Question: How can my mother pursue a case after falling on the third step of a duplex, but the lady doesn't have renters [insurance] but the owners do? My mother has been in hospital over a month due to this fall. I have landlord and owner phone numbers. Who should be responsible, the landlord or the tenant?
Answer: I’ve got to stop you there. Being hurt on someone’s property is one thing, but liability doesn’t just follow and lead to anyone’s insurance coverage paying the injured person's claim. Maybe the insurance company will pay, but not with what little information you have provided. I need to know more. Probably the landlord has insurance and the tenants did not buy any coverage; that is pretty common. But let us not put the cart in front of the horse. Determining who is responsible for what and why is an issue totally separate from who carries casualty insurance. And here is the most important point, just because a person is injured while on someone's property doesn't make the owner responsible. That statement is one worth rereading and repeating out loud. The possessor of the property is legally liable only for defects that they failed to either repair or to warn those who enter about the defect. And that assumes the defect is not open and obvious.
Mad, sad and angry doesn't make a case; a defect in the property does. That is the key - there has to be some defect as a defect is defined by the law. Here is what I mean. What caused your mother to fall? A problem with concrete, wood, a slab, some ice, something left in the walkway that made her trip or something that wasn't supposed to be there but was, like moss. Or was it her fault? If so, to what extent? Fault on her part won’t kill the case because we compare fault in this state, but not having proof of a defect will. So what is the defect?
Here is what I suggest all people do when injured on someone else's property: Take a photo of what was wrong that caused the incident and the injuries. [I will shoot a new video on slip-fall or trip-fall cases and how to preserve the evidence. Check back for the video.] Best of luck to you.
[Image: By Steve Lombardi, Seattle, Washington]