All it takes is a tumble down the stairs of your apartment building or tripping over broken chunks of asphalt in the parking lot to leave you with broken bones, a traumatic brain injury and a pile of bills that you can’t pay.
Is it just your tough luck or can you hold your landlord responsible? Here’s what has to be considered:
Did the injury happen in a common area?
Generally speaking, your landlord is less likely to be held responsible for injuries that occur inside your rental unit – unless you notified them of the problem and the landlord ignored your request for maintenance.
However, injuries caused by poor conditions in common areas, like the stairwell, elevator, lobby or parking lot, could be solely on the landlord’s head. Premise liability laws expect landlords to keep the property in reasonably safe conditions for tenants and guests.
If the issue that led to your slip and fall, like a broken handrail on the stairs, was something the landlord knew about (or should have known about, had they done regular inspections), they can be held responsible.
Did you contribute to your own fall?
New Jersey follows what’s known as a “modified comparative negligence” rule. That means your responsibility for the accident has to be less than your landlord’s responsibility.
A lot may hinge on whether you were being careless or even reckless and whether you had any notice of the dangerous conditions before your accident happened. For example, if you had no idea that the parking lot was going to be torn up for repairs for a few days, it would be hard to blame you for tripping in a new hole right outside your door. On the other hand, if the landlord emailed a warning to all the tenants and posted a notice in the lobby, they may allege that you should have been more careful.
Slip-and-fall injury cases can get very complicated, very fast. That’s why it’s often best to talk your case over with someone who can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.