Who is Liable if I Get Injured on Public Property?

Injury,Personal Injury • October 29, 2021

Many people wonder who is responsible for your injuries if you end up injured on public property. Does someone have to compensate you for your medical bills, or are you just out of luck?

What is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is an area of personal injury law that deals with who is responsible for negligence and injuries that typically occur because of something unsafe on someone’s property, often public property. Keep in mind that the simple fact that you were injured on someone else’s property doesn’t automatically make you eligible for compensation. There are other factors to consider that an experienced Jersey City personal injury lawyer can help you with. For example, were you a invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser? That will make a significant difference of whether the property owner is liable for your injuries. 


An invitee is an individual who was invited by the owner to the property. They are invited into the property as a way for the owner to make money, such as a restaurant owner or a shop owner. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care, and if you’re injured on someone else’s property as an invitee, you may very well have recourse to collect compensation. The property owner must inform the invitee of any dangerous conditions that they knew about or should have discovered. The property owner is also required to conduct reasonable inspections to discover any latent hazardous conditions. 


A licensee is someone who is invited onto a property for their something other than financial gain of the property owner, such as for a dinner party or some other type of social visit. Property owners owe licensees a duty to keep them safe, but they don’t owe as high of a duty as they do to invitees. Property owners are required to inform invitees of any dangers on the property that they’re aware of that are not obvious to the licensee.


A trespasser is owed the least duty in terms of being protected on someone else’s property. Interestingly, though, even if someone is trespassing, it’s still possible for a property owner to be held liable if they are injured. In New Jersey, the only duty a property owner has to a trespasser is to refrain from acts that are willfully injurious. A property owner must also warn trespassers of any artificial conditions on the property that could pose a risk of serious bodily injury or death to the trespasser. Other than that, the landowner has no duty to protect the trespasser. 

Sometimes, You Sue a Private Party for Injuries on Public Property

If you’re an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser on any type of public property, it can be complicated to determine who exactly you can hold liable. In some cases, it might be the city. In others, you might have to sue a private party even though the injuries occurred on public property. For example, if your injuries happen on a public sidewalk, it’s almost guaranteed that the property owner is going to be the one held liable. While this might seem counterintuitive since public sidewalks are in fact public property, it’s still up to private owners to maintain them.

You Often Cannot Sue a Public Entity

Filing a claim against a public entity in New Jersey is quite difficult. There are short deadlines to file what’s called a notice of claim, usually within 90 days. This is despite the fact that there is a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims in New Jersey. In some cases, it actually isn’t even possible to file a claim against a public entity, as they have immunity. It’s crucial to speak to a lawyer to determine if you have a claim, and whether that claim is against a public entity or a private owner, even though the injuries took place on what is considered public property. 

When to Contact an Attorney

What you’re entitled to, and in some circumstances, whether you’re an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser, can actually be difficult to determine. There are also deadlines by which you must file a personal injury case if you wish to recover compensation. For these reasons, it’s advisable to contact an experienced  premises liability lawyer right away.