Maryland Premises Liability Lawyer
Property ownership comes with responsibility: if you own or manage a property and invite or allow other people onto it—whether for business, social, educational, or recreational purposes—you owe those people a duty of care, in the sense that they should not have any reason to fear that they will come to harm while on your premises. Owners must take reasonable care to prevent hazardous conditions, and if one should occur, to promptly correct it, and in the meantime, warn those people who have come onto your property to avoid the danger the condition poses.
This duty of care is at the heart of the legal theory of premises liability. If you fail in this duty and someone is hurt, you may be held liable for that person’s damages. This is the essence of premises liability under the law.
For a free review of your injury case, call the premises liability lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.
What Constitutes Premises Liability in Maryland?
Premises liability is an area of personal injury law dealing with injuries to people on someone else’s property. These injuries are usually caused by some kind of negligence on the part of the property owner, usually by leaving a defective condition or other danger in a state where it can injure a guest to the property.
These defects can include things like broken stairs, loose handrails, a shorted electrical circuit, or an overclocked water heater that can injure people who do not know about the danger. In most cases, the danger is hidden in such a way that the property owner is expected to know about it – given the expectation that property owners have good knowledge of their property – but that a passerby or guest to the property might not know about. In other cases, the property owner is explicitly told about the danger, such as in a failed property inspection or because a customer alerted them to the danger.
The expectation is that the property owner will repair or at least warn about the danger. For example, a store with stairs up to the front door will need to make sure that the handrail is properly secured by repairing the problem, but they might be able to put a sign on a wet floor rather than clean up a spill right away. These issues can also extend to outdoor areas not within the building itself, such as snowy or icy parking lots and sidewalks that need to be cleared or properly salted to prevent injury.
In some cases, the property owner is not the one to manage the day-to-day happenings on a property, such as in cases where the property is being rented. In those cases, such as with apartments or commercial spaces, the tenant is usually responsible for repair and upkeep of the property instead. However, some areas might still be under the property owner’s control, such as the lobbies of apartment buildings or the main area of a mall.
Examples of Premises Negligence in Maryland
Premises liability may arise in various ways. the most common is the slip, trip, and fall accident, where a slippery floor, uneven walking surface, dangerous staircase, sudden unmarked drop-off, or some type of obstacle causes someone legally on the property to fall and sustain a serious injury.
There are numerous other situations from which a legal action for premises liability might arise. These are just a few of the many possible situations where a property owner may be found negligent and subject to liability to an injured party for damages:
Animal attacks may incur liability on the part of the property owner, for example, if a dog with a history of attacking people were to bite a child visiting the owner’s home. Another example might be a landlord who knew that a tenant was harboring dangerous dogs on the rental property and took no steps to remove the dogs or evict the tenant, and a person was injured on the premises. Dog bite cases are the second most common premises type of injury claims. Click the following link for more information about dog bite injury cases.
Negligent security causes of action may arise when a violent crime occurs – such as assault, battery, rape, abduction, or even murder – on the premises because the owner failed to provide adequate security. What is considered adequate security depends upon the type of property and the neighborhood where it is located but might include hiring an outside security firm, using monitored security cameras, installing improved lighting, or making repairs to walls, doors, or windows. These kinds of cases are common at schools, college campuses, concert venues, apartment buildings, parking garages, and other places where a minimum level of security is usually encouraged or expected.
Lead Paint Poisoning
Lead paint poisoning in children may occur in older dwellings. Lead was a component of household paint until 1978, when laws were passed banning lead based paints. Buildings that predate the lead paint ban may have layers of the older lead-containing paint, which may be exposed by drilling or peeling of top layers. Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing law requires that owners of properties offered for rent which were built before 1978 register their with Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), submit to lead-based- paint inspections, give out state-provided educational materials, and meet state-mandated lead paint risk reduction standards under a variety of conditions. Prior to occupancy, an empty rental unit in Maryland, unless it has already been certified as lead free, must be inspected by a state authorized lead inspector. If a landlord fails to have his property inspected and a child or pregnant woman tests positive for lead exposure, the landlord may be held liable for damages that result from the exposure.
Burn injuries caused by fires that are caused by negligence on the part of a building’s owner may also incur premises liability. If you were in a building or home that caught fire and you suffered serious burn injuries, you might be able to recover compensation from the owner of the property. Not all fires are the result of negligence, so it is important that the cause of the fire is identified. However, if a preventable condition is found to be the cause, you will have a good chance of recovering money for your injuries, with the help of a premises liability attorney. Examples of conditions that, depending on the type of building and its use, might tend to indicate negligence include the following:
- Damaged or malfunctioning electrical outlets
- Overloaded electric circuits
- Faulty or exposed electrical wiring
- Gas leaks
- Improperly cleaned or malfunctioning dryers
- Lack of smoke detector alarms
- Lack of fire extinguishers
- Lacking or malfunctioning sprinkler systems in certain types of building
- Locked or obstructed fire exit doors
Gas explosions in residential or commercial buildings may result in serious injuries or death from burns, exposure to toxic fumes, or the injuries caused by the force of the blast. Explosions can be caused by heating systems, generators, stoves, grills, water heaters, or leaking gas lines or tanks. Who can be held liable will depend upon the specific cause of the explosion. it may be the owner or manager of the premises or a third party, such as a gas supply company or a manufacturer of a defective gas appliance.
Drownings and near-drownings are a leading cause of death and of injury-related deaths for those between the ages of 1 and 14. Some drowning accidents are purely accidental, but others are the result of some dangerous condition that could be corrected by proper installation and maintenance of the pool area and equipment. Slippery pool decks, electrical defects, drains that can entrap a swimmer, broken or otherwise dangerous ladders, steps, slides, or diving boards might, in some cases, be attributable to owner negligence and thus premises liability.
Playground and Amusement Park Injuries
Playgrounds and amusement parks are meant for the enjoyment of children, but if they are poorly designed and lack appropriate safety features, they may cause injuries and even death. the owner of a school, daycare center, church, park, or commercial recreation facility has a duty to ensure that the equipment is safe, well-designed, and properly maintained. Regular inspections and prompt repairs to damaged equipment are necessary. If a child is injured while using play equipment or amusements and the injury is proven to be the result of improper inspection or maintenance, or if appropriate safety features, such as soft ground coverings, are absent, the owner may be held liable for the child’s injury or wrongful death in a premises liability legal action.
Proving a Premises Liability Accident in Maryland
In order to win your case, you need to show that the property owner knew about the dangerous condition, failed to adequately repair it or warn you about it, and – because of that – you were injured and suffered damages.
Knowledge of Defect
In many cases, the property owner will have affirmative knowledge of the dangerous condition. If an employee in a store was informed about a spill or a danger – such as a toppling shelf – then the employee or the person who reported the danger might be able to say that there was in fact a report. In those cases, you can use that evidence to show they did know about the danger and should have reasonably fixed it before the injury happened.
In some cases, the danger will not be as obvious, but there might still be an inference that the property owner should have known about it. For example, if you were electrocuted by a switch in a friend’s house, and others can testify that it always sparked or made funny noises, then it might be reasonable that a diligent homeowner would have learned about the potential for an electrocution hazard earlier. Property owners cannot avoid liability by claiming they did not know about dangers when they essentially buried their heads in the sand regarding potential risks.
Failure to Warn or Repair Defect
In many cases, a simple verbal or visual warning is enough to prevent liability. When property owners fail to provide this bare minimum, they can be responsible for the dangerous condition injuring someone.
If they repair the defect, they are also off the hook. So failure to repair is also sufficient proof of fault. However, what happens when they try to make repairs, but they are not good enough repairs? In these cases, the court will analyze whether the repairs they undertook were reasonable. Property owners might not be expected to be electricians and carpenters and plumbers, but amateur repairs might not be reasonable given the extent of the danger. In cases like this, it might be more reasonable for the property owner to have called an expert, and failing to do so could still put them at fault if their repairs were unreasonable or failed to actually fix the danger.
In some cases, a warning is not enough. These cases usually involve something known as an “attractive nuisance,” where there is a feature on the property that might attract children or others to interact with the feature. For example, a neighbor with an uncovered swimming pool might need to take extra care to lock their gate if there is a risk that an unsupervised child in the neighborhood might come by, use the pool, and drown.
In other cases, no warning is actually necessary because the danger was so obvious. For example, the edge of a cliff or an open fire pit is often considered an obvious danger that needs no warning.
Cause of Injury
If the defect was not actually the cause of the victim’s injury, then the property owner cannot be held liable. There are many cases where alleged victims will feign injury or take the opportunity of a dangerous condition to intentionally injure themselves on it in hopes of getting a payout. If the defense accuses you of trying to do this, our premises liability lawyers can fight such victim-blaming and provide evidence that your injuries and the accident were real.
To get compensation for your injuries, you must prove the full extent of your injuries and the economic damages resulting from them. This means coming to court with financial records, pay stubs, medical bills, and other records of the economic impact of the injury. It also means having testimony about how the injury affected you mentally, emotionally, and physically to prove non-economic and “pain and suffering” damages.
How Do I Get Legal Assistance for Premises Negligence in Maryland?
If you or a member of your family sustained a serious injury on someone else’s premises that you feel was due to the owner or manager’s negligence, you may be able to recover money to compensate for your economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost earnings, and other costs arising from the accident that can be proven with bills, receipts, credit card statements, and employment records. Non-economic damages are harder to assign a dollar value and include pain, suffering, mental anguish, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
In is usually in your best interest to retain an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney to represent you and guide you through the legal process. In Baltimore and the surrounding area, you can get the legal help you need by calling Randolph Rice Injury Lawyers. Rice law firm is client-centered and focused on achieving the best results the law allows. We offer a complimentary case consultation in which we will answer all of your questions honestly and advise you of your legal options. We will investigate your case, gather evidence of the defendant’s liability, assemble proof of your financial and quality-of life-damages, negotiate with the insurance company, and if necessary to get you a fair amount of compensation, will try your case to a jury.
Consult with Our Experienced Baltimore Premises Liability Attorney
Contact the premises liability attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today for a free case review at (410) 694-7291.