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Understanding "Duty of Care"

Can property owners really be held responsible for injuries that occur on their premises?

This is the basis of premises liability claims, which are also commonly known as "slip and fall" claims. Many victims of these accidents hesitate to take legal action because of the question above: is the property owner really responsible and—more importantly—can you prove it? The answer to both of these uncertainties lies with a legal concept known as "duty of care."

Defining "Duty of Care"

Simply put, duty of care is the responsibility property owners have to welcome visitors to their property to provide a safe environment—or, in the case that there are hazardous conditions, to properly warn visitors of the risks. At a residential property, an example of this is putting up a "beware of dog" sign. In a commercial property, this means regularly maintaining the property and warning patrons of any possible temporary dangers, like slippery tiles after the floor's been cleaned.

When this duty has been breached and a welcome visitor to the property has been hurt, then under New York law the property owners can be held responsible for any resulting injuries. Proving the circumstances of their liability, however, rests with the injured party and their counsel.

Proving Your Case

Proving to the court that the property owner is responsible for your injuries is a multi-step process. First and foremost, you must establish your status as an invitee (a social guest or customer) or a licensee (any other person allowed on the property, like repair or deliverymen). Trespassers to the property usually are not eligible to pursue damages for being injured on private property they entered illegally.

Next, you must establish the following points:

  • That there were dangerous conditions on the property
  • That the owners knew or should have known about the conditions
  • That the owners had reasonable time to address the conditions
  • That the conditions led directly to your injury

In some circumstances, proving these points can require documentation and even investigation. At Scarzafava & Basdekis, our award-winning Oneonta personal injury attorneys have been representing injury victims more than three decades. We know what it takes to convincingly assert our clients' right to compensation both in and outside the courtroom and work tirelessly to ensure that all the proper evidence and resources are at our disposal.

If you've been hurt on someone else's property, your injury deserves to be answered for. Contact us today to explore your options.

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