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Hazardous Conditions on Private Property

Under the law of premises liability, all property owners have a legal duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for others. If a property owner is negligent in the maintenance of his or her property, and someone else is injured due to that negligence, the property owner can be held liable for those injuries and required to pay damages to the injured person. Thus, when you are invited to someone else’s house, you can expect that the property is free from hazardous conditions likely to cause you injury, or you can expect the property owner to warn you of any reasonably unsafe conditions. If not, and you are injured as a result, you can sue the property owner for your injuries.

In order to establish a premises liability case, you will need to prove that the property owner owed you a duty of care, that the property owner breached that duty by leaving his property unreasonably dangerous, and that you suffered an injury as a result. How to prove that the property owner owed you a duty of care depends on the circumstances surrounding your presence on the property. If you were invited as a guest to that property, the property owner has a duty to fix any known hazardous conditions, or warn you of hazardous conditions. If you are a business customer on someone’s property, the property owner owes you a higher duty – he must regularly inspect his property and remove any dangerous conditions or warn customers about them. If you are merely trespassing on someone’s property, however, the property owner only has to warn you of known, very dangerous man-made hazards. To establish that the property owner breached their duty, you must show that he or she failed to take reasonable measures to remove the hazard.


There are many types of hazardous conditions that can be found on private property. Some common examples include:


Faulty electrical wiring

Property owners must take care to ensure that the electrical wiring on their property is in safe, working condition. Faulty electrical wiring creates an extremely unsafe house and can result in people being electrocuted, or electrical fires erupting and individuals thereby suffering burns and smoke inhalation. In the most serious cases, death can result from faulty wiring. Property owners should check for crumbling insulation, exposed wires, unraveling electrical tape, and brittle wires, and must fix any known problems. If a property owner is aware of the problem and invites guests to his house before he can fix it, he should warn his guests to stay away from the dangerous areas.


Dog bite cases

Dog owners in Massachusetts are held to a high standard regarding injuries caused by their dogs. Dog owners are “strictly liable” for any injury, scarring, or wrongful death caused by their dog. This means than an individual injured by a dog bite or dog attack only has to prove that the dog that caused the injury belongs to the defendant. Regardless of whether the owner knows the dog is vicious or whether the dog has bitten people before, the injured person can recover. However, if the injured person was tempting or teasing the dog, or was trespassing at the time of the bite, the dog owner will likely not be liable for the injury.

Dog bite injuries can be severe, both physically and psychologically, and plaintiffs can recover medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering damages. Some homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites, however, not all do in which case the only recourse will be from the dog owner directly.

If you were injured by a dog bite or dog attack, you should seek medical attention immediately. You will need to talk to the dog owner to get information regarding the dog’s vaccinations as well. Then you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.


Unsafe stairways and walkways

Unsafe stairways and walkways present another area where accidents often occur due to a property owner’s failure to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Many factors can contribute to an unsafe stairwell or walkway. For example, a broken or loose handrail, slippery carpeting, inconsistent step size and shape, the distance between landings, an extremely steep gradient, or inadequate lighting, among others. If a property owner fails to correct such unsafe conditions, or fails to warn individuals of the dangerous condition, he can be liable for injuries caused by the condition.


Lead paint poisoning

One of the most dangerous conditions found in residential properties is lead paint. Lead paint, in both small and large amounts can cause serious and long lasting health problems, even leading to death in some cases. Children are especially vulnerable to lead paint poisoning because it inhibits their developmental processes. The effects of lead poisoning often do not surface until the level of poison is extremely high.

Thus, property owners are required by law to remove lead paint from personal residences. The Massachusetts statute also prohibits landlords from evicting tenants, or taking any other discriminatory action against tenants, who report the presence of lead paint to public health officials. In addition, any renovations or changes to a personal residence that cause existing lead paint to be disturbed must adhere to specific safety regulations.


Swing sets and trampoline accidents

Other potentially hazardous conditions on personal property include swing sets and trampolines. Although these provide entertainment and, when used properly, are generally safe, an unfortunate reality is that children are often injured when using swing sets and trampolines due to problems with the equipment itself.


In these cases, the law typically holds the designer, manufacturer, and seller of the product liable for injuries caused to consumers who use their product, if the consumer can establish that the product was defective in some way. The defect could be found in the product’s design, in the manufacturing of the product, or the defect could be that the product did not contain a warning regarding proper use of the product or potential dangers associated with the product. For swing sets, a product defect could be that the swings are placed too close together, or too close to the ground, or that the frame was not manufactured using strong enough material to withstand normal use. For trampolines, defects could be in the size of the trampoline, a failure to properly warn users of hazards associated with too many individuals using the trampoline at once, or improperly placed springs.


MA Hazardous Condition Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a hazardous condition, you should contact the attorneys at the law offices of Altman & Altman for a free and confidential consultation. We will investigate your case and look at all of the factors that could have led to your injury. We will recreate your accident and determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit. If you decide to pursue your claim, we will be with you every step of the process, and we will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us 24 hours a day 7 days a week - nights and weekends included.



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