New York Premises Liability: Questions and Answers

The blanket legal term “premises liability” encompasses a wide range of personal injuries occurring on property belonging to another person. The property can be owned by a small business, family, giant corporation or municipality, but regardless, each property owner has a duty to keep his land in reasonably safe condition to protect people who might enter it.

What is Premises Liability?

As stated, the term “premises liability” can be used to describe a number of different legal causes of action arising from personal injuries sustained on another’s land.

If you have suffered one of these injuries, you probably have many questions. You need to know if the property owner is liable for your injuries. You need to know who is responsible for paying your medical bills. You want to know if someone will have to pay you for the wages you lost while recovering. There are no real standard answers to any of these questions without consulting a lawyer. Personal injury cases are very fact-specific. When you are injured, you should seek the counsel of an experienced premises liability attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

Common Premises Liability Injuries

Below you will find some specific examples and a general explanation of the typical liability attached to them. Keep in mind, however, that the facts of your unique case could be the key factor in deciding who is responsible for your injuries. This is not meant to be a substitute for legal advice.

Q: Who is liable for my sidewalk slip-and-fall injury?

A: It depends. Liability for an injury turns on several factors, including who is responsible for the property, whether the injured person was there legally and how the injury occurred. Sidewalks, while usually installed by government entities, are typically maintained by the home or business owner attached to them. If, for example, a business owner failed to repair a large crack in a sidewalk, it is likely that the owner would be liable for a fall caused by stepping into that crack. If that same injury occurred in front of a private single-family residence, however, the outcome might be different and the City may be primarily responsible.

Q: My child is sick with lead poisoning; do I have a claim against my landlord?

A: Possibly. New York, like the great majority of other jurisdictions, has passed laws requiring the removal, replacement or proper covering of lead-based paint and building materials. If the lead poisoning was the result of a known condition (peeling paint in an apartment hallway) that the landlord reasonably should have seen and taken steps to correct, then the landlord is likely liable for failing to repair the hazard. If, on the other hand, a landlord had no idea there was a child in the apartment (such as a child being born after the parents move in) the landlord could escape responsibility.

Q: I was assaulted in my own building; can I hold management responsible?

A: Unfortunately, criminal attacks are all too common in New York City. It may be possible to recover for an assault occurring in a residential apartment or condominium building if it is reasonably foreseeable that a crime could occur there. Basically, if there is lax security (broken entry locks, unlit hallways, accessible storage rooms not easily viewed) or a crime has occurred there in the past, it might be possible to hold the building’s management or owners responsible.

Q: A railing broke and I fell and got hurt; do I have a claim?

A: If the defective railing is in a place where the building’s owner or manager could have been expected to know it was unsafe, you might be able to seek damages incurred as a result of your injuries. Building owners and landlords are responsible for keeping their property safe for visitors and residents. Defects that are not clearly noticeable are particularly problematic; loose stairs, weakened railings, torn carpets, wobbly floorboards – all of these are potentially hazardous and could be invisible to the casual observer.

If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you might be able to file a claim for the damages which come as a result of your injuries. It is important to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney in your area who can give you more information about your legal rights and options.