Premises Liability for Apartment Complexes: Who Is Responsible?

Brooklyn Premises Liability Lawyers

If you’re renting an apartment, you may ask who’s responsible when you suffer an injury on the building’s communal premises, such as the lobby. For example, who’s supposed to compensate you if you trip on a poorly lit staircase?

In most premises liability cases, the landlord holds responsibility for accidents that occur because of unsafe conditions in apartment complexes. However, you should consult a Brooklyn premises liability lawyer for a more accurate assessment of liability and potential compensation for premises accidents.

How Landlord Liability Works

Property owners, including landlords, must keep their premises safe. Otherwise, they may face liability claims for property damage, injuries, and other losses people suffer on their premises. 

The landlord may be responsible for any accident in the lobby, stairways, hallways, laundry room, parking lot, and other communal areas. The landlord should watch out for uneven flooring, icy walkways, broken locks, exposed wiring, and other hazardous conditions and repair them promptly as needed.

The landlord should also ensure the hired workers who handle the repairs, like construction laborers or electricians, hold the proper credentials and insurance.

Other Parties Who May Be Responsible

Although the landlord usually assumes liability for accidents in apartment complexes, other parties may sometimes be responsible, depending on the nature of the accident. Maintenance services, contractors, and other tenants may also create dangerous conditions beyond the landlord’s control. An experienced premises liability lawyer can help you determine who’s likely at fault in your case. 

What Evidence Would You Need for a Premises Liability Case?

To prove fault and establish your premises liability claim, you’d need solid evidence such as:

  • Photos of the dangerous condition
  • Video footage of the incident
  • Witness statements by other people who saw the hazard
  • Your full and detailed medical records

Who Can File a Premises Liability Claim?

To pursue compensation after an accident in an apartment building, you must have been on the premises lawfully. Tenants commonly file premises liability lawsuits against landlords, but an injured visitor may be able to take legal action as well. In some situations, workers injured on the premises may also sue the property owner in addition to filing for benefits through workers’ compensation.

In contrast, trespassers who enter the building illegally typically can’t hold the property owner liable for any injuries. One notable exception is children. A landlord must mitigate any hazards (e.g., uncovered swimming pools) that could endanger children who are likely to enter the premises.

Proving Negligence in Premises Liability Cases

Premises Liability Cases in New York: When Property Owners Are Responsible for Your Injury

To win a premises liability case, you would need to show that:

  • The responsible person (such as the landlord) had a duty to keep the premises safe.
  • That person breached their duty by failing to address a dangerous condition they knew (or should reasonably have known about).
  • The responsible party’s breach of duty led to your accident.
  • You suffered tangible damages (e.g., medical costs, missed days at work, etc.) because of the accident.

For example, if several tenants have complained about nearly tripping on uneven flooring in the building’s poorly lit lobby, and the landlord didn’t address these concerns in time, the law will likely hold the landlord liable if a tenant or visitor eventually suffers a serious injury because of this hazard.

Premises Liability and Comparative Negligence

Many landlords try to evade liability by claiming the injured person suffered the accident because of their own carelessness or negligence. In some situations, the accident victim may be partly responsible.

Since NY is a pure comparative negligence state, you may still file a claim after an accident in an apartment complex, even if you’re mostly at fault. However, your payout would drop proportionally to your degree of fault. If you’re 25% responsible, you’d only collect 75% of your claim’s worth.

Those responsible for safety in the apartment complex may try to shift as much blame as possible onto you to reduce their liability. That’s one reason you should work with a seasoned lawyer who can stand up for your rights.

Examples of Situations in Which the Landlord May Be Responsible for Accidents

Generally, the landlord could be liable whenever they fail to address a known dangerous condition, as in the examples below.

Slipping or Tripping Hazards

Torn carpeting, icy or snowy walkways, loose floorboards, and other hazards can lead to serious slip-and-fall accidents. According to NY state data, falls are currently the number one fatal unintentional injury for adults over 45. 

Landlords must inspect their premises for slipping or tripping hazards reasonably often and address tenants’ concerns about these issues promptly. Otherwise, the law would hold them responsible in a premises liability case.

Poor Security

According to the NYPD, nearly 28,000 felony assaults and close to 14,000 burglaries occurred in NYC in 2023. While landlords can’t prevent all violent crime on their property, they must make a reasonable effort to protect their tenants, especially in high-crime areas.

“Reasonable effort” may include installing security cameras or motion sensors, ensuring all locks are in proper order, changing locks when necessary, and installing bars on street-level windows. Landlords may be liable if tenants or visitors suffer from violent crime incidents that simple security measures could have prevented. 

Building Code Violations

Landlords must follow building codes and ensure the apartment complex is structurally sound and safe. If building code violations led to your accident, you could take action against your landlord.

Dangerous Animals (in Some Situations)

Generally, tenants who keep dogs are responsible for their animals. However, in some instances, the law could hold a landlord responsible for dog bites if they knew the animal was dangerous and could have had it removed.

Call Our NYC Premises Liability Lawyers If You Suffered an Accident in an Apartment Complex

Did you sustain a serious injury because of unsafe conditions in an apartment building? Contact our NYC premises liability lawyers today. At Ross & Hill, we handle all types of premises liability lawsuits, including complex and disputed premises injury litigation. To date, our skilled legal team has won over $100 million for accident victims and their families.

Call 718-855-2324 (Brooklyn) or 646-351-6222 (Manhattan) or complete our quick online form for a free evaluation of your premises liability case, including advice on the road ahead should you decide to sue.

FAQ

How much time do I have to file a premises liability claim in NY? 

In NY, you have three years to start a premises negligence case after an injury on someone else’s property. However, the sooner you start working with a lawyer on your property liability lawsuit, the better your chances of successful resolution.

How much is my premises liability case worth?

Every case is different, so you’ll need to consult a lawyer for an estimate. According to the Lawsuit Information Center, the median award in personal injury cases in New York is over $287,000. However, your payout will depend on various factors like the severity of your injuries, other losses, and pain and suffering.

How much do New York City premises liability lawyers charge?

Reputable lawyers shouldn’t charge up front for legal representation after premises accidents. At Ross & Hill, we work on a contingency basis, so you’d only need to pay us if and when we settle your case.

Will my premises liability case go to trial?

Your case will likely settle out of court. Per Bureau of Justice statistics, only about 3% of all personal injury cases proceed to trial. However, we’re ready to fight for your rights in the courtroom if the responsible party refuses to settle. 

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