the condition of the property or a lack of fair warning about an existing hazard. It could also stem from the activities or circumstances on the premises.
Doctrine of Attractive Nuisance
An attractive nuisance is something on the property that would attract a child that could cause harm. This doctrine specifically applies to children under 14 years of age. A common example of an attractive nuisance is an unfenced swimming pool. In Colorado however, a child may also encounter a mining cave, farm machinery, an aggressive animal and other dangers.
Landowners are held to the highest standards in providing protection to children. A swimming pool must be fenced to keep them out. Cave entrances should be sealed, farm machinery should be properly stored and aggressive animals should be restrained.
Warning signs are not enough for children, since some are too young to read. A landowner may be held liable for injuries to a child even if the child was trespassing because the law does not classify children as invitees, licensees or trespassers. S.W. v. Towers Boat Club, Inc., 2013 CO 72, 315 P.3d 1257).
A property owner who wishes to avoid a premises liability lawsuit will inspect his property for anything that a child could be hurt by and take all necessary precautions.
What Can a Person Expect to Recover in a the Premises Liability Lawsuit
An invitee may recover for damages for measurable injuries that result from the failure of the landowner to provide reasonable care to provide protection from dangers the landowner knew about or should have known about.
A landowner may not be liable if he did not know about the danger before the control of the property was transferred to a tenant. The right to inspect and repair is generally not sufficient to make the landowner responsible for the tenant or third party. Wilson v. Marchiondo, 124 P.3d 837 (Colo. App. 2005).
If the land is classified by the county to be vacant or agricultural, the invitee may recover for damages if there was a danger that the landowner knew about but failed to take reasonable measures to post warnings.
A licensee is entitled to compensation for injuries caused by the landowner’s failure to exercise reasonable care in regards to dangers created by the landowner or for dangers he or she was aware of. For example, if the landowner started to construct a barn but there were many unsafe materials lying around, it may be found that it was the landowner’s responsibility to rope off the area and post warning signs.
Furthermore, if the owner knew about a naturally made hazard on the land, such as a cave, it would be the landowner’s responsibility to close off the entrance before someone entered and got hurt.
A trespasser can only recover for injuries that were caused by something that the landowner knowingly and willfully did. It might be wise for a landowner to post “No Trespassing” signs around the property. This shows the court that an effort was made to keep uninvited persons off the property.
What Should You Do if You or Someone Else Sustained an Injury?
If you have been injured on another person’s property or if someone has filed a civil suit against you for damages incurred on your property, contact an injury lawyer as soon as possible. There is a lot at stake in a property liability lawsuit. Financial compensation does not just cover the medical bills for the injury but also wages lost during the recuperation period.
The judge decides whether the injured party falls into the category of invitee, licensee or trespasser. A well-documented case will help him reach the correct conclusion. The jury will decide the amount of the settlement. If there is no jury, the judge will make that decision.
It’s in your best interest to call a lawyer right away to get an investigation going while the scene of the accident is undisturbed and the details of the accident are fresh in your mind.