Both business owners and homeowners sometimes have questions about what happens if someone gets hurt on their property. Under premises liability law, an injured person may have a case against the property owner or occupier if their injury was caused by an unsafe situation on the property. As with other kinds of personal injury law, the most important issue is establishing fault. If you were negligent in fixing a hazard or failing to warn others about it, the court might agree that you are liable.
Generally, fault is interpreted based on what a “reasonable person” would do in a similar situation. For example, if the roof starts leaking, a reasonable person would probably put a bucket under the leak, wipe or mop up any collected water, and call someone about repairs. If you just let the water puddle on the floor and fail to either clean it up or at least warn others on the property about it, it’s likely the court will find you didn’t take reasonable care in this situation.
In most circumstances, this is decided based on who controls the area of the property where the injury occurred. If someone is hurt in a common area of a building, like a lobby, it is usually the responsibility of the property owner. But if the injury occurs in your own apartment, that is probably an area that you control, and you will be responsible if you fail to deal with a dangerous situation.
This then leads to the question of whose responsibility it is to repair unsafe situations on the property, which depends on the language of your lease. If your lease specifies the property owner will take care of certain repairs, then you should report these issues to the property management as soon as you notice them. What if the landlord doesn’t get around to fixing them in a timely manner? If the lease says repairs are their responsibility, they may be liable for failing to address the issue. (But you should still warn others who visit your property if there is an unsafe situation, even if the property manager should have fixed it by now.)
Yes, the liability coverage in your policy will likely cover the accident in most cases. You should check your policy to learn the exact terms, but liability coverage usually pays for the injured party’s medical care, lost wages, pain, suffering, and other damages. It should also pay for your legal defense expenses, should you need to go to court. Fortunately, most personal injury claims settle out of court, but you may still need to retain an attorney if you’ve been served with paperwork or even threatened with a lawsuit. The sooner you secure legal representation, the better – sometimes, having a premises liability lawyer can help the negotiation process go more smoothly.
An insurance policy typically has a limit or set amount it will pay for a liability claim, after which any further costs are your responsibility. The vast majority of injuries that might happen on your property will not exceed the policy limits, but in rare cases where the person receives extremely severe or permanent injuries, they may sue you personally for whatever the insurance doesn’t cover. Sometimes an “umbrella” clause in your policy may pay some of the costs in this situation if you have purchased this type of coverage. Again, check your policy or ask your insurance agent about what is or isn’t covered.
Whenever someone is injured on your property, it’s a good idea to let your insurance company know right away. You don’t have to file a claim, but you should tell them what happened in case they receive a claim from the injured party (known as a “third-party” claim).
Usually, it depends on the circumstances of their accident and whether or not it was caused by a dangerous situation on your property. There are lots of reasons a service worker may be hurt, and many of them are not your fault. For example, the worker may be improperly trained or fail to follow what they learned in their training, leading to an accident. If a service worker accidentally hurts themselves with a power tool they’re using to work on something, that is probably not your fault.
However, there are a few situations where “strict liability” laws apply in North Carolina – dog bites, for example. If your dog bites the service worker, they do not have to prove that you were negligent or failed to use “reasonable care.” Essentially, all the plaintiff (the injured party) has to prove is that your dog has injured them and was previously found to be a “dangerous dog.” This is usually defined as a dog that had bitten or injured someone before or behaved aggressively. If these conditions are met, you may also be liable for any situation where your dog hurts someone, even if it doesn’t involve a bite. For example, if your dog jumps on someone, and they are knocked to the ground and break their arm, that would be covered under the state’s dog bite laws.
That being said, in some cases, you may be charged criminally if you were actually negligent in protecting people from a dog you know to be dangerous. For example, if your dog has a habit of snapping, biting, or behaving aggressively around people or other animals, it’s important that you keep them confined to your home or a fenced yard. You should also leash and muzzle the dog when you take them for a walk-off your property and provide a written warning about the dog’s behavior to anyone who plans to buy or otherwise assume responsibility for the dog.
Even if your dog is not at all aggressive, it’s a good idea to keep them away from service workers who come to your home. A friendly canine can blunder into a situation where someone is working and accidentally hurt someone. Confining them to a room where the worker won’t need access is the best plan.
If you have questions or concerns about an injury you’ve suffered on someone else’s property, please contact Auger and Auger for a free consultation. We’ll look over the details of your case and let you know your option. You can reach us online or by calling (855) 969-5671.