Thousands of people who live in or commute to New York City suffer from slip-and-fall injuries in their work or as they go about their daily lives. They often do not realize the extent of their injuries until long after the accident. When an incident occurs only to us, we often come away feeling like it was our own inattention or clumsiness that caused the injury.
The concept behind premises liability is that landowners or proprietors have a responsibility to guests who are on their property to prevent injury if there is a hazardous condition onsite. The property owner could be a:
- Restaurant owner or retailer
- Hotel manager or owner
- Construction company or contractor
- Office building owner
- Apartment manager or landlord
Slip-and-fall accidents can be difficult to prove, as the injured party must prove that the property owner was negligent in maintaining the property and that the accident was preventable. Understanding the odds of success in your claim and having experienced legal support will help in assessing the path forward.
A landowner’s duty of care
The duty of care that a proprietor owes to someone depends first on whether that person was an invited guest, someone who is there for their own purposes, or a trespasser. While New York law does not determine liability based on the visitor’s status, the courts do take this into account when deciding the proprietor’s level of responsibility. Even an injured trespasser is owed a reasonable duty of care.
The plaintiff in a premises liability claim must prove that the property owner was negligent in:
- Knowing that a hazardous condition posing an unreasonable risk existed on the property.
- Being aware that guests could not know about the risk and would not be able to protect themselves from it.
- Failing to exercise reasonable care to protect or warn the guest of the hazardous condition.
Challenges to negligence charges
Although a slip-and-fall accident may appear obvious after the incident has occurred, proving that it was a hidden danger can be challenging. For the defense team, the strategy will often hinge on the open and obvious defense demonstrating that the hazard should have been apparent to a reasonable person, reducing liability for the landowner. If the condition clearly violated a safety measure or building code, however, the landowner will be liable for negligence.