New Jersey Premises Liability Lawyer
The Reinartz Law Firm represents people who have been injured at commercial properties, worksites, apartment buildings, shopping malls, restaurants, retail establishments, parking lots, sidewalks, and more. These types of cases are typically referred to as “Premises Liability” matters. They involve complex issues of law and medicine, and damages can range from minor to catastrophic.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence or carelessness of a property owner or caretaker, we at The Reinartz Law Firm can help you recover compensation for your injuries.
We pursue compensation for victims of negligence who are injured by dangerous conditions on poorly maintained property. A dangerous condition can be virtually anything, such as snow and ice, trash and debris, improperly maintained steps, potholes in parking lots, raised steps on sidewalks, a slippery surface, and more. These types of claims all fall under the category of Premises Liability.
Our firm represents clients who have suffered injuries in premises liability accidents involving:
- Falldown Injuries
- Animal Bites
- Construction Accidents
- Sports Accidents
- Inadequate Security
- Grocery Store Incidents
- Shopping Center Accidents
- Parking Lot Accidents
- Apartment Building Injuries
- Snow & Ice
- Commercial Properties
- Negligent Security
What is Premises Liability?
Premises Liability is a subset of general personal injury law. These cases can include any type of fall-down injury, construction accident, shopping center accident, grocery store accident, animal bite, or accident on someone else’s property, as long the injuries are in some way attributable to the negligence of the property owner. Often, these cases involve accidents at public places like shopping malls and grocery stores.
While slip and fall accidents are the most common types of premises liability cases, there are many others that fall under this category. Pedestrian accidents, wrongful death and toxic exposure cases can all involve allegations of premises liability. Specific issues may involve failure to maintain the premises, defective design and actual knowledge of danger. Similarly, poor lighting in parking lots and inadequate security that permits injury or attack to occur could be related to the premises owner’s negligence.
Swimming pool accidents also fall into the category of premises liability. Often, these cases involve children and the laws requiring lockable gates on pools can be stringent. If a swimming pool owner either does not fence in their pool property, or fails to lock the gate on their fence, they could be held liable for a resulting accident, even if the injured child was a trespasser.
While there are many types of Premises Liability cases, there are four defining factors which must be proven in all premises liability matters in order to hold the property owner liable. These four factors are the Duty of Care, Breach of that Duty, Causation, and Damages.
Duty of Care
Duty of Care describes the responsibility of the property owner to maintain his or her property to a common standard of care. This means that property owners are required to fix broken steps, clear public walkways, and keep up with regular maintenance and repairs so that their property is not dangerous to visitors.
The level of the duty of care changes based on the nature of the relationship with the visitor. The highest duty of care is owed to invitees, or individuals who the property owner has specifically invited to enter their property. For private residents, this status is for individuals with an explicit invitation to enter. For commercial property owners, however, all potential customers are considered invitees. Therefore, no explicit invitation is necessary as it is assumed that all potential customers are welcome on the property.
For invitees, the duty of care of the property owner typically requires that they post clear signs of any potential dangers like wet floors, dangerous sidewalks, icy conditions or any other known hazards. They must also warn any invitee ahead of time of all conditions that may pose a safety risk.
A second category of visitor is a licensee. A licensee is a person who has permission to enter the property for their own reasons, rather than being expressly invited by you. Mail carriers, police or security patrol officers, and delivery personnel typically fall into this category. The duty of care owed to a licensee is less than that of an invitee, but the property owner is still required to post warnings about dangers they know or should know about that could cause harm.
The last category of visitor is a trespasser. Usually, no duty of care is owed to an unknown trespasser by the property owner. If a trespasser is discovered by the property owner, though, they may be required to share a warning about any potential dangers should the visitor continue to trespass.
The one exception to the trespassers rule, however, is trespassing children. Because it is known that children are drawn to certain dangerous environments like abandoned buildings or unfenced swimming pools, the “attractive nuisance doctrine” was developed. This means that property owners are required to repair, fence or otherwise block certain dangers that could attract children and put them at risk.
Breach of Duty of Care
Once the specific duty of care is determined based on the relationship of the injured person to the property owner, the victim must then prove that there was a breach of this duty. In cases of obvious disrepair or danger, the breach occurs when an owner knew or should have known about the danger, yet took no measures to fix or warn visitors of the danger. There must be a foreseeable risk to potential victims in order for breach to be determined.
It is important to note that there may exist some dangers of which the property owner is unaware. If the owner did not encounter these dangers or hazards in the regular care and maintenance of his or her property, they may not be liable for any injuries. If the hazard was hidden and not discoverable in the regular course of maintenance and inspection, then a breach may not exist.
The property owner’s breach of the duty of care must be a substantial factor in causing your injury in order to bring a premises liability suit. Even if there is a proven breach of the applicable duty of care, if that defective property condition is not the proximate cause of your injury, there can be no grounds for liability.
The injured person must be able to prove that his or her injuries or illness were caused directly by the disrepair or hazard on the property.
Damages are the ascertainable losses that directly result from the injuries, for which compensation is sought in a premises liability case. You must prove that you, in fact, sustained damages in order to recover compensation. Without damages, there can be no compensation awarded.
Damages can be economic and non-economic in nature. For example, medical costs, lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses are economic damages. Pain, suffering, disability, impairment, and loss of enjoyment of life, on the other hand, are all non-economic damages for which compensation may be sought.
In most premises liability cases, the jury is allowed to allocate a percentage of comparative fault to the injured plaintiff. This means that the jury can find that the injured party was partially responsible for the accident, and reduce any damage award at trial by the injured party’s percentage share of responsibility. Under the New Jersey comparative negligence act, injured plaintiffs who are found to be more than 50% responsible for an accident receive no recovery.
For example, if a jury determines that a property owner/defendant is 80% responsible for causing an accident, and the victim/plaintiff is 20% responsible, and total damages are $100,000, then the victim/plaintiff”s recovery is reduced by $20,000, and will be $80,000 in total. However, if the jury determines that the victim/plaintiff is 51% or more responsible for the accident, the victim/plaintiff will receive nothing.
Do I Have a Premises Liability Case?
In order to have a viable Premises Liability case, it must be determined that your injuries were caused by a defective or dangerous condition on a property. While premises liability cases can be difficult to litigate, we at The Reinartz Law Firm have extensive experience litigating these matters and have recovered substantial sums for our clients in these cases. We welcome potential client inquiries, and all consultations are free and confidential.
Our firm prides itself on information gathering and investigation. We work closely with clients to get a full picture of what happened and why. This may involve a site inspection and retention of expert witnesses in a variety of disciplines to review the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, and provide opinions on issues of liability and damages.
No matter what type of Premises Liability case, we at The Reinartz Law Firm are well-versed in the legal requirements to bring these cases to court. We are comfortable in the State and Federal courts of New Jersey, and our experience can help you pursue maximum compensation for your injuries.
Contact us today at The Reinartz Law Firm for all of your questions regarding Premises Liability in New Jersey. We look forward to seeking justice for you.