Premises liability is a form of a personal injury law stating that property owners are responsible for maintaining their property in a safe manner and liable for damages if accidents or injuries happen on their premises or property. When someone is injured on someone else’s property and that injury is caused by the owner’s negligence, the victim can file a premises liability lawsuit. The lawsuit would likely seek some form of compensatory damages like the cost of medical treatment, lost income and pain and suffering due to the injuries.
Examples of Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability cases involve accident or injury incidents in which the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property. Common types of premises liability cases include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Improper snow and ice removal
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Unsafe and inadequate building security
- Poor lighting
- Inadequate emergency or safety signage
Property Owner Negligence
In order to file a premises liability lawsuit, the victim must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent in his or her ownership or maintenance of the property. Simply because you were injured on someone’s property does not mean that the property owner was negligent. You must prove that the property owner knew or reasonably should have known that the property was in an unsafe condition, and still failed to take proper steps to remedy the situation.
Duty of Care in Premises Liability
In legal terms, “duty” refers to the level of care that a property owner is required to go to maintain and ensure a safe environment to anyone on that property. In New Jersey, the level of care a property owner must go to and their “duty”, depends on the reason why the visitor was on the property. Under NJ law, there are three different types of visitors:
- Trespassers, or anyone on the property without permission. A property owner has little duty of care to warn trespassers about hazards or any duty of care.
- Licensees, have permission to be on the property like party guests or a service technician performing work at a home. Property owners have legal duty to warn them of any dangerous conditions on the property that the owner knows of, and which the licensee is unlikely to notice. Safety warnings and fencing around swimming pools are an example of the duty of care expected around a dangerous condition.
- Invitees, people who are on the property for business reasons, for instance a a customer at a store, a resident at an apartment complex. Property owners owe the highest level duty of care to invitees and must warn all visitors of known hazards and dangers and must reasonably inspect for any hazards and dangers.
Breach of Duty in Premises Liability
Once it's established that the property owner owed the visitor a duty of care, the next element of property owner negligence is proving that the property owner breached that duty. In other words, the victim must prove that the property owner acted negligently by failing to do one of the following:
- Maintain the property in a safe condition;
- Correct a known hazard; or/and
- Warn the plaintiff of the hazard.
It's possible that the property owner did not know about the hazard. In this case, the victim must also show that the property owner should have known.
Causation in Premises Liability
The injured victim must also show that the injuries were a direct result of the negligent act. For instance, if you fall on jagged concrete outside of a store, you must show that your injuries were directly caused by the jagged concrete and you would not have fallen had that not been the case.
Damages in Premises Liability
The final element of negligence is damages or compensation for the injury. Damages include medical bills related to the treatment and rehabilitation after the injury, lost income due to the recovery from the injury and other intangible damages like pain and suffering. If you’ve been seriously or permanently injured, calculating the value of your claim for damages will require expert witnesses and testimony around future lost income and medical treatment.
Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, Premises Liability Lawyers
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident that you believe was caused by a property owner's negligence, contact Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law and speak with a skilled premises liability lawyer as soon as possible. Our firm has an in-depth knowledge of personal injury laws, we have extensive experience in successfully representing a wide range of premises liability cases, and we pride ourselves in being able to provide clients with the passionate representation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.