Seeing a Hazard Versus Recognizing a Hazard

by Mike Myers on April 29, 2015

There’s a big difference between seeing something and noticing something (and appreciating the hazard).

Washington law “recognizes” this difference.

If you notice a hazard and recognize that it poses a risk but proceed anyway then the property owner is usually off the hook for resulting injuries:

If [the invitee] knows the actual conditions, and the activities carried on, and the dangers involved in either, he is free to make an intelligent choice as to whether the advantage to be gained is sufficient to justify him in incurring the risk by entering or remaining on the land. The possessor of the land may reasonably assume that he will protect himself by the exercise of ordinary care, or that he will voluntarily assume the risk of harm if he does not succeed in doing so.

But if you see what turns out to be a hazard but don’t appreciate that it is a hazard the property owner remains responsible:

A landowner is liable for harm caused by an open and obvious danger if the landowner should have anticipated the harm, despite the open and obvious nature of the danger.

This is another situation where the terms we use to describe (“seeing” and “recognizing”) can change the outcome.

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