To pursue a claim against another party for unintentionally causing an injury, you must prove that he/she has been negligent. Negligence is the legal word for carelessness. The legal definition of negligence requires four elements:
- that there is a legal duty owned to you by the other party
- that the party breached that duty to you
- that as a result of said breach of duty you sustained injuries
- that those injuries were caused by the negligent action or breach of duty
A more simple definition is that the person who caused the injuries did not act in a normal way in which a reasonable person would act under similar circumstances. Negligence can occur in many different circumstances. If an accident is caused on property that is dangerous because it is poorly built or maintained, the owner of the property is liable for being careless in maintaining the property, regardless of whether he or she actually created the dangerous condition.
For example, if you are on someone else’s property either as a visitor or a tenant and are doing business on the property, the owner of that property has a responsibility to keep the premises properly maintained. If that owner knows or should have known about a dangerous or defective condition but fails to remedy the situation in a timely manner despite adequate time, he/she is liable and is considered negligent for not preventing your injuries.
These situations frequently arise in slips and falls on an owner’s piece of property or when a tenant or one of his guests is injured in a rental property. To hold the owner of a property liable, it is not sufficient to merely say that the injury took place on that property; you must also prove that the owner owed you a duty in that you were some sort of patron or authorized guest and that the owner either knew or should have known of the dangerous or defective condition that caused the accident.
If the landlord or business owner has a defective condition or slippery area and is unaware of it, because he/she has not been notified and had no way of doing a reasonable inspection to discover the situation, he/she may not be liable, because he/she did not have enough notice to remedy the situation.
For example, if you are in a store and a customer spills a foreign substance on the floor prior to you walking in that area and nobody notifies the store owner, the owner of that building is not liable for your injuries even though it happened on those premises because he did not have proper notice and had no way of knowing about the slippery condition. On the other hand, if the substance had been there for a long period of time and there was sufficient time for the owner to have done reasonable inspections or for someone to have notified him, he may be liable even if he had no notice.
In typical landlord/tenant situations where the tenant lives in the property and doesn’t notify the landlord of the problem, he/she may not be able to file an action against the landlord because he/she failed to notify the landlord of the dangerous condition. Without adequate time and notice, the landlord or owner cannot be held accountable. If, however, the tenant notifies the landlord of the dangerous and defective condition and the landlord fails to properly fix the condition, the landlord may be liable because he/she has had notice and still failed to do his/her duty.
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