When you visit someone else's property or go shopping, you do not expect to wind up injured in a fall or another accident. Unfortunately, property owners do not always use the appropriate level of care to make sure that their property is safe for visitors. If you are injured on someone else's property in Northern New Jersey due to a dangerous condition, you may have a basis to bring a premises liability lawsuit. These cases can be complicated. At Leopold Law, Bergen County premises liability lawyer Howard Leopold may be able to help you recover damages.Bringing a Premises Liability Claim
Premises liability litigation can arise after many different types of accidents arising out of a danger or hazard on someone else's property. These accidents may result from broken steps, rotting structures, improperly maintained landscaping, snow or ice, cracks on the sidewalk, slip and falls on spilled substances or slippery surfaces, falling merchandise, dim lighting, standing water, or a badly maintained road. Generally, New Jersey takes a traditional approach to liability if you are injured as a result of a dangerous property condition while lawfully on property, but there are exceptions.
Traditionally, the highest degree of care is owed to a business invitee who has been invited onto someone else's property for reasons that are commercial. Representing a business invitee, a premises liability attorney in Bergen County will need to prove that a defendant had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition but failed to warn you of the danger or repair it within a reasonable time frame.
Constructive notice exists when, even though the defendant did not actually know about a danger, it should have known about it if it had used a reasonable degree of diligence and care. If you enter a store or mall, the owner owes you the highest duty of care to guard against dangerous conditions on the property of which it knows or that it should have discovered in using reasonable care. A retail storeowner is supposed to conduct reasonable inspections to learn of dangerous conditions on the property, and it should either fix them or provide warnings about them.
Traditionally, a slightly lesser degree of care is owed to social guests. The owner of a home that you visit may not have a duty to actually discover latent defects, but the owner should warn you of any dangerous conditions of which they actually know, and about which you are unaware. The only duty owed to you if you are a trespasser is a warning about artificial conditions on the property that pose a risk of death or serious bodily injuries. Generally, the court performs a balancing test to determine the duty owed.
Usually, a plaintiff claiming injuries due to a dangerous property condition bears the burden of proof. Under the mode of operation rule, however, there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence when the defendant's mode of business operation, by its very nature, creates a dangerous condition. This means that a Bergen County premises liability attorney will not need to prove actual constructive notice when a dangerous condition is likely to occur because of property conditions or a demonstrable pattern of conduct or incidents. The burden of proof in that case shifts to the defendant to prove that it did use reasonable care.
In New Jersey, commercial landowners have a duty to remove snow and ice, although there are nuances to this law. Often, there are municipal ordinances to this effect. Additionally, an abutting commercial owner can be liable for failing to remove snow only if, after receiving actual or constructive notice of a danger, it has not acted in a reasonably prudent way to remove or reduce the danger. The test is whether a reasonably prudent person who knew or should have known about the icy or snowy condition would have made the sidewalk reasonably safe within a reasonable period of time after becoming aware.
Property owners may provide a fierce defense against premises liability lawsuits. They may argue that you were not paying attention or that the danger should have been obvious to you. Your own negligence does not bar your recovery unless you were more than 50% to blame for an accident. Your recovery will be reduced by your percentage of fault, if any is found.Contact a Dedicated Premises Liability Lawyer in Bergen County
Our legal team at Leopold Law may be able to help you recover damages in a premises liability lawsuit if you were injured on somebody else's property, whether this was a retail store, a restaurant, a parking lot, an office building, or an apartment complex. We handle cases in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Essex Counties. Call Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or contact us via our online form to set up a free consultation.