A property owner can be held responsible for injuries or damages caused to a person on their property.
If you have ever heard of a slip and fall case, say, a 40-year-old woman sliding across a slick supermarket floor where another customer broke a pickle jar open, you probably think that the property owner is in big trouble. They are on the hook for any medical bills and lost wages the woman incurs because of the accident. That may or may not be accurate. Premises liability is not so cut and dried. Under common law rules and statutory laws, a property owner must make sure that no one gets hurt on their property; in other words, no dangerous condition exists on the property that would cause someone to get injured. But it depends on the property owner’s relationship to the person who gets hurt and what type of property to some extent. For instance, a business property owner is far more responsible to those injured because they invite people to their property by simply being open for business. On the other hand, private homeowners are not as obligated to make their property safe for others. And companies and private owners have even less obligation to a trespasser unless the trespasser is a child wandering onto the property.
Who is Liable for Injuries under Premises Liability Law in New Jersey?
The law of premises liability is complex and nuanced. Thus, it is not a matter of commercial property owners are liable to injured customers and residential owners are not. As such, a homeowner who knows about a broken step in their staircase must notify a guest of that danger. Even if they were unaware of the broken step, they may still be liable if the broken staircase is so apparent that anyone could reasonably see that they should repair the broken stair. In addition, if a trespasser enters private property, an owner formerly had no duty to the trespasser for their safety under common law by their status as a trespasser. However, the law gives special consideration to children who enter onto another’s property. At least one Supreme Court case has held a private property owner has some duty of reasonable care for a trespasser’s safety. So, if you have a six-foot deep ditch in your yard where a swimming pool is in construction, you may be liable for injuries to the neighbor’s kid who sneaks in your yard through an open gate and falls in the hole, especially if kids have trespassed in your yard before. Exceptional circumstances aside, however, most injuries occur on business premises, where a business owner is more likely to be responsible for damages to those entering their property.
How do you prove a premises liability claim in NJ?
To successfully sue a property owner for personal injury damages, a plaintiff must prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property that the owner should have reasonably known would probably cause someone injury and that the owner knew of the situation but did nothing about it. And if the property owner is a public entity, then New Jersey’s Tort Claims Act (N.J.S.A. 59-1 et seq.) applies. The Act requires that the injured party plaintiff prove that the public entity could reasonably foresee that the dangerous condition on their property could injure someone, that it did hurt someone, and that they did nothing about the condition despite knowing about or creating the danger.
Thus, a slip and fall liability provides a good illustration. Take the example of the broken pickle jar at the supermarket. A court would look at whether the business owner could have foreseen items on shelves would fall, break, and cause a risk of someone slipping and whether the owner should be liable for such an accident. A skilled attorney well-versed in premises liability law could argue that the supermarket owner should be accountable for their client’s injury. Customers knocking jars over into the aisle is common. A store owner should know that and be vigilant about spills, cleaning the area quickly and posting a visible warning of the danger, like a fluorescent cone marking the spot. In that way, the customer is aware that they should steer clear.
Holding Property Owners Liable for Personal Injury Compensation and Medical Bills in Trenton, NJ
Accidents happen everywhere, but a property owner should compensate you if your injury is their fault. You may have expensive medical bills that the responsible party should pay because they could have prevented your injury. By discussing your situation with a premises liability attorney, you might discover that you have a valid claim against the one who caused you injury. More importantly, your attorney can help you identify who is responsible for your damages. For example, someone other than the people who live at a private residence may own it. Your attorney would have to establish who created the dangerous condition and who, under the rental agreement, is responsible for ensuring that the property is safe.
For example, a landlord may be responsible for landscaping and structural conditions, like trees, cement foundations, and swimming pools, while the tenant may be responsible for fixing appliances, plumbing, yard gates, and the like. It may matter where you were injured or by what to determine who is responsible. Both the landlord and the renter may be liable, and your attorney will probably advise including both in your personal injury claim. Likewise, a sole owner, a corporation, a partnership, or another business entity may own the location of your injury. In that case, your attorney would help you locate all responsible parties, including a public entity, if you were injured at a school or on government property, for example.
You would have to prove liability based on a different set of laws for a public entity than a private business or residence, so it is essential to know who owns the property where you were injured. Since premises liability injury matters can be complex, you will need guidance from an experienced attorney.
Need to File a Premises Liability Claim in New Jersey? Call KCR today
You are entitled to seek compensation if you were injured on someone else’s property. There are different avenues you can explore, but you do not have to do it on your own. When it comes to personal injury claims we strongly recommend consulting and eventually retaining a law firm that knows how to handle your case in a professional and strategic way.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries from a slip and fall accident or any other injuries suffered because of negligent behavior in towns such as Windsor, Lawrence, Groveville, Lambertville, Princeton, Florence, or Trenton give us at 609-528-2596 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation with the attorneys at Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson.