General liability claims and premises liability claims are two different types of personal injury cases. And while both involve businesses and both involve allegations of negligence, there are a few important distinctions between the two. Perhaps the best way to explain the difference is to say that premises liability specifically involves a business’s duty to its guests to maintain their property in such a way that protects guests from harm.

What Is General Liability?

General liability, or general negligence, is a type of legal liability related to a business’s daily operations. General liability is an umbrella term that refers to several types of liability. For example, most businesses purchase general liability insurance that covers the costs the business may face as the result of a negligence lawsuit. General liability insurance applies to premises liability cases but covers other types of claims as well, such as:

  • Injuries caused by a dangerous or defective product;
  • Lawsuits stemming from misleading or false advertising; and
  • Property damage claims.

Each type of general liability claim has different elements you must meet to successfully bring a claim. However, a basic negligence claim has four elements:

  • Duty—Did the business owe the injured party a duty of care?
  • Breach of Duty—Did the business violate the duty of care through some action or failure to act?
  • Causation—Did the business’s breach of duty result in the hurt party’s injuries?
  • Damages—Did the injured party suffer legally recognizable harm?

A knowledgeable New Jersey personal injury lawyer can help you understand the differences between the various types of business liability.

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is the term used to describe a property owner’s legal obligations to those they allow to enter their property. Premises liability applies to both residential, business, and government landowners. However, many premises liability claims are related to a business’s duty to its customers.

Elements of a Claim

To successfully bring a premises liability claim, you must establish the following five elements:

  • There was a dangerous condition on the property;
  • The condition created a risk of injury that was reasonably foreseeable;
  • The property owner either created the dangerous condition, knew of the condition, or should have known about it;
  • The owner failed to take any remedial action to cure the hazard; and
  • You suffered physical injuries due to the property owner’s failure to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition.

You must prove all five elements to be successful in your claim.

Visitor Categories

New Jersey, and most other states, determine the extent of a property owner’s duty by considering the legal status of the visitor. Visitors fall into one of three categories, as detailed below.


A trespasser is someone who does not have the landowner’s permission to enter the property. Property owners owe trespassers the lowest duty of care. More specifically, a landowner must only refrain from intentionally or recklessly causing a trespasser’s injuries.


A licensee is a person who is legally on another person’s property for the mutual benefit of the parties. For example, the most common example of a licensee is a social guest, such as a neighbor you invite over for dinner. When it comes to the duty owed to licensees, property owners must fix any known hazards on their property and warn licensees of any dangerous conditions that they were unable to cure.


An invitee is a person who is present on another person’s property for the exclusive benefit of the property owner. Courts consider customers of a business to be invitees. This is the case regardless of the guest’s subjective intent for being on the property, meaning the guest doesn’t necessarily need to plan on purchasing anything during their trip. Of course, invitee status only attaches while a customer is on a part of the property that is accessible to customers. For example, if you were to sneak into the back room of a department store and trip on an exposed wire, courts may determine that you were not an invitee because you were somewhere you were not allowed to be.

Businesses and other landowners owe invitees the highest duty of care. Not only do businesses need to fix or warn invitees of any known hazards, but they also must inspect the premises to identify potentially hazardous conditions that an invitee may not notice. For example, a grocery store owes a duty to its customers to regularly inspect the store for spills or other potential hazards that could cause a customer to slip and fall.

Make Sure You Have a Knowledgeable New Jersey Injury Lawyer by Your Side

As you can see, premises liability law is very complex. But a knowledgeable injury lawyer can help you to understand your rights.

At Petro Cohen, P.C., our knowledgeable injury attorneys have successfully handled all types of claims, including ones involving premises or general liability. Susan Petro, who heads the PI department and is also the Managing Member of the firm, along with Rich Gaeckle and Mike Veneziani, will handle your personal injury case, fighting for full and fair compensation.

As respected lawyers with decades of experience, our injury attorneys know how best to address the challenges and frustrations often encountered in litigated matters. They have handled thousands of personal injury cases with successful outcomes for the law firm’s clients.

You can rest assured that our injury attorneys will take the time to carefully listen to your individual story, work hard to obtain settlements for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, and help bring you closure.

Whether your serious personal injury involves a premised or general liability claim, or other types of injury, including auto accident injuries, construction litigation, and product liability, your case will be handled with the dedication, respect, and focus you should expect from your legal representation.

For your convenience, we have four offices in southern New Jersey, including Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, and Hamilton.  Our offices are open 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM daily, and we are available 24/7 via Live Chat on our Web site ( or e-mail (

If you are involved in a serious personal injury, call our attorneys from Petro Cohen, P.C. at 888-675-7607 for a free consultation.