Premises Liability and the Concept of Notice in New Jersey
No doubt, there are a variety of accidents that relate to premises liability cases. The bottom line comes down to whether you were hurt on someone else’s property and whether you can sue them for damages. That said, you might not realize how the concept of notice plays into your pursuit of a claim.
For starters, consider the different types of premises liability claims, as well as the various types of defendants. You might have a cause of action in any of these types of scenarios:
- Swimming pool accidents: The owner of private property created what’s known as an “attractive nuisance” and didn’t provide adequate protection. Consequently, someone enters the premises and either suffers a severe injury or dies.
- Trip and fall, or slip and fall: A whole host of defendants could be responsible for whether you fell forwards or backward. An object could cause you harm, just as a slippery substance could cause your fall.
- Inadequate security: Without question, keeping premises safe represents a critical aspect of the duties of every property owner. In some unfortunate circumstances, injury victims suffer damages as a result of mugging or rape. Proof of inadequate security could make for a claim citing premises liability.
Meanwhile, a case against a property owner might involve proper maintenance or repair. Likewise, improper construction might become part of a premises liability case. Staircase accidents are just one example of incidents that can occur on commercial or private property.
Notice in New Jersey: Constructive or Actual
In New Jersey, there are a couple of meanings to the word “notice” when it comes to a premises liability claim. You should be aware of them and how they might apply to your lawsuit for monetary damages.
First, there’s the concept of constructive notice. In some sense, it may appear a bit vague when compared with actual notice. Constructive notice means that the property owner should have been aware of the dangerous condition that caused your accident and consequential injury. Of course, the other part of this equation includes the notion that the property owner did nothing to fix the hazard.
Here’s an example of where constructive notice might come into play. You are walking down the aisle of a discount store in a city like downtown Elizabeth. Boxes of surplus merchandise are haphazardly piled on shelves throughout the perimeter of the story. One of the large cartons that were tethering on edge comes cascading down. When it lands on the back of your neck, you suffer severe injuries. No one necessarily notified the store owner of the dangerous condition, but they should have been aware of it.
In the meantime, put yourself in the local supermarket. The person in front of you drops a plastic container of iced tea. More than likely, everything is a blur as you can’t avoid slipping and falling on the wet substance. Since the hazardous condition was newly created, store management didn’t have a chance to clean it up to prevent your fall. Therefore, there is no indication that they should have known of the issue and rectified the situation.
Actual notice means just what it sounds like when it comes to personal injury cases. Your or someone else has notified the property owner that a dangerous condition exists. It could be as a result of improper maintenance or repair. In any event, someone has reported the potential for accidental harm. Failure to rectify the situation resulted in your injuries.
Notice Requirements for Public Entities
If you are injured on government property, you have an obligation to report your accident as soon as possible. For example, if you’re hurt on a college campus operated by the county or state, you must give appropriate notice after the incident. The law requires you to do so on a timely basis. Therefore, you should immediately consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss filing a Notice of Claim.