I Got Hurt on Someone Else's Property - Are They Responsible?
These accidents are commonly called slip and fall, or trip and fall. To recover, a victim must be able to prove that the condition causing them injury at the time of the accident was the result of the property owner's negligence.
How Can You Prove Your Case?
Maryland property owners are required to make a reasonable effort to maintain safe conditions. The degree of care owed to others depends on the nature of the visit - invitee, guest, licensee, or trespasser. Conversely, each individual has a responsibility to maintain an awareness of his or her surroundings to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
To argue a successful case against a property owner, you need to prove the following:
- The property owner owed you a duty to keep you safe
- There was a dangerous or defective condition on the property
- The property owner knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition but failed to take action or took ineffective action
- An injury caused by the condition and lack of fault by the plaintiff
As you might imagine, the third element is frequently the most difficult to prove. It is sometimes frankly impossible to prove that a landowner, possessor, or manager of land or a building knew about the dangerous, defective, or unsafe condition. Every insurance company or their defense attorney is guaranteed to argue that the defendant had "no notice" of the dangerous condition, and hence had no time to repair or warn. Of course, the personal injury plaintiff always has the burden of proof, so if they can't prove the owner had notice, there is no liability. However, the law charges a landowner, possessor, or manager of the property with knowledge of what could have been discovered through the exercise of ordinary care. So, suppose an area of a building should be cleaned, inspected, or maintained at given intervals but was not. In that case, an experienced personal injury attorney may be successful in arguing that the landowner could have discovered the unsafe condition but failed to do so. If the landowner could have discovered the defect but failed to use ordinary care in their maintenance or cleaning processes, an experienced personal injury attorney can be successful in arguing there is liability even if the absence of actual knowledge of the defect.
What is the Responsibility of a Landlord?
A landlord who has reserved certain "common" areas of his or her building [e.g. exterior stairways, hallways, and the like] owes the tenants, and those on the property with the tenants' permission, a duty of reasonable care to keep the property safe. Note that this responsibility does not extend to activities or conditions within the individual unit possessed or leased by the tenant. Of course, the landlord must know of the dangerous condition in order to be charged with responsibility.
Many lawyers will not handle cases of this type. I've been prosecuting slip and fall cases for nearly 20 years, so I'm familiar with the nuances. Contact me today to schedule your free case evaluation and analysis.