In the 2010 Census, there were more than 835,000 housing units in Queens. Only about 44% were owner-occupied, leaving a huge number of tenants who rent apartments in Corona, Jamaica, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Flushing, Bayside, and the borough’s many other neighborhoods. As a renter in Queens, you already know that your landlord is responsible for the basic care and maintenance of your building – so what happens if you get injured because your landlord doesn’t provide adequate maintenance? Our premises liability lawyers explain when New York landlords are (and aren’t) liable for tenant injuries caused by property hazards and defects.
I Slipped and Fell in My Apartment in Queens, Can I Sue My Landlord for Negligence?
The answer to this question depends on three factors:
- Why you fell.
- Where you fell.
- When you fell.
First: why you fell. This is arguably the most important part of your whole claim.
You may have a case against your landlord if you can show that your injuries were caused by his or her negligence. As the plaintiff or claimant (injury victim), you are the party who is responsible for proving this fact, similar to how the prosecutor in a criminal case is responsible for proving the defendant is guilty. Of course, you will not be doing this on your own. In fact, your Queens personal injury attorney will take care most of the work on your behalf. However, you should still have a sense of what constitutes a case.
There are four elements to negligence:
- Duty of care. Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants. This duty requires landlords to provide tenants with reasonably safe accommodations that comply with building and health codes.
- Breach of duty. The landlord violated their duty to provide the tenant with reasonably safe accommodations. For example, the landlord failed to repair a known property hazard – such as a defective railing, step, or light – within a reasonable period of time.
- Causation. The tenant’s accident occurred because of the landlord’s actions or, in many cases, failure to take action – for instance, the failure to make timely repairs to a property defect.
- Damages. The tenant was actually injured as a result of their accident. The accident was not harmless.
If the property hazard and resulting accident were products of the landlord’s negligence, and not your own carelessness, you may have a claim against your landlord. If, however, you were injured by a hazard you created – for example, if you slipped on a magazine you left lying on your bathroom floor – you will not have an injury claim because your accident was not caused by your landlord’s conduct.
How Long Does a Tenant Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against a Landlord in NY?
The location of the accident is also important, because the point of injury must be an area, device, or service over which your landlord exercises control. Returning to the magazine example, your landlord would not be held liable because he or she is not responsible for where you choose to leave your personal belongings inside your own apartment. Landlords can be liable for injuries that occur inside apartment units, but only if such injuries are caused by problems with the building, such as structural defects or electrical problems.
Otherwise, your landlord is in charge of maintaining common areas, such as:
- Building exits and entrances
- Gyms and recreational spaces
- Shared laundry rooms
If an injury occurs due to a defect in one of these areas, your landlord may be responsible.
Last but not least is the matter of when your accident occurred. Like other states, New York sets for injury victims a deadline called the “statute of limitations,” which gives you three years to file a lawsuit for:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Other personal injury caused by negligence, which in a premises liability case might involve:
- Being shocked by faulty wiring
- Being struck by a falling ceiling tile or other object, which can cause severe brain injuries, neck injuries, foot injuries, shoulder injuries, or other types of injuries, depending on where the object lands
- Suffering burn injuries because the landlord failed to set the building’s water heater to an appropriate temperature
Even though the statute of limitations permits several years to file a lawsuit, you should get the process started by seeing a doctor as soon as possible after sustaining an injury, ideally within days if not hours. Be sure to retain all documentation resulting from medical appointments, because it may serve as highly valuable evidence later.
Once you have sought medical care, you should contact an attorney immediately. The sooner you reach out to an attorney for help, the sooner your lawyer can begin assessing your situation and, if your injury was caused by negligence, begin aggressively pursuing compensation on your behalf.
Queens Premises Liability Attorneys Representing Injured Renters
You may have a premises liability case if you were injured by a property hazard or property defect in your New York City apartment complex. Bringing more than 30 years of combined experience to each premises liability claim we handle, the aggressive New York slip and fall accident lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw are committed to upholding tenants’ rights and helping renters fight for justice.
We handle personal injury claims in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and beyond. To talk about your apartment building injury in a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (718) 843-0300 today.