Gravity works and things happen. We all know that, so we aren’t surprised when an injury occurs because of a slip and fall event. Sometimes gravity gets a bit of an assist in slip and fall events, however. This is why landlords and/or tenants are sometimes held responsible under the law of premises liability.
This means that someone falling on a property can blame gravity without question, but blame can also fall to the landlord and/or tenants, depending on the facts of the incident. The wise course of action is obvious: have your personal injury lawyer on speed dial if you’re a landlord or tenant.
Premises Liability Law
“Premises liability” holds the owners of properties and the residents living there liable for accidents occurring on the property. Landlords and tenants may be liable for injuries caused by a slip and fall, or other type of accident, on the premises which you own and/or occupy.
When an incident occurs and legal action begins as a result, one of the first steps is determining who’s at fault for the accident occurring. Under Massachusetts premises liability laws, injured parties can make legal claims for monetary damages if the event occurred as a result of a hazardous defect or situation on your real property.
Anyone who owns property in Massachusetts must maintain that property in a reasonably safe condition for lawful visitors. When an accident happens or a slip and fall incident occurs, certain conditions must apply in order to bring a lawsuit. Anyone filing a lawsuit against a property owner must provide proof that the owner had a duty to provide reasonable care, that the owner breached that duty and that an injury resulted because of it.
That’s not to say that the property owner is automatically faulted when a fall or injury occurs. The law recognizes that a normal part of daily life is occasionally dropping or spilling things. A property owner may not necessarily garner blame for not cleaning up a spill immediately or instantly picking something up. The law also recognizes that grounds shift over time, creating uneven areas that take time to rectify.
Property owners are also not at fault when someone trips or slips on something that an ordinary person could reasonably expect to find there, such as a drainage grate or a concrete parking bumper. These things are an expected encounter in a modern urban area and ordinary people should anticipate their presence, expect to see them and avoid them.
In short, we’re all expected to look where we’re going.
Determining Who’s at Fault
Every state has its own laws and procedures that determine liability when an injury happens. The focus of the law may be on the property, its condition at the time of the incident and the activities of the owner and the injured party. Or, the law may center around the status of the injured person in determining liability.
Determining who is responsible may hinge on one or more of the following:
- The visitor’s legal status. One of the following labels may be applicable: invitee, licensee, social guest or trespasser.
- The actions of the visitor and the owner, as well as the condition of the property at the time of the incident.
- Is the injured party a child or a trespasser?
- Could “shared fault” rules be applicable in an injury event?
- Rules specifically governing landlords.
In Massachusetts, the injured party has the option of filing an insurance claim against the property owner’s insurance carrier or taking the case to court by filing a personal injury lawsuit. While there are a number of laws and legal rules in Massachusetts that can impact litigation, there are two main legal points to consider before filing your lawsuit.
First, there is a statute of limitations deadline for filing litigation in a slip and fall occurrence. Meeting this deadline is imperative before moving forward with your case.
Second, Massachusetts has “shared fault” rules. This means a ruling that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident may impact your right to recover monetary compensation for damages.
Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall in Massachusetts
The civil court system of Massachusetts puts a limit on the amount of time allowed to pass before you forfeit your right to bring a lawsuit into court. Your personal injury attorneys in Boston or other cities can explain the statute of limitations that applies to your specific type of case.
The important point to understand is that trying to file a slip and fall lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline date will almost certainly end in a dismissal of your case. The property owner or landlord you’re filing against will be quick to point out to the court that you are past the deadline date. When this happens, expect the property owner’s motion to dismiss to be swiftly granted.
The slip and fall statute of limitations in Massachusetts is the same as most laws governing personal injury cases in general. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 2A places a time limit of three years within the date of the incident for filing a slip and fall accident lawsuit.
It is also required that the property owner or landlord receive notice when you intend to pursue a claim under premises liability laws. There is a limit on the time allowed for this. Such notice is generally required within 30 days of the event.
At the Boston law firm of Colucci Colucci Marcus & Flavin, PC, our attorneys will help our clients recover the maximum possible compensation for their injuries. For a free initial consultation with one of our professional and experienced personal injury lawyers, call (617) 698-6000, or contact us online via our email form.