Premises Liability on Public Property


Here in Oregon we love spending time outdoors: crabbing on the Oregon coast, hunting  and backpacking in the Oregon Wilderness, snowboarding, sea kayaking— we love it all. But what happens when there is an accident on public land? If you fall down a ravine while hiking, or break a leg snowboarding, do you have to bear the costs alone?

Premises Liability.

The general rule is that all property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition so that people entering on the property will not get hurt. The legal theory for this rule is called “premises liability.” Premises liability makes property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their premises.

It applies to private as well as public properties.

When it comes to determining when, and to what extent, a property owner is responsible for injuries that occurred on his property, the law divides the people entering on the property into different classes:

  • Licensee —someone who is present for his own purposes, but enters with permission of the owner.
  • Social guest—is someone that is a guest, present with the owner’s permission.
  • Business Invitee—someone who enters the property at the invitation, and for the benefit of the owner— like a customer. This invitation usually implies that the owner has taken reasonable steps to make the property safe.
  • Trespasser— someone who enters the premises without permission and has no right to be on the property.

A property owner’s liability for injuries is determined by the laws and procedures of the state in which the injury occurred. Some states look only at the status of the injured person (social guest, licensee etc.) to decide liability. Other states look at the injured person’s status, his actions on the property, the condition of the property, and the owner’s actions. Knowing what factors the court in your state will apply is why it is important for you to consult with knowledgeable personal injury attorneys.

Oregon’s Recreational Use Statute.

In 1995, Oregon enacted its recreational use statute, which encourages landowners to make their land available to the public for recreational purposes. Oregon’s recreational use statute provides that an owner of land who makes it available for recreational use is not liable for injuries occurring on the land to people making use of it for those specific recreational purposes. That immunity does not apply, however, if the landowner charged the injured party to use the land.

Public Lands.

When it comes to public lands, it may be difficult to hold the government responsible for injuries because most government agencies enjoy “government immunity.”

Consult Competent Counsel.

If injury has put the skids on your outdoor activities, we may be able to help. We are Oregon attorneys. We provide free consultations. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.