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December 5, 2020

Defining and Understanding Premises Liability

Premises liability is an important part of civil law in New York State. However, what it actually covers is unfamiliar to most people, both those who own property (potential defendants) and those who use it (potential plaintiffs).

Here’s a very brief introduction to some of the most important concepts used in premises liability cases.

Premises and Liability

A premises is a legally defined area. It’s the land or the structures on it—or a combination thereof. It might cover a lot of ground, such as an entire shopping mall and its parking lots, or only a small amount, such as a single apartment or a small stretch of sidewalk.

It’s the area that someone is in legal control of. There’s no single strict definition, and determining what qualifies as the premises in question is sometimes an important part of a case.

Liability is the idea of legal responsibility. It includes the actions that a person takes and, just as important, the actions a person is required to take—but doesn’t.

These ideas come together in premises liability cases when a person is harmed while on another’s property. When that harm happens because the property owner (or other person responsible for the premises) either caused a dangerous condition or failed to correct a dangerous condition, then the victim can make a claim for compensation for the harm caused.

A Duty of Reasonable Care

The law in New York states that the person in control of a premises has a duty to keep it in a safe condition for those who use or visit that premises.

Following this idea, landlords need to keep common areas free of hazards; grocery store owners need to make sure that spills are cleaned from floors to prevent slip-and-falls; parking garage operators need to make sure that their facilities are well lit to deter crime and reduce injury; and businesses of all kinds need to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks to prevent conditions that could lead to injury.

Liability Not Unlimited

It might seem like these guidelines put an unreasonable burden on premises owners, but the law isn’t indifferent to reality. Liable defects can’t be trivial, nor can they be so obvious that any thinking person should have avoided them.

Premises owners also aren’t expected to fix conditions instantaneously, nor are they responsible for harm that happens in areas not publicly accessible: Trespassers are not usually covered. Owners also might be off the hook for conditions created by others without their knowledge.

New York Premises Liability Lawyers

Every premises liability case is unique. The location, the circumstances, the liability of the defendant, and the harm to the plaintiff are all different in every situation. That’s why when you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, it’s important to work with a firm that understands all the ins and outs of premises liability law.

Whether your case involves a sidewalk, an elevator, an accident at a restaurant or a retail store, or an incident of landlord negligence, Greenstein & Milbauer, LLP has the experience you need. Call us today at 1-800-VICTIM2 (842-8462) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your one-of-a-kind situation.