Falls cause over 8 million hospital visits in the United States every year, according to data published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. People slip, trip, and fall for all sorts of reasons in all kinds of places. As New York premises liability lawyers know, however, if a personal injury case ends up in court, the property owner may end up taking the blame.
This means that whether someone slips in an icy parking lot at a store or trips down the stairs of a private home, the property owner may be legally responsible if they did not address the unsafe condition that caused the fall. Landowners in New York must understand their legal responsibility to maintain their property and prevent accidents.
A New York City premises liability lawyer can explain your rights and options after an accident. In the meantime, this post covers the key aspects of premises liability laws that New York property owners should know.
What is Premises Liability?
The legal definition of premises is the structure and land that make up a piece of property. Liability means being legally responsible for something.
Therefore, premises liability cases revolve around the legal responsibility for what happens on someone’s property. In other words, courts can find property owners at fault for accidents occurring in their homes, at their places of business, or on their land.
Premises liability cases revolve around a standard known as “duty of care.” That is, homeowners and business owners must protect their visitors by keeping their property reasonably safe and free of hazards.
What Must Premises Liability Cases Show?
Just because owners have a duty of reasonable care, that doesn’t mean they are at fault for every accident that occurs. Successful premises liability claims against property owners must prove the following elements:
1. There Was a Dangerous Condition
All premises liability cases begin with a dangerous condition on the property. These may be temporary hazards or long-lasting conditions that the property owner failed to address. Dangerous conditions include the following:
- Weather-related hazards, such as ice, snow, sleet, or rain on driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots
- Spilled substances or objects on floors
- Uneven surfaces, including torn carpet and damaged flooring
- Hazardous chemicals or other toxic substances
- Dangerous animals
- Violence or criminal activity
2. Visitors Were Lawfully On the Property
Property owners must create a safe environment for certain types of visitors. However, the duty of care is stronger for some types of visitors than others:
- Invitees: If landowners invite someone onto their property (either explicitly or implicitly), the law considers that person an invitee. These include hotel guests, store customers, visitors to an office building, and people hired to work on a property. The legal liability for accidents is strongest for invitees.
- Licensees: Licensees have permission to enter the property for their own benefit. This may include an acquaintance who drops by someone’s house unannounced.
- Trespassers: These are people who have no legal right to be on the property. Generally, property owners do not have a duty of care to protect trespassers. However, there are sometimes exceptions, such as when a child drowns in a neighbor’s pool.
3. The Property Owner Was Negligent
If you were injured due to an unsafe condition on a property, your Brooklyn premises liability lawyer may argue that the owner breached their duty of care. Courts may find property owners negligent in premises liability cases for doing the following:
- Creating a dangerous condition
- Failing to inspect the property to discover potential hazards
- Neglecting to remove or properly fix an unsafe condition
- Failing to warn visitors about potential dangers
Typically, an owner must have known (or should have known) about the danger for liability to exist. If the hazard is impossible to predict, the property owner may not have any legal liability. In New York, negligence standards may also apply to others who have control of the property, such as tenants or property managers.
4. That Negligence Caused Your Injury
The negligence on behalf of the landowner or manager must have caused you to sustain an injury. Make sure to seek medical care as soon as possible after your injury to help document your claims. Otherwise, you may find it challenging to prove in court that your injury was related to your accident at the property.
What Are Common Types of Premises Liability Cases?
Any type of injury can lead to a premises liability claim, provided the accident occurred on someone else’s property and was due to the property owner’s or manager’s negligence. Most premises liability lawsuits fit into one of the following categories.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are common causes of injury in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over 800,000 people a year are hospitalized after being hurt in a fall. Falls also make up a significant percentage of premises liability cases. The following dangerous conditions can contribute to fall injuries:
- Defective walkways or handrails
- Stairs that are broken or don’t meet code requirements
- Accumulations of sleet, ice, or snow
- Spilled substances like liquids or food on the floor
- Objects (store merchandise, tools, or other clutter) on floors
- Cords and wires, like extension cords or computer cords
- Loose rugs, unsecured mats, and torn carpets
- Cracked or broken floors, concrete, or pavement
- Inadequate lighting that makes it hard to see
Landowners may be liable for criminal acts on their property, even if they were not involved in the act. An inadequate security claim may arise if previous visitors were injured by criminal or violent activity, but the property owner didn’t take adequate measures in response. For example, an apartment complex manager may install an entrance gate, a shopping mall owner may hire security guards, or a homeowner may install a burglar alarm or motion-sensing security lights.
Dogs bite over 4.5 million people every year, per the American Veterinary Medical Association. Part of creating reasonably safe conditions on your property is taking care that animals do not hurt visitors. This may involve securing dangerous animals or warning guests that a pet has aggressive tendencies. Even friendly pets may act unpredictably, and it is the property owner’s duty to keep them under control.
Contact Ross & Hills: Experienced NYC Premises Liability Lawyers
At Ross & Hills, we have nearly 40 years of experience handling premises liability cases in the New York City metropolitan area. Our personal injury attorneys have won over $100 million in settlements for our clients. We can help you gather evidence to prove the elements of a premises liability case.
Why is premises liability important?
Knowledge of premises liability is important because property owners have a legal obligation to keep their property safe. If a visitor suffers an injury at their home or business, the visitor may file a claim against them.
What is an example of a dangerous condition?
Examples of dangerous conditions in premises liability cases include wet floors, defective stairs and sidewalks, unsecured swimming pools, aggressive animals, and inadequate security.
What is evidence in premises liability cases?
Examples of evidence that can support a premises liability claim include photos showing dangerous conditions at the property, witness statements indicating knowledge of a hazardous situation, and emails between employees discussing hazards at a place of business. An experienced New York premises liability lawyer can provide more information about evidence in these types of claims.