It’s an unfortunate fact that, every year in New York, many people are injured while on the premises of another. Maybe it’s in a clothing store. Or restaurant. Some people even suffer injuries in their own apartment buildings. When these injuries are due to the recklessness or negligence of the property owner, property manager, or landowner, they are considered premises liability injuries.
Now, injuries come in all shapes and sizes. But what they all have in common is that they can result in financial challenges as well as physical and emotional pain.
If you are injured, you may not know what to do or where to turn. You’re not alone – it’s a frightening and vulnerable situation for many people. The good news is that the law is on your side in many cases in New York, and getting the compensation you need and deserve is possible.
Here’s what you need to know about premises liability claims in New York.
Premises Liability in General and the Additional Responsibilities New York Requires of Landlords
Those who own businesses and properties are responsible for providing their guests with a safe place. If an injury is related to dangerous conditions at a property that leads to an accident, then those who own or run the property are the at-fault party in many cases. Landlords have duties above and beyond this.
In our state, landlords have a duty to their tenants to provide them with safe living areas. If a dwelling or apartment building has more than three units, then they are required to keep common areas safe and clean, free from pests, insects, garbage, and other offensive materials. The appliances they install have to be in good working order, as well, and safe to use.
Additionally, there are further requirements for landlords that are related to house safety, such as lead paint in buildings, locks, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke detectors. And they have a duty to keep you reasonably safe from criminal harm, like keeping locks on the building doors so that strangers can’t simply walk in and perpetuate a crime on a tenant.
Landlords who neglect these duties can be sued if an injury occurs – and keep in mind that damages can cover not only concrete medical expenses, but also things such as pain, suffering, and lost earnings.
NY Premises Liability Injuries Are Serious – Particularly Slip and Falls
As mentioned above, these kinds of accidents come in all shapes and sizes – a broken elevator is likely to cause a very different injury than a puddle of water or defective smoke detector. One of the most serious kinds of accidents that can occur in premises liability cases, however, is also one of the most common: Slip and falls.
Most of us have slipped and fallen at one time or another in our lives, and most of the time it is no big deal. We simply pick ourselves up and move on. Unfortunately, it’s not always quite so easy.
This is especially true for older adults:
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Perhaps even worse, fall death rates in our country are increasing.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Older folks aren’t the only victims, either. Younger people fall, too – and while it often occurs at work, this isn’t always the case.
So, why do premises liability accidents happen?
Common Causes of Premises Liability Accidents in NYC
The most common causes of injuries related to premises liability accidents include:
- Inadequate maintenance – If regular maintenance isn’t performed on properties, and defects or hazards are not repaired, then they can be the cause of injuries that occur.
- Insufficient security – Sometimes people are injured as the result of events that could have been avoided with better security.
- Loose floor coverings – Unsecured carpeting, mats, or rugs that slide across the floor can present a slip and fall hazard that leads to injuries.
- Faulty stairs – Stairs with defects, such as missing handrails and damaged steps, or that are built too steep, can present a serious hazard.
- Obstructions – If there are objects blocking where people frequently walk, then it can lead to injury.
- Cracked or uneven sidewalks – Damaged sidewalks that are cracked or uneven present a tripping hazard and make them unsafe for people to walk on.
- Shortage of signs – If there is a known dangerous area on the property, then there must be clear signage to alert people to this issue.
- Slippery or wet floors – A classic slip and fall hazard, floors that are wet due to mopping or spilled/leaked fluid are dangerous for those walking on it, especially if not marked with a warning sign.
- Unsecured wired and cords – Cords that are extended across the floor present a tripping hazard.
- Poor lighting – Lack of lighting in places that are dangerous to walk, such as stairs and parking lots, can lead to accidents that could have been prevented with adequate lighting.
Many factors can lead to an accident, but if any reason listed above was the root cause of the accident that injured you – or any similar reason – then you may have a premises liability case.
Common Injuries Related to Premises Liability
Now that you know what types of conditions can lead to injuries in premises liability cases, it’s important to talk about the type of injuries associated with these accidents. If you were injured on someone’s property, then you may be eligible for compensation.
The most common injuries in accidents related to premises liability include:
- Head injuries
- Neck Injuries
- Strained or pulled muscles
- Broken bones
- Diseases related to toxic exposure
- Injuries to soft tissue
- Spinal cord injuries
- Lacerations or wounds
- Psychological injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
These injuries can have long-term and devastating effects on a person’s life, which is why these types of personal injury cases exist – to help victims recover damages to cover expenses that are the direct result of the injuries, including emotional pain.
Do You Have a NY Premises Liability Claim?
So, you’ve been injured. How do you know if you have a legitimate premises liability claim? Many of these types of cases stem from intentional wrongdoing or just straight-up negligence.
The best way to know if your case holds water is to consult with an experienced attorney who can look at the facts of your case. They can help you pursue damages to which you may be entitled. That being said, you also should be aware of the laws in New York that govern premises liability claims.
The first thing that must be shown is that the party who is responsible for your injuries was indeed negligent. Negligence is defined as one party acting or failing to act in a way that any other reasonable person would in comparable conditions – and that the action, or lack of action, led to the injury.
There are generally five elements that must be established in premises liability claims to show negligence occurred. They are:
The person or entity responsible for your injuries owed you a degree of care to help keep you from harm, which is referred to as their duty.
Breach of Duty
Once the duty is established, you must show that it was breached.
Cause in Fact
You now must show that the breach of that duty directly caused your accident.
You now must show that the breach caused the injury you sustained directly.
You must now prove to the court that you have damages from the injuries you sustained, such as loss of wages or medical bills.
Pure Comparative Negligence
It’s also important to talk about the pure comparative negligence law in New York. This is a law in which each party involved in the accident is assigned a percentage of fault and how it can impact damages awarded.
If you are found to be 30 percent at fault for the accident that led to your injuries, for example, then your damages will be reduced by 30 percent. So, if you were awarded $1 million for damages, then you would only receive 70 percent of it – $700,000 – under the pure comparative negligence laws in the state.
How Much Is My Premises Liability Case Worth?
One question many people have about premises liability claims and personal injury claims is how much they can be awarded for damages. How these things are calculated can become quite complex. You don’t simply add together total losses and then multiply that by a number, even if some insurance companies do appear to take that approach.
Some of the factors that can impact the value of a claim include:
The Injuries Sustained
The type of injuries you sustained as well as their severity impacts the value of a claim. Severe injuries are typically awarded more financial damages. The damages include personal care, medical costs, and loss of income, among other things. Catastrophic injuries and traumatic injuries may also result in a higher award for damages, since pain and suffering may be included.
Disability or permanent injury also plays a role in how much you can receive in damages in a case. These types of injuries normally call for higher damages to be paid due to their grave nature – and the fact that loss of quality of life, as well as future costs associated with the injury, like medical expenses and loss of future wages, must be considered.
An experienced attorney can help you to sort out what types of damages you should seek from your case, depending on the factors involved in it.
Another thing that plays a role, as you may have suspected, is fault. This is where the pure comparative fault laws come into play, which have already been described. If you bear any amount of responsibility in the accident that led to your injuries, it can reduce the reward.
It’s important to note, however, that there are certain situations where comparative fault will not be taken into consideration. This includes any accident that was sustained working at a height or with the use of scaffolds, ladders, or scissor lifts. Comparative negligence will not be used in the case. In those cases, the general contractor or owner is likely 100 percent liable for injuries.
Another factor that can come into play when understanding what your claim is worth: Something called jurisdiction of the claim. Some insurance companies – if that is who you are dealing with – monitor awards granted by juries in different jurisdictions. They know how much plaintiffs in similar cases in your area have been awarded in previous lawsuits, and they may try to settle your claim for a lower amount.
What Should You Do If You Are Injured?
If you are injured in an accident that you suspect is the result of the negligence of someone else, then there are important steps to take. Even if you think you may not be injured, it’s still important in the wake of an accident to take steps to document what happened. Get yourself checked out by a medical professional to create a record.
In general, after an accident, you should:
- Report it – If you are injured on property you rent or on someone else’s property, then report it to the owner of the property immediately.
- Seek help – Go see a medical provider as soon as possible, if you don’t simply need to go to the emergency room for a more serious injury.
- Document it – Take pictures of the scene if you are able, and make videos with your phone if you can – or have someone with you do it.
- Get information – Ask anyone who witnessed the accident for contact information as well as names.
- Don’t say anything – Never say you were at fault in an accident.
- Keep notes – Make sure to write down what happened that led to your injury, and include important information such as dates, conversations, and parties involved.
- Don’t talk to insurance companies – If the other person’s insurance company attempts to get a hold of you, don’t talk to them until you’ve consulted with an attorney.
- Consult with an attorney – If you want to pursue a case, then It’s vital to talk to an experienced attorney as soon as you can after the accident took place, when you are able. They can help to guide you through what needs to happen.
Is There a Statute of Limitations?
There is a statute of limitations, or time frame under which you must seek damages, on personal injury claims in New York. You must file a lawsuit before this cut-off if you want to pursue a case. For premises liability claims, the statute of limitation is three years from the date of the accident in which you were injured.
Getting injured can be devastating, especially when it’s due to the negligence of another. Make sure to speak with an attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve.