Syracuse Premises Liability Attorney
108 West Jefferson Street,
Syracuse, NY 13202
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 Syracuse 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 Syracuse 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 Syracuse 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.
Syracuse Premises Liability FAQ
When you suffer an injury on someone else’s property, it is normal to have questions. Nobody expects to visit a home or place of business and leave with an injury. We expect property owners to take the safety of their guests seriously. Yet accidents on private property happen every single day.
When an injury happens because of the property owner’s negligence, you may have a premises liability case. But what is premises liability and what does this mean for you? Below, we will answer these questions and some of the most frequently asked premises liability questions. For more specific questions regarding your legal options, contact a personal injury attorney today.
What Is Premises Liability?
To the average person, premises liability is not a term you hear every day. However, the definition is pretty simple. Premises liability laws basically state that all property owners have a legal obligation to maintain their property in a manner that is safe to all visitors. That means if you visit a grocery store, an office building, or a hotel, the property owner should ensure there are no foreseeable hazards before they let you in the door. When a property owner fails to meet this standard, they may be liable for any injury a guest sustains. Here are a few examples of premises liability:
Slip and Fall Accidents. Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common types of premises liability claims. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for over 20 percent of all emergency room visits annually. Approximately 5 percent of people who suffer a fall will sustain a broken bone. Other injuries may include brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, abrasions, and lacerations.
Common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Liquid spills
- Loose flooring
- Uneven sidewalks or pavement
- Loose electrical cords
- Unmarked steps
Swimming Pool Accidents. Both private and public pool owners have a tremendous responsibility when it comes to safety. New York law requires all swimming pools to have a physical barrier of at least four feet high to prevent unauthorized entry. Public pools should also have physical signage advising swimmers of supervision, pool depth, and other safety concerns. Despite these requirements, pool accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of death for children between the ages of one and four.
Drowning is not the only concern. According to the Shepherd Center, diving accidents are the fifth leading cause of all spinal cord injuries. Other possible injuries include brain injuries, broken bones, and respiratory issues.
Dog Bite Injuries. All dog owners have a responsibility to control their animals. Dog bites are serious and can inflict permanent damage. In New York, the owner is responsible for all medical and veterinary costs if their dog bites another person or animal. If it is the dog’s first offense, the victim does not have a claim for any other damages. However, if the victim can prove the dog has a history of aggressive behavior, they may have a claim for other damages.
Inadequate Security. Inadequate security often lies in the gray zone of premises liability. The argument is, adults should always know their surroundings and take responsibility for their own security. In many cases, this is true. However, the specific concern is when a property owner knows there is an increased level of risk.
These types of claims sometimes arise at apartment complexes or a person’s place of employment. Where there is a higher level of risk, the property owner should take steps to increase security. This may include extra lighting, barriers, or guards. Even in “safer” areas, all property owners should provide adequate lighting to prevent or deter crime.
Chemical Exposure Accidents. Exposure to toxic fumes is dangerous. In some cases, it is deadly. Chemical exposure accidents can happen as the result of ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. These accidents are often the result of improper storage or leaking or damaged equipment. The scary thing about chemical exposure incidents is often, by the time anyone realizes there is an issue, it is too late.
Depending on the type of exposure, these accidents can cause a wide range of injuries. This includes:
- Respiratory issues
- Organ damage
- Brain injuries
- Eye injuries
How Do I Prove Liability in a Syracuse Premises Liability Case?
Premises liability laws focus on three main factors:
- Was there an unsafe condition?
- Was the property owner aware of the condition (or should they have been)?
- Did the unsafe condition directly cause your injuries?
If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, you may have a premises liability case. The problem arises when the defendant argues that they were not aware of the condition or that the condition did not exist at all. In this case, the evidence you provide can be critical to your case.
Things your attorney may use to prove your case include:
- Photographic evidence: In the event of an accident, it is always a good idea to take pictures of the scene as soon as possible. If the property owner tries to deny your claim, pictures can help support your case.
- Witness statements: Did someone see the accident? If so, make sure to get their contact information so your attorney can interview them if needed.
- Video surveillance: What’s better than photographs and witness statements? Video. Chances are, if a video captured the accident, the property owner will not volunteer it. Your attorney will need to request it to use it as evidence in your case. It is important to note, most retailers do not store video surveillance indefinitely. For this reason, the sooner you talk to an attorney, the greater chance they will have to obtain this footage.
- Previous complaints: Previous complaints against the property owner are not enough on their own to prove liability. However, they can help prove the property owner was aware of an issue or has a history of negligent behavior.
Do I Have to Give a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company?
After an accident, you may receive a phone call from the property owner’s insurance company. At this time, they may ask you to make a recorded statement about what happened. You do not have to do this. In fact, it is best not to.
Insurance agencies are for-profit businesses. The less they have to pay out, the more money they make. This means they may look for ways to diminish the value of your case. When the adjuster asks you, “How are you feeling today?” it is not necessarily because they care, it is because they want you to say you are “fine,” or even better: “good.”
If you choose to work with a personal injury attorney, this means you never have to talk to the insurance company. Once you hire an attorney, the insurance company cannot legally reach out to you. If you have not yet retained an attorney, you can simply tell the insurance company that you will have an attorney soon and your attorney will reach out to them.
The Insurance Company Wants to Settle. How Do I Know if Their Offer Is Fair?
If you receive an offer from the insurance company, chances are, it is much less than what your case is actually worth. This is especially true if the offer is unsolicited or if you have not yet hired an attorney. There are two things you need to understand about insurance companies. One, they seldom offer money without a demand for payment. Two, they almost always offer less to parties who do not have an attorney. This means, if you receive an offer from the insurance company, it likely means they know you have a strong case.
Never sign a settlement offer before you talk to a premises liability attorney. Your attorney can help you get a better understanding of what your case is worth and the items it should cover.
While every case is different, common costs include:
- Medical bills: This may include doctor visits, surgeries, medication, physical therapy, hospital stays, and rehabilitation. For serious injuries, you may have a right to future medical costs, payable as a lump sum included in your final money award.
- Lost wages: If you lose time from work, your case may include lost wages. Lost wages typically start on the first day you miss work and continue until you can return to work. If your injuries limit your activities and prevent you from returning to work, your attorney may request future lost wages.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is a broad term that covers most non-economic costs. Examples of these costs include physical pain, emotional distress, depression, anxiety, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment.
- Wrongful death: Unintentional injuries are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. If someone you love dies because of another person’s negligence, you or another member of your family may have a wrongful death claim. These damages can help you recover the costs associated with your loved one’s passing. Costs may include funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, outstanding medical debt, and pain and suffering.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Syracuse Premises Liability Case?
Syracuse remises liability cases are rarely straightforward. Even when they are, defendants usually look for ways to escape liability. For this reason, it is usually a good idea to talk to an experienced premises liability attorney. An experienced attorney will be able to recognize the tactics of aggressive insurance companies and help guide you through your case.
Tasks you can expect your attorney to do include:
- Gather and evaluate evidence
- Talk to witnesses
- Create a demand for financial damages
- Talk to your care providers
- Facilitate payment arrangements
- Consult with expert witnesses
- Negotiate with the insurance company
- Prepare for court and represent you in front of a jury
- Settle any outstanding bills and issue you a check
How Long Do I Have to Take Legal Action After a Syracuse Premises Liability Accident?
The statute of limitations defines how long you have to take legal action against a liable party after a personal injury. In New York, the statute of limitations for most premises liability cases is three years. There are very few exceptions to this timeframe. That said, it is always a good idea to talk to an experienced premises liability attorney, even if you think the statute of limitations has expired.
Examples of when you may qualify for an exception include:
- Delayed awareness of liability: For example, you became ill and only later found out there was a chemical leak in your old apartment building.
- Fraud: The defendant intentionally hid pertinent information to the case.
- Age: For child victims of premises liability cases, the statute of limitations does not begin until the child turns 18.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
It depends. The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. Both parties understand going to court costs more and can significantly drag out the case. However, if the parties cannot settle, the only choice may be to take the case to court. Your attorney will help you understand your options and may offer their opinion. Ultimately, whether you choose to settle or go to court is up to you.
Take Steps to Protect Your Rights
When an accident puts your livelihood at risk, you need to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. When your injuries are the result of someone else’s negligence, that person may hold financial responsibility. After an accident, you have enough to worry about. The last thing you should have to think about is money. A premises liability case can help you pursue reasonable damages for your injuries so the only thing you have to focus on is your recovery. Do not let your questions go unanswered. Help is available. If you have questions or are ready to take the next steps, contact an experienced premises liability attorney today.
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 Syracuse premises liability case.