What is premises liability, and can it help my claim?
People often hear about premises liability, especially after an accident that results in significant injury to the victim. While not all accidents are someone else’s fault, the conditions or the location where the accident occurred can play a role in the injury.
Premises liability is the legal concept that a property owner can be responsible for harm that occurs to someone while on their property. Such claims are almost always founded on negligence, but state judicial rulings can also be a source of precedent that guides how a judge will rule in certain cases.
Slip-and-fall accidents form the bulk of premises liability civil claims in New York and elsewhere, but the conditions present at the time of the accident can result in different kinds of harm. Examples include:
- Icy stairs.
- Wet floors or creased and lifting carpeting.
- Uneven pavement on sidewalks or swimming pools.
- Dog-bite attacks.
- Inadequate lighting or faulty smoke alarms causing hazardous conditions.
Property owners who may be liable include shop proprietors, restaurant owners, landlords or property managers, or maintenance owners. For New York City residents who have suffered injuries from a preventable accident, it is important to have experienced legal support to aggressively pursue a claim that will give you just compensation for your injuries.
Obligations of the property owner
The property owner has a duty of care to guests who are on the premises, even if they are trespassing. When pursuing a claim, the injured party must prove:
- That the property owner knew or could reasonably discover that there is a hazardous condition that presents an unreasonable risk.
- That guests on the property could not know that the hazardous condition existed or could not protect themselves from it.
- That the proprietor failed to exercise reasonable care in protecting the guest from harm.
The open and obvious defense
A common defense that the property owner may use is to show that the hazard should be obvious to a reasonable person visiting the property, and that they should have protected themselves from this clear danger.
The success of the lawsuit will depend on the evidence each party presents. But premises liability claims can be difficult to prove, and if the defendant can show that the injured party was partially responsible for the accident, under state negligence laws the plaintiff may only be able to recover partial damages. If the condition that existed was a clear health safety violation, however, the landowner is automatically negligent.