Negligent landlords are liable for slip and fall injuries. However, renters must be able to prove that their landlord’s negligence was the cause of their slip and fall accident. Merely slipping and falling on rental property premises is not enough to prevail in a premises liability case; the accident must have been due to the landlord’s failure to remedy an unsafe condition. Furthermore, landlords will be liable only if they knew or should have known about the unsafe condition.
New Jersey Premises Liability Law
In New Jersey, slip and fall injuries that occur on someone else’s property may be compensable under premises liability law. Property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care in the ownership and maintenance of their property. The level of care that a landlord must exercise depends on the status of the visitor. There are three types of visitors in New Jersey:
- Invitees: This type of visitor is someone who, either by express or implied invitation, is on the property for the owner’s potential economic benefit. For example, customers at a retail store, restaurant patrons, hired workers, and delivery workers are all considered invitees. Landlords owe invitees the highest duty of care; they must not only fix any known dangers on the property, but also routinely inspect the premises for dangerous conditions and warn invitees of those dangers.
- Licensees: A licensee is someone who visits the property with the permission of the owner, but for a reason other than to advance the commercial interests of the property owner. Relatives and unsolicited salespeople are common examples of licensees. Although property owners owe a duty of care to licensees, it is a lesser degree than that owed to invitees. Landlords do not have a duty to inspect for hazards or take reasonable steps to remedy those hazards. However, they must warn licensees of known dangers on the property that licensees would not likely discover on their own.
- Trespassers: This type of visitor is someone who enters a property without the owner’s consent. Because trespassers are not allowed on the property, property owners generally do not owe them a duty of care. This means that when it comes to trespassers, landlords generally do not have a legal duty to inspect the premises for known dangers, warn trespassers of those dangers, nor take reasonable steps to remedy them.
Was the Landlord Negligent?
This is the key question to ask in premises liability cases. To be compensable, the property owner’s negligence must have been the cause of a renter’s slip and fall accident. Specifically, the landlord must have done one of three things:
- Caused the dangerous condition.
- Known about the dangerous condition and did not take reasonable steps to repair it.
- Should reasonably have known about the dangerous condition and did not take reasonable steps to repair it.
Therefore, if a reasonable landlord in their position would have discovered and taken reasonable steps to fix the dangerous condition, the landlord may be held liable for a renter’s slip and fall accident. However, if a reasonable landlord in their position would not likely have discovered the dangerous condition or if the landlord did take reasonable steps to fix it (even if it were not actually fixed), they may escape liability.
Dangerous Rental Property Conditions
There are many types of dangerous rental property conditions that may cause a renter to slip and fall. For example, leaky pipes may cause water to accumulate and lead to a slip and fall accident. Snow and ice on the sidewalk or steps may be left unattended. Stair railings may be insecure, carpeting in the hallway may be uneven, or there may be a hole in the floor of a common area. Also, there may not be adequate lighting in the parking area or other common areas of the rental property. These are all considered dangerous conditions that a landlord must remedy if they either discover them or are notified of them.
Types of Slip and Fall Injuries
Slip and fall accidents are common. They can result in many types of injuries ranging from minor to severe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury and that over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized in the United States as a result of a fall injury. Common types of slip and fall injuries include the following:
- Head trauma: Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) may result from hitting one’s head against a hard surface such as the floor. This type of injury disrupts the normal functioning of the brain and can lead to thinking and memory impairment, reduction in ability to move or feel, and changes in emotional functioning.
- Neck, back, and spinal injuries: Trauma to the neck and back can cause spinal cord injury and lead to paralysis. Damage to the spinal cord can have many consequences such as loss of movement and sensation, loss of bladder or bowel control, chronic pain, and respiratory problems.
- Broken bones: Slip and fall victims often suffer wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures. Although most broken bones can be healed with cast immobilization, physical therapy, or surgery, some broken bone injuries can have long-term consequences or lead to other medical complications.
What Should I Do If I am Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident?
Those who are injured in a slip and fall accident should seek medical attention immediately. Not only is it important to treat medical conditions as soon as possible, but also it is imperative to document all injuries resulting from the accident as evidence for a potential slip and fall case. Renters should also be sure to take pictures of the scene, collect witness contact information, and write down the details of the accident such as when and where it occurred and at what time of day, as well as what caused or contributed to the slip and fall. Those injured in slip and fall accidents are advised to not admit any blame for the accident and to contact an attorney before giving any statements to the insurance company.
Compensation for a Slip and Fall Injury in New Jersey
New Jersey follows the comparative negligence standard for slip and fall cases, meaning that an injured party’s own negligence will affect the amount of damages he or she can collect. Only those who are no more than 50 percent responsible for their injuries can receive compensation; those who bear more than 50 percent of the blame for their slip and fall accident will be barred from receiving compensation. Therefore, if a renter was texting when they slipped and fell on a wet floor in the common area, the renter may be found to be partially responsible for their resulting injuries. If a jury awards $10,000, but the renter is found to be 25 percent responsible, they will receive only $7,500.
The statute of limitations for slip and fall claims in New Jersey is two years; therefore, those who are injured in slip and fall accidents on rental properties should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will be able to evaluate the case, investigate the claim, and potentially seek compensation for injuries resulting from the slip and fall accident by proving the landlord’s negligence.
Freehold Slip and Fall Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Renters Obtain Compensation
If you were injured in a slip and fall accident on your rental property, contact the Freehold slip and fall accident lawyers at Ellis Law. You may be entitled to compensation, including payment for your present and future medical bills, lost wages and earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other incidental expenses. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.