Owning a property comes with a seemingly endless list of responsibilities, a major one being maintaining a safe property. Whether you are a homeowner, business owner or landlord, property owners can be held liable for injuries on their property. During the next few weeks, we’re going to explain how this works, what to do and what all this legal jargon means for property owners.

Hopefully, by the end, you know what to do. So if an injury does occur, you are only filling out tedious paperwork instead of paying steep legal fees. In this first post, we’ll explain what to do when an injury occurs on a property you own. 

To start lets first address how your property should be maintained. The law operates under how a “reasonable person” would maintain their property. Safety is of the utmost importance for you and guests, and you may be held liable for any injuries occurring to anyone on your property, including trespassers. If a landowner fails to maintain their property in a reasonable manner, it’s considered a breach of care and may be held negligent for the injury and damages.

You can express concern, but do not admit guilt. 

Assess the situation to see if emergency responders should be called. Broken bones, severe trauma or situations needing immediate medical attention are non-negotiable for both legal and ethical reasons. Helping someone in need won’t hurt your legal situation.

Take pictures of the injury and scene

Even if it’s a close friend who is hurt, take pictures of the scene. You’ll be thankful for this if lawyers are involved. Situations may arise where they have no other options but to sue but still want the process to go as smoothly as possible for the sake of the case and friendship. Taking pictures of the scene will only make the entire situation more smooth and fair.

Consider calling the police to get statements

If you feel a lawsuit is inevitable, call the police to get a statement. Whether these statements occur on your property or in the emergency room, the statements should be taken as soon as possible. Studies-specifically the Manhattan Memory Project-suggest that memory is based on your most recent thought of the event, not the event itself. It’s believed this is a way to cope with emotion, especially tragic events. Moral of the story, the sooner you take these statements the more accurate they will be for both parties.

When both parties are at fault

This argument is commonly used in these cases. A visitor has a duty to exercise reasonable care of themselves, while a property owner is required to maintain their property as a “reasonable person” would. That said, most states follow a comparative fault system, meaning the decision will base fault as a numerical value. For instance, if it’s ruled the property owner was 80 percent responsible for the accident, and the damages were $1,000, the owner would pay $800.

Regardless of what you do, accidents still happen. It’s a good idea to double check with your homeowners insurance policy. The wrong insurance policy could be detrimental to your case and any lack of coverage could break your bank. Contact your insurance company if you think you will be sued for incident.