Syracuse Premises Liability Attorney
Whether you’re visiting the Everson Museum of Art or the Museum of Science & Technology, Upstate University Hospital, or Syracuse University, you likely expect a property free of hazards.
Property owners, including private individuals, must use reasonable care to keep their properties free of dangerous conditions. A tenant in a house, the manager of an apartment complex, or even a contractor working on someone’s property is also responsible for keeping the property free of dangers. The condition doesn’t even have to look dangerous to cause injuries.
If you sustained injuries on someone’s property because of the property’s poor condition, contact the Syracuse premises liability lawyers at Finkelstein & Partners for a free case evaluation to discuss the details of your accident and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation.
What Is Premises Liability?
The definition of premises liability states that a property owner or certain other people must keep the property reasonably free of dangerous conditions or defects, or the court could deem him or her negligent. The court can then hold the person liable for injuries caused by the negligence.
Cornell Law School defines negligence as a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.
We can break that definition into certain actions or inactions. In the case of premises liability, it is often both. For example, if a homeowner doesn’t clear the walkway of snow and ice within a reasonable amount of time—generally within a couple of hours after the snowstorm—the court could find that property owner negligent if you slip and fall on the walkway.
We defined who the court can find liable for premises liability above, but what are “dangerous conditions and defects?” These are conditions on the property that could injure a reasonably careful person.
Some examples of dangerous conditions and defects include:
- Icy and snowy walkways.
- Uneven walkways.
- Walkways with water build-up after a rain.
- Broken steps.
- Carpets not lying flat on the floor.
- Wet floors.
- Broken or non-existent lighting.
- Parking lots with cracks or potholes.
- Fires and explosions.
- Chemical spills.
- The criminal actions of another person.
Some of these, such as icy sidewalks, are obvious. But, how could a property owner be liable for the criminal actions of another person? If the property should have exterior lighting and it doesn’t, or if the light is there but not working, it could “encourage” criminal activity in the way of muggings, kidnappings, or theft. This type of premises liability usually happens at places such as restaurants, malls, banks, and other retail or financial establishments.
However, if you live in a section of town that is known for crime, you might do well to install lighting between your house and the street to deter criminals from attacking you and your guests under cover of darkness.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability cases come in many different forms.
The most common include:
Slips and Falls
Slip or trip and fall accidents can happen anywhere—your own home, your friend’s home, walking down the street, or in a store. Property owners, landlords, managers, and tenants all have a responsibility to keep the property safe. Icy walkways are common in Syracuse during the winter, and property owners are expected to clean their walkways within a short time after a snow storm. Retail establishments must keep aisles free of debris and must keep parking lots in good repair.
A dog bite is also a premises liability case. If a person’s dog has a chance of biting or attacking, it is up to that person to keep the dog away from guests. However, even dogs that have no history of biting and have always been friendly to you can decide to bite. You might have a premises liability claim even in a situation such as that.
Burns and Explosions
Burns and explosions are also premises liability cases. In some instances, the property owner could face liability if he or she did not make necessary repairs to prevent a fire or an explosion. In other cases, a third party might share in the liability, such as when a property owner did not know wiring in a rental was bad or that the propane lines into the house were leaking.
Exposure to Dangerous Chemicals
This type of premises liability usually applies to landlords since you are not usually a guest or in a store long enough for lead paint or asbestos to affect you. A landlord has a duty to tell you when lead paint or asbestos was used in the building and hasn’t been removed.
A landlord, restaurant owner, or another property owner could also face liability for carbon monoxide poisoning if a stove, furnace, or other appliance in the building leaks carbon monoxide and causes you injury.
Retail and other establishments visited by the public must have adequate security, including parking lot lights. If you suffer from an intentional tort such as assault, battery, kidnapping, or false imprisonment because of poor security measures, you could have a premises liability case.
Poor security in the form of missing or defective lighting could also cause other types of premises liability cases, such as slip or trip and fall cases.
New York has laws regarding pool safety, including fencing laws to keep children, pets, and adults who cannot swim from drowning. If you suffered injuries because of an unprotected pool or slipped or tripped and fell on decking, or suffered other injuries in a pool, you might have a premises liability case.
Playground and Park Accidents
Playgrounds and parks have inherent dangers; however, the dangers cannot be unreasonable. For example, monkey bars could be dangerous if a child falls, but that is a risk you take when you allow your children to play on them. But, if the monkey bars are rusted, and your child cuts herself on a sharp edge covered in rust, then develops an infection, you might have a premises liability case. The owner of the park should have known that the equipment was dangerous and should have removed or replaced it.
Another example is a hiking trail. If the trail is prone to washing out, people could get hurt. However, no reasonable person could expect a park owner—the city, town, county, or state—to walk those trails every day to look for dangers. In most cases, parks will put signs at trailheads to warn people that a trail frequently washes out or has some other danger.
In other cases, the park might close down a trail or a playground because of known dangers that cannot be repaired or otherwise rectified immediately. You proceed at your own risk if you ignore warning signs, including those that tell you that part of the park is closed.
The Statute of Limitations for Premises Liability Cases
The statute of limitations—the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against someone for a premises liability case can vary depending on the action or inaction. However, in most cases, you have three years from the date of your injury to file a claim with the court.
Some exceptions apply, so you should always contact a premises liability lawyer as soon as possible. For example, wrongful death has just a two-year statute of limitations. If your lawsuit involves certain municipalities, you might have two years instead of three years to file a lawsuit.
In addition to the statute of limitations, these types of cases often require investigation. The sooner you seek legal help, the sooner an attorney can hire investigators to help prove your case. Evidence of premises liability often “disappears” rather quickly. In some cases, such as icy sidewalks, the sun could melt the ice, or the property owner could put de-icing materials on the sidewalk as soon as you leave.
In other cases, such as poor lighting or an inadequate fence around a pool, the property owner could rectify the problem before as soon as you file a lawsuit. If at all possible, it is best to take photos of the problem before you leave the scene, and it is always better to seek legal help sooner rather than later.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Premises Liability Case?
Yes, you do. Premises liability cases are often complicated, especially when more than one person or entity might share in the liability for your injuries. An attorney can also start an immediate investigation, secure evidence of the dangerous conditions, locate witnesses, and locate proof of previous complaints about the same condition that caused your injuries.
An attorney can determine who to name as a defendant in your case, including sole property owners, managers, a municipality, or any other person or entity who might share in the responsibility for your safety while on the property. In some cases, more than one person or entity might share in the liability for injuries caused by the dangerous condition on a property.
When you retain an attorney to handle your premises liability case, you take the stress of building a winning case off of your shoulders. You can focus on your physical and mental recovery while our legal team handles the legal complexities of your case. Your attorney will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and handle all settlement negotiations on your behalf. Without legal representation, you may miss out on recovering compensation for the full cost of your injuries. When you retain Finkelstein & Partners to handle your Syracuse premises liability claim, you can rest assured knowing that we have the knowledge and experience to pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.
Dealing With Insurance Companies
In most cases, the entity you enter settlement negotiations with or take legal action against is the property owner’s insurance company. In some cases, you might take legal action against the insurance company and the person or entity.
Most people who go through settlement negotiations without the help of an attorney leave money on the table. If your injuries are severe or life-changing, the last thing you want to do is leave that money on the table. You’ll need all you can get for continuing medical expenses and other compensation you deserve.
In many cases, the insurance company will try to twist what you tell them in an attempt to deny your case or to pay out the least amount possible. They are for-profit companies, and every claim they pay out cuts into their profits. Always let an attorney contact the insurance company to explain the circumstances in which you suffered injuries and conduct negotiations. They are used to the tricks insurance companies use to get out of paying a claim.
If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair and reasonable settlement amount, you can choose to litigate your case. Insurance companies will go back and forth with your attorney several times. You can stop settlement negotiations at any time and start litigating your case. In some cases, once you mention litigation, an insurance company will “find” the money for a reasonable settlement offer. In other cases, you might start litigation but settle the case before the trial.
Your attorney will go over the various strategies involved with negotiations and plans to litigate when they come up or if you don’t believe the insurance company is treating you fairly.
Contact Finkelstein & Partners’ Syracuse Premises Liability Lawyers
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of a premises liability incident, a personal injury attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, funeral, burial, and cremation expenses, pain and suffering, loss of use, loss of quality of life, and even compensation for an amputation, disfigurement or excessive scarring.
Our initial case evaluation is free, and you don’t pay a dime to us unless we win your case. Contact Finkelstein & Partners at (315) 453-3053 for a free case evaluation today if you suffered injuries in a premises liability case.
108 West Jefferson Street,
Syracuse, NY 13202