Who Is Responsible for a Premises Liability Accident in New Jersey?
A premises liability accident refers to a harmful incident that injures someone due to a defect on another person’s property. Common examples of premises liability accidents in New Jersey include slip and falls, swimming pool accidents, dog attacks, and crimes due to negligent security. If you get injured due to a property defect, you may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against one or more liable parties.
Premises Liability Laws in New Jersey
Premises liability claims, like most personal injury cases, are based on the legal doctrine of negligence. Negligence means that a property owner failed to use proper care, resulting in injury or harm to another person. To win a premises liability claim in New Jersey, you or your attorney must prove negligence based on a preponderance of the evidence. This burden of proof is also referred to as the “more likely than not” standard.
Proving a premises liability case requires clear and convincing evidence that five main elements are more likely to be true than not true:
- The defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care as the owner or controller of the property.
- The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that a dangerous condition existed on the property.
- The defendant negligently failed to fix the dangerous condition or warn visitors when a reasonable property owner would have.
- The dangerous condition or defect is the proximate or actual cause of the victim’s injuries.
- The victim suffered damages in the accident, such as injuries and medical costs.
A property owner in New Jersey owes different duties of care depending on a person’s status when he or she enters the premises. An invitee is owed the highest duty of care as someone who was expressly or implicitly invited to the property for the owner’s own purposes, such as customers at a business. Licensees are owed a slightly lesser duty of care as people who still have permission to enter a property but do not do so for the benefit of the property owner. Trespassers – those who unlawfully enter a premises without permission or authority– are not owed any duties of care, with an exception for minors.
Liability for a Property Defect in New Jersey
Determining who is liable for a dangerous property defect requires analyzing which party breached its duty of care to the plaintiff and caused the accident. Liability often depends on the type of establishment where the accident took place and who owns the land or property. Liability could go to:
- The individual owner of a residential property.
- The owner of a short-term rental, such as an Airbnb.
- The landlord of a long-term rental.
- A lessee who currently resides at a rental property.
- A business or individual that owns commercial property.
- A government entity that owns public property.
An investigation of your premises liability accident in New Jersey can identify the person or party that fell short of the responsibility to maintain the safety of the property. In some cases, fault is allocated to multiple parties, in which case each defendant will pay out an equivalent to his or her percentage of fault.
How Do Attorneys Prove Negligence in a Premises Liability Claim?
An experienced premises liability lawyer will have the resources to conduct an in-depth investigation into your recent accident and collect any evidence of property owner negligence present. Evidence may include:
- Poor property maintenance
- A lack of hazard warnings
- Signed eyewitness statements
- Photographs of the property defect
- Surveillance video footage
- An accident report
- The clothes and shoes you were wearing
- Property maintenance logs
- Accident reconstruction
- Expert testimony
A lawyer will also have the experience to go up against an individual, company, government entity or any powerful adversary to demand justice on your behalf. Hiring a lawyer greatly increases your odds of successfully securing compensation for a premises liability accident in New Jersey.