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Personal Injury on Rental Property: Who Pays the Bills?

Personal injury on rental property refers to an injury sustained by a person while on leased or rented property. These injuries can occur due to various factors, such as slippery floors, broken staircases, inadequate lighting, or other hazardous conditions. In such cases, the injured party may be able to pursue legal action against the property owner or landlord to seek compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Rental Property Personal Injury Dangers

Accidents on rental properties are a significant concern nationwide, especially considering the high number of renters in the U.S. Landlords or property management companies are responsible for maintaining rental properties, and they could be held liable if someone is injured.

For instance:

  • You might sustain injuries due to a hazard in your studio apartment or condo.
  • Visiting friends at a rented home, you could get injured.
  • An appliance provided by the landlord could malfunction, causing an electrocution injury.
  • Poorly installed windows or loose balcony railings could lead to falls.
  • Issues with smoke detectors or fire escapes could put your family or coworkers at risk of smoke inhalation or burns.
  • Compromised structural integrity could result in someone falling through the floor.

There are plenty of hazards outside that are covered by rental property premises liability. In any of these cases, injured victims have two years to file a premises liability claim against their landlord or property management company.

First Steps After an Accident on Rental Property

According to Justia, the top priority, especially if you have severe injuries, is to seek immediate medical attention. Only after seeing a doctor should you consider taking legal action against the landlord [1]. Besides providing necessary treatment, seeing a doctor can help document the extent and seriousness of your injuries.

Your doctor’s report and possibly their testimony could be crucial in convincing an insurer or a jury about the compensation you require – Justia.

Follow the doctor’s instructions and undergo any reasonable treatment they recommend. Otherwise, the landlord may argue that your injuries worsened due to your unreasonable actions. (You are not expected to undergo treatments beyond what the doctor suggests, however.)

Remember to gather various types of evidence to support your claim. This may include your account of what happened, documented as soon as possible. Also, keep records of your financial losses, such as medical bills, pay stubs, and transportation receipts.

If feasible, take photos or videos of the hazard that caused the accident. Contact anyone who witnessed your accident as a potential witness, even if their version differs from yours, so you can prepare to counter their claims.

Notify the landlord of the accident and ask them to contact their insurance provider. If the landlord does not respond promptly, suspecting your case lacks value, you can proceed toward filing a lawsuit until they take action. As mentioned, most claims result in a settlement rather than a trial.

Establishing the Landlord’s Negligence
Most often, a victim will argue that they were injured because the landlord was careless (or “negligent,” in legal terms). This means that the landlord failed to act reasonably under the circumstances, and the accident was a foreseeable result.

Several factors influence the assessment of reasonableness and foreseeability, such as whether the landlord controlled the location or object causing the accident, the likelihood of the accident given the circumstances, the potential for serious injury, and the cost to the landlord to reduce the accident risk.

Assuming these factors favor your case, you must prove the landlord did not take reasonable steps to prevent the accident, and that their failure caused it.

Other Grounds for Landlord Liability

A landlord often must comply with health or safety laws, and their failure to do so is typically considered automatically negligent, making them liable for any resulting accidents. Failure to make necessary repairs or negligent repair work can lead to liability.

However, if you agree with the landlord to handle certain repairs yourself, they cannot be held responsible for any mistakes you make. Sometimes, a serious defect can make a unit uninhabitable. If the landlord knew about this defect but failed to fix it, you can sue for violating the implied warranty of habitability.

Less commonly, a landlord may have acted recklessly or intentionally, leading to harm. This could result in punitive damages, an additional category of damages. Whether conduct is reckless instead of merely negligent is highly fact-specific and unpredictable, as is the size of any punitive damages awarded.

Punitive damages are also available if a landlord acted intentionally, such as in cases involving assault, sexual harassment, or invasions of privacy causing emotional distress.

You can pursue these types of claims alongside a standard negligence claim. Victims are not restricted to one basis for liability.

Can I Sue My Landlord for Negligence?

Lawsuits arising from injuries on rental properties are a common personal injury claim in California, allowing for legal action against building owners, apartment complex owners, corporate landlords, and property management companies.

These types of personal injury lawsuits will seek compensation for any injuries suffered by a victim based on negligence. Put simply, these lawsuits allege that the landlord should be held financially responsible for a tenant or victim’s injuries.

A Negligent Landlord Injuries Lawsuit in California is based on the premise of unsafe property conditions leading to harm. It asserts that the landlord is liable for an accident on their rental property due to an unsafe condition. In essence, these lawsuits claim that injuries occurred because the landlord failed to maintain safe property conditions.

Such a lawsuit could be pursued if an individual is injured by a hazardous condition on the rental property, such as faulty railings, broken stairs, uneven sidewalks, potholes, or rotted floors, among others.

These lawsuits utilize California’s premises liability law to hold landlords accountable, benefiting various individuals including renters, tenants, guests, and even hired workers.

In California, property owners, especially landlords, have a legal duty to ensure their properties are safe for others. If you rent a property from a landlord and are injured due to their negligence, you may be entitled to seek damages for your injuries.

Homeowners Insurance Losses by Cause, 2017-2021

Cause of loss 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Property damage (2) 97.7% 97.5% 96.8% 97.6% 97.7%
     Wind and hail 48.0 39.5 38.3 47.8 39.4
     Water damage and freezing 18.0 24.5 29.0 19.9 23.5
     Fire and lightning 26.2 26.0 21.5 21.9 24.8
     Theft 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.6 0.7
     All other property damage (3) 4.6 6.5 7.1 7.4 9.4
Liability (4) 2.3% 2.5% 3.2% 2.4% 2.3%
     Bodily injury and property damage 2.2 2.3 2.8 2.1 1.8
     Medical payments and other 0.1 0.2 0.4 0.4 0.5
Credit card and other (5) (6) (6) (6) (6) (6)
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Source: Insurance Information Institute [2].

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