Geoff McDonald & Associates wins the biggest settlement for Virginia in 2020 for $38.2 Million. Click for details.

Can I sue my landlord if I’m injured at home?

Apr 27, 2021 | Personal Injury

In Virginia, landlords have a legal duty to ensure that their tenants are reasonably safe. This duty applies to private areas, like apartment units, as well as swimming pools, stairwells, parking lots, and other common areas. Falls, dog bites, and swimming pool drownings are the most common premises liability injuries. Landlords also have a duty to take security measures (like adequate lighting) to prevent certain third-party crimes, like assaults.

 

These incidents usually cause extremely serious injuries, such as head injuries. These wounds may be permanent. If brain cells die, they may never regenerate.

 

Because of the serious nature of these injuries, and the landlord’s clear responsibility to prevent them, a Virginia injury attorney can often obtain substantial compensation for these victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering.

Duty of Care

 

Like most states, Virginia uses a common-law classification system to determine the level of legal responsibility in these cases. This system places a victim into one of three categories:

 

  • Invitee: Paying tenants are invitees. So are prospective tenants. These individuals have permission to be on the property, and their presence benefits owners. Since the relationship is close, the duty of care is high. In these situations, landlords usually have a duty of reasonable care.
  • Licensee: A guest of an apartment tenant is usually a licensee. Although these people have permission to be on the property, at least indirectly, their presence does not benefit the landlord. Therefore, landlords only have a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects such as an uneven step. 
  • Trespasser: If the victim did not have permission to be on the land and the victim’s presence did not benefit the owner, the landlord or other owner usually owes no legal duty. Tales of injured burglars who sue homeowners and win are mostly urban legends.

 

Social guests at a rented property are typically licensees, but social guests at the owned property are usually invitees. The owner benefits non-economically, because of the social interaction.

 

Establishing Knowledge

 

Responsibility is only one piece of the puzzle. Landlords are financially responsible for damages if they knew about the hazard which caused the injury. Victims/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, it does not take much proof to establish this point.

 

In fact, plaintiffs don’t need to prove actual knowledge. Constructive knowledge (that is, when the defendant should have known) is sufficient.

 

Assume there is a slight depression on Jerry’s front walkway. Water collects in it when it rains. Jerry has told the landlord about the problem several times. The landlord keeps promising to fix it “eventually.” One night, the temperature drops and the standing water becomes ice. Before the sun comes up, Jerry goes out to walk his dog. He slips and falls on the ice.

 

Since the landlord knew about the underlying problem, and the landlord also knew the temperature would drop, he is probably responsible for Jerry’s medical bills and other damages,

 

Direct evidence of actual knowledge is also admissible. Examples include “cleanup on aisle two” announcements and open repair orders. This evidence usually surfaces during a lawsuit’s discovery process. During discovery, both parties have a duty to put all their evidentiary cards on the table.

Common Defenses in Premises Liability Cases

 

Contributory negligence, in one form or another, is probably the most common premises liability defense. In the above example, Jerry’s landlord might argue that Jerry did not watch where he was stepping. So, his fall was his own fault.

 

However, in the above illustration, the facts do not support that conclusion. It’s almost impossible to see ice patches in the dark. That’s especially true if the ice in question was clear, translucent black ice. Furthermore, Jerry had no legal duty to use a flashlight or other light source.

 

In dog bite claims, comparative fault usually takes the form of a provocation defense. The insurance company claims the victim provoked the dog into attacking. But this defense only has limited applicability. People cannot accidentally provoke dogs. Instead, provocation is intentional. Furthermore, provocation is usually a physical act. Verbal teasing, no matter how mean and aggressive, is usually insufficient.

 

Call Today for a Free Consultation 

When renters are injured in or near their homes, their landlords may very well be responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 866-369-9051.

FREE CONSULTATION

No Fees Unless We Win





    If I Am Injured While My Spouse Is Driving, Can I Sue My Spouse?

    Legally, nothing prevents you from taking legal action in a spouse-involved car accident. There is no relevant spousal immunity provision in Virginia. However, there are some obvious emotional issues to consider in these cases. There are some additional legal issues...

    Who May Be at Fault in a Construction Accident?

    They may seem simple on the onset—a fall from a scaffold or faulty machinery causing injury—but construction accidents can be quite complex. In some cases, you may have to file for workers’ compensation. In other cases, you may have to make a third-party claim to seek...

    What If I Was Partially at Fault for My Accident?

    Until it’s them or their loved ones involved in the accident, most people don’t consider how state laws and regulations affect their pursuit of financial recovery. After all, what the average American knows about personal injury claims and lawsuits usually stems from...

    Our Case Results

    $4,700,000
    Industrial Plant Accident

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Jeffrey A. Breit and Justin M. Sheldon Our client was killed in an industrial accident when an unauthorized worker was operating an overhead crane and pinned our client between…

    $1,750,000
    Rear-End Crash

    Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury, facial trauma, a dislocated hip and severe abdominal trauma when she was rear-ended at a traffic light by a tractor trailer. Suit was commenced shortly after…

    $1,250,000
    Assault of Log Truck Driver

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Geoffrey R. McDonald, Frank H. Hupfl, Justin M. Sheldon.
    Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury after being assaulted and knocked to the ground while fueling his logging…

    $860,000
    Drunk Driving Crash

    Our client suffered neck/head trauma and a broken wrist after his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver while he was stopped at a traffic light. Upon rejection of a settlement offer of $325,000, our litigation…

    $700,000
    Rear-End Collision

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Justin M. Sheldon and Geoff R. McDonald, Richmond
    GMA’s client was injured as a result of a rear-end collision in the greater Richmond area. The crash occurred a little after…

    Client Reviews

    Cheryl and Rich were wonderful and patient with me throughout the case. All of my questions were answered. They really helped me through this tough time and made sure to let me know what was going on. I really thank Geoff…

    Troy Saxby

    My experience with GMA staff was first rate. They always represented in a professional way and made sure I had everything as far as paperwork. Kara and Theo made sure to answer all my questions, was always available and so…

    Shirley Brown

    Geoff McDonald & Associates is the team that you want on the field if you’re in need of top notch legal defense! Mr. Taj Henley demonstrated true customer service skills and his expertise made me feel comfortable throughout the…

    Julian Reeves

    Geoff McDonald & Associates: Thank you Taj Henley for all of your hard work and dedication! Very expeditious in my case and I was very satisfied with my settlement. Will recommend to all my friends and family!

    Shareema Williams

    Geoff is number one in my book and I especially appreciate the support of Mr Henley

    Ebony Conwell

    I was so pleased with the knowledge and support from Mr. Taj Henley

    Kideem Frierson

    Thank you Geoff McDonald &Associates. A special thank you to Mr. Taj Henley

    Denise Conwell

    Mr. Taj Henley displays exceptional professionalism for Geoff McDonald & Associates, along with commendable communication skills and customer service. By his work ethic and commitment to the people he serves his value to any…

    Justin Fitzgerald