Who Might Be The Defendant In A Slip-And-Fall Case?
The work of a slip-and-fall attorney almost always is legally considered a form of premises liability law. In American law, the idea of premises liability is centered on the notion that whoever owns or operates a property has a duty to care for it well enough to prevent it from being a hazard.
However, this gives rise to an odd question in some cases. Who is legally considered responsible for a location at the time of an incident? It seems simple, but it can get complicated under some circumstances. Here's how a slip-and-fall lawyer usually approaches this issue.
Some cases are extremely clear-cut because the owner and operator of a location are the same person or entity. If an incident occurred within the clearly defined confines of a residential property where the owner lives, for example, then the homeowner is probably going to be named the defendant. Many business locations work this way, too, where the owner and operator are the same.
This gets a tad trickier depending on what caused the injuries in question. For example, most renters are expected to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes or businesses. Conversely, the landlord might be responsible for fixing cracks and heaves in the sidewalks.
Making it more complex is that some commercial rental agreements assign maintenance and improvements to the tenant. Consequently, there are scenarios where the tenant is responsible for things like fixing steps and railings. There are also some scenarios where multiple tenants and owners in an area may have overlapping responsibilities, and those can be challenging to sort out.
This scenario is less common, but there are some circumstances where a government, usually a municipal one, is liable for the premises. A small minority of jurisdictions, for example, assign responsibility for maintaining most public sidewalks to the city.
You would correctly expect, too, that most cases occurring in government buildings are treated like cases involving normal ownership. One big asterisk applies here, though, and that's that some state governments apply shorter statutes of limitations to claims filed against them or their designees.
Sorting Things Out
In complex cases, it may take some digging by your personal injury attorney to determine who the defendant ought to be. Your lawyer can scan public records, and they also can demand production of agreements that outline responsibilities. If a defendant insists they're not liable, the matter can be taken to court.
To learn more, contact a slip-and-fall lawyer.