A slip and fall can cause devastating injuries ranging from soft tissue damage to broken bones and brain trauma. The medical bills and lost income can add up to a small fortune, but if your fall was caused by the negligence of another person, you may be entitled to compensation for all resulting damages.
There are many parties who might be liable for a slip and fall at an apartment complex. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, you may have grounds for a claim against the landlord, the apartment building manager, or another party.
When Can I Sue a Landlord or Property Owner After a Slip and Fall at an Apartment Complex?
Landlords and property owners have a duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition. This applies to both common areas of apartment complexes—such as laundry facilities, stairs, and swimming pools—and individual apartment units.
When a landlord or property owner fails to address a dangerous condition in a reasonable amount of time, or to post warnings about the dangerous condition, they may be held liable for any injuries that result. They may also be held liable if they violate building codes and this leads to an injury.
Pursuant to California Civil Code §1941, apartment complex managers (usually the landlord or property owner) have an obligation to ensure their rental units are tenable, meaning that they include (among other things) properly maintained stairways, floors, and railings as well as adequate lighting. If you slipped and fell because an apartment complex manager failed to fulfill this obligation, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim.
For such a claim to be successful, you must be able to prove:
- That a dangerous condition existed
- The landlord or property owner was aware of the dangerous condition (actual knowledge) or should have been aware of it through the exercise of reasonable diligence (constructive knowledge);
- The landlord or property owner could have fixed the dangerous condition;
- There was a high likelihood that the dangerous condition would cause an injury if left unaddressed; and
- You slipped and fell because the condition was not fixed.
Even if all of the above criteria are met, the opposing party may still argue that your own negligence contributed to your fall and that you should be held partially or entirely liable for your own medical bills and other damages. This is one reason why it’s so important to hire a seasoned premises liability attorney at the earliest possible point in time. Your lawyer can visit the site of your injury, have it inspected by an expert, search for past maintenance records of the property, talk to witnesses, and take other steps to strengthen your claim.
You will need compelling evidence to demonstrate that the landlord or property owner knew or should have known about the hazard that caused your fall. An experienced premises liability attorney will know the types of evidence needed to prove actual or constructive knowledge, but much of this evidence may be time-sensitive.
For example, surveillance camera footage may be erased, and the dangerous condition may be fixed before it can be documented. It is also possible that the liable party will withhold evidence, such as repair logs and surveillance recordings, but your lawyer can apply legal pressure where necessary to obtain this evidence. The bottom line: You should consult an attorney as soon as possible so the investigation can begin right away—while essential evidence is still available.
What Are Common Hazards at Apartment Complexes That Cause Slips and Falls?
There are virtually limitless hazards that can lead to a slip and fall at an apartment complex, but some dangerous conditions are more common than others. If your fall was caused by any of the following conditions, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim:
- Cracked or uneven sidewalks or walkways;
- Inadequate lighting;
- Broken or faulty handrails;
- Defective stairways;
- Poorly designed bathrooms; or
- Worn carpet.
What Evidence Will My Attorney Need to Strengthen My Claim?
Each slip and fall case is unique. The kinds of evidence your lawyer might use to strengthen your case will depend on the type of hazard that caused your fall, the severity of your injuries and how they have affected your life, and many other factors.
Evidence to Prove Liability
To determine liability, your attorney will need to know who created the hazard that caused your fall and whether the landlord or property owner had knowledge of the hazard and the opportunity to repair it. Common examples of evidence used to prove liability in these cases include:
- Photos of the dangerous condition that caused your fall;
- Eyewitness testimony;
- Testimony from tenants who know how long the dangerous condition existed;
- Repair logs;
- Copies of any complaints or notices filed with the landlord or property owner related to the dangerous condition; and
- Surveillance footage.
Your attorney will also look for any agreements between the property owner and the property manager or maintenance crew that would affect the allocation of liability.
As you can imagine, the property owner or landlord might be reluctant to cooperate with your attorney’s investigation. If necessary, your lawyer can file subpoenas to obtain evidence that is being withheld. The sooner your attorney is able to investigate your case, the less likely it will be that essential evidence will be altered or destroyed.
Evidence to Prove Damages
Your claim will not be successful unless you can prove that you suffered an injury due to the dangerous condition. Your attorney might use the following evidence to prove causation and damages:
- Doctor summaries and other medical records;
- Testimony from medical specialists and/or building code experts;
- Bills and invoices for medical treatment;
- Paystubs and tax returns to prove the value of lost income;
- Your personal journal about the effects of your injuries;
- Testimony from loved ones and caregivers; and
- Receipts for other expenses stemming from your injury.
What Steps Should I Take After a Slip and Fall at an Apartment Complex?
Your slip and fall attorney will handle all the logistics of your case, but there are steps you can take to protect your rights and make sure the investigation gets off to a strong start. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Write down key details about the accident including its time, location, cause, the lighting conditions, and the weather conditions;
- Take timestamped photographs of your injuries and the hazard that caused your fall before the landlord or property owner has the opportunity to fix it;
- Report the fall to the property owner and ask for a written accident report;
- Set aside the shoes and clothes you were wearing when the fall occurred in case the liable party argues that they somehow contributed to your fall;
- Record the contact details of any eyewitnesses, and write down their statements about what happened; and
- Visit a doctor for a medical evaluation.
Speak with a Long Beach Slip and Fall Attorney Today
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone in your family was hurt in a slip and fall at an apartment complex, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks for representation. Attorney Michael Waks is well-versed in the laws and procedures that govern premises liability claims in California.
Michael will perform a thorough investigation into your fall, talk to witnesses, compile evidence, calculate your damages, and fight aggressively for the compensation you deserve. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (562) 206-1939, or use our Contact Page to reach us online.
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