Premises Liability Accidents
Owners of property, such as homeowners and owners of commercial property (rental property, hotels, supermarkets, retail stores, shopping plazas, condominiums, parking lots, malls, movie theaters, sports stadiums and arenas, airports, hospitals, museums, bus and train stations, restaurants and bars) have a legal responsibility to maintain a relatively safe environment. When you are invited onto someone’s property, you should have a reasonable expectation to not get injured.
If a person is injured while on someone else’s property due to the existence of a dangerous condition, then the injured person may have legal rights against the property owner which may entitle the injured person to compensation. Often times, people are injured on someone else’s property due to a slip and fall or trip and fall accident. Other types of premises liability claims include injuries or death caused by negligent security, deck and porch collapses, swimming pool accidents, trampoline accidents, defective stairway accidents, unsafe playgrounds, dog attacks and falling merchandise in stores.
If the property owner knew or should have known of an unsafe condition that creates a foreseeable risk of injury, lawful users of the property who suffer injury from such a dangerous condition may be entitled to compensation for resulting harm. Property owners have a legal responsibility to correct and remedy known hazards which are likely to cause injury. This legal responsibility creates an obligation on behalf of a property owner to conduct reasonable inspections of their property to eliminate unsafe conditions before they can cause harm to users of the property.
In situations where the property owner cannot feasibly eliminate a dangerous condition that exists on their property, the property owner then has a legal responsibility to warn lawful users of the property of the hazard. Failure to warn lawful users of the property of a known dangerous condition can give rise to a claim for negligence.
Owners of commercial properties may have additional legal obligations in certain situations, such as the legal responsibility to comply with applicable building code regulations. In certain situations, owners of commercial property whose violations of applicable building code regulations cause injury to lawful users of the property may be subject to double or treble damages under Chapter 93A of Massachusetts laws. A commercial property owner’s violation of Chapter 93A may also prevent the property owner from asserting the comparative negligence defense against the injured party, which means that the defendant property owner cannot successfully blame the plaintiff’s conduct for causing the injury.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PROVE TO RECEIVE COMPENSATION?
In order to obtain compensation for injuries suffered in an accident that occurred on someone else’s property, the injured person, or plaintiff, has the burden of proving:
- the identity of the property owner;
- that they were lawfully on the property;
- that it was foreseeable to the property owner that they would be on the property at the time of the accident;
- that the property owner knew, or should have known, of the existence of the dangerous condition;
- that despite having such knowledge of a dangerous condition, the property owner failed to take reasonable precaution to prevent harm to lawful users of the property;
- that the injury suffered by plaintiff was caused by the negligence of the property owner; and
- Plaintiff suffered harm (damages) due to the property owner’s negligence.
DO I HAVE TO SUE SOMEONE IN ORDER TO GET COMPENSATED?
Most property owners carry liability insurance which protects their personal assets against lawsuits of this kind, meaning that an insurance company, not the property owner, is responsible for compensating the injured party. However, insurance companies can be very difficult to deal with, and often times refuse to settle these types of cases without forcing the injured party to file a lawsuit against the property owner. Insurance companies spend a lot of time and money to defend premises liability cases.
In almost all of these cases, the defendant property owner will assert the comparative negligence defense against the plaintiff, asserting that the plaintiff was in the best position to avoid the injury, was not being careful under the circumstances, and is therefore responsible for causing their own injury. Massachusetts is what is known as a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that a plaintiff must be found to be less than 51% at fault (the defendant(s) at least 50% at fault), for the accident in order for the plaintiff to receive compensation. The outcomes of these cases are generally determined by assessing the reasonableness of each party’s conduct.
Because these cases are defended by property owners and their insurance companies very aggressively, you will need an experienced attorney who is capable of filing a lawsuit and litigating your claim, if this approach becomes necessary. Our attorneys dedicate the necessary time, attention and resources to our premises liability cases in order to present them in the most favorable light to the defendants and their insurance company. If you would like more information on premises liability in Massachusetts, immediately contact one of our premises liability attorneys who will begin the necessary investigation into the accident in order to protect your legal rights. All of our initial consultations are free, and we pursue all premises liability claims on a contingent fee basis, meaning no attorneys fees are paid unless and until we obtain compensation.