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Omaha Apartment Complex Injury Lawyer


Holding Negligent Landlords Liable for Injuries

Landlords have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for those living in and visiting their communities. Safety inspections have to be done on a yearly or sometimes monthly basis and tenants and guests must be notified if something that could be potentially dangerous is on the premises.

Although most landlords work hard to provide a safe environment, accidents do happen. When they do, injured persons may wonder if the property owner is liable for their injuries. Let’s have a look at the law.

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Premises Liability Law

The premises liability law holds landlords or even tenants responsible if someone legally enters a property and gets injured due to a dangerous condition. Typically, when you file a claim against a landlord or tenant, a judge will determine whether or not you legally or illegally entered the property and, depending on how you are labeled, determine how liable the accused is. The group types are:

Trespasser: If you entered without permission, then the landlord has no legal responsibility to keep you safe. The exception would be if the landlord knew you were present and didn’t warn you of the dangers.

Lawful entrants: Licensees and invitees fall into this category. If you are a guest of someone living on the property, you have slightly more protection, but it would have to be proven that the owner did not make you aware of the dangers. Potential tenants are provided with protection because it is the responsibility of the landlord or owner to inspect the premises and ensure that it is safe before inviting others onto the property.

All individuals at an apartment complex owe each other a basic duty of care, whether they are landlords, tenants, or guests. On the part of the landlord, this means keeping all common areas, parking lots, walkways, stairways, and apartments free of safety hazards as well as performing regular inspections. Tenants, in turn, must be sure that their apartments do not have any known safety hazards that may put themselves or their guests at risk of an injury. For example, if a tenant knows their kitchen has a leaky pipe that can cause a puddle to form and their guest slips in the kitchen, the tenant could be held liable for not cleaning up the puddle and contacting their landlord to fix the pipe.

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Safety Hazards in Apartment Complexes

We would like to think of our homes as the safest place in the world, but like any property, apartment complexes are host to a large number of dangers. This is why city and state laws have clear guidelines for construction and maintenance. Failure to follow these guidelines and respond to safety hazards can result in a variety of injuries, including:

  • Slip and Fall: The most common injury is a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall caused by wet floors, snow, ice, and faulty stairs; however they can also occur within an apartment. If the carpet is improperly installed or the floor is uneven and a tenant or guest trips, the landlord could be liable for a safety hazard.
  • Dog Bites: While we hope that every animal is safe and well-trained, dog bites are still an everyday occurrence, even in apartment complexes. If another tenant’s dog bites you, they could be liable for damages. In addition, if your landlord knew there were stray dogs on the property and did not contact animal control to remove them, they could be liable if those dogs attacked you.
  • Swimming Pool injuries: As fun as they are, swimming pools have a variety of dangers. Improperly mixed cleaning chemicals, faulty handrails, and a lack of depth signs could endanger a swimmer’s life. In addition, security gates should have proper locking mechanisms to ensure children due not go swimming unsupervised.
  • Unstable handrails on decks or balconies: Handrails on decks and balconies must be properly secured to prevent serious falls. If a repair is scheduled on balconies or decks, the area should be sectioned off with protective measures and warning signs should be clearly posted.
  • Electrical hazards: Exposed or faulty wiring can be extremely dangerous, either causing electric shocks or fires, and should be immediately reported and repaired.
  • Assault: Often, assaults in apartment complexes are committed by illegal trespassers, but they can occur at the hands of other tenants or their guests. Both these parties can be held liable for a personal injury claim and punitive damages. In instances of illegal trespassers, if the landlord did not provide proper security to safeguard all tenants, you may have a case for negligent security.

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Do I Have an Apartment Complex Case?

Premises liability claims are often complex. Each case is different, and the claimant’s "burden of proof" varies depending on the circumstances.

To win a personal injury case, you must usually prove:

  • You were on the owner’s premises with their consent or invitation;
  • The owner either created a dangerous condition, knew of the dangerous condition, or would have discovered the dangerous condition if the owner had been reasonable;
  • The owner should have realized the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm;
  • The owner should have expected that you would not discover or realize the danger, or would fail to protect yourself from the danger;
  • The owner failed to properly address the condition and make it safe or did not properly notify you (i.e., mopping a wet floor and not putting a "wet floor" sign in the area or verbally telling you when he saw you walking towards that area); and
  • The condition caused you to suffer harm.

For example, if a person walks into a dark common-area stairwell at an apartment complex, he might not notice a faulty staircase or step until it’s too late, but the property manager should have known ahead of time that there was an issue.

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Proving a Negligence in Nebraska

One of the key concepts that runs through all personal injury cases is proving negligence. To be liable for an injury in an apartment complex, a landlord, tenant, or guest must have acted negligently, and that action must have caused an injury. In some cases, the negligence is clear. If a landlord does not put a wet floor sign in front of a freshly mopped floor, then they could be liable for a slip-and-fall. However, sometimes multiple parties are involved, and blame is applied to both the accuser and defendant.

In the state of Nebraska, personal injury claims are subject to comparative negligence laws. This means that if you had some fault in your injury, then your compensation would be reduced based on how liable you were for your own actions. For example, let us say that you were driving through the apartment’s parking lot and hit a pothole. This caused you to lose control of your car and crash into a wall. You may be able to prove that the landlord was liable for not repairing or putting safety cones around the pothole. However, if you were also speeding at the time of the accident, the jury may determine that you could have avoided the crash if you were driving slower. In this case, you could be 40% at fault for your injuries, and would only receive 60% of your compensation.

In more serious cases, if the jury decides you were at least 50% at fault, you would not be able to receive compensation. Your personal injury attorney will properly review your case to determine the level of fault on each side and work to maximize the amount of compensation you can receive. They may work to prove that even if you were driving at a regular speed, the accident was unavoidable because of the pothole, increasing the amount of fault on the part of your landlord.

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Tips for Building a Strong Case

Proving that there was no way you could have known of the apartment complex danger ahead of the landlord can be tricky.

For example, if you slip and fall near the pool, the first question you might be asked is why you didn’t see that it was wet. Be prepared. Some helpful things to do after a fall are to:

  • Be sure there is a written report of the incident. Without it, the landlord could say that it didn’t happen or he had no knowledge of the incident.
  • Talk to a tenant. See if the tenants were aware of the issue.
  • Write down the names of witnesses. It is helpful to have other people who can corroborate what happened. Get their names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, if possible.
  • Take photos. A photo of the condition of the area when you fell can help paint a picture for the judge and jury.

There are many more steps for a case to be successful. Contact an Omaha premises liability attorney at Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234 for a free consultation to talk about your situation. We have extensive experience with premises liability cases, and we can help get you the recovery you deserve.

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Our legal team is ready to help. Please fill out the form below to set up a free consultation with attorney Jason Bottlinger.