Safety concerns are of paramount importance on rented property. Vigilant landlords conduct regular inspections of their properties to ensure they promptly identify and eliminate dangerous conditions. It’s in their best interests to do so. Apartment building insurance claims and lawsuits are filed every day by injured tenants and guests. That’s something they want to avoid at all costs.
Unfortunately, there are those landlords whose apathy and neglect frequently result in injuries to tenants and visitors. If you were hurt in your apartment, townhome, or duplex, or in the common area surrounding the property, you may have a right to compensation for your injuries and resulting damages.
Common causes of injuries in apartments include:
Cracked pavement and potholes
Cracked pavement and potholes in parking lots and common walkways are a disaster waiting to happen. If you stumble or trip, you’re likely to fall on concrete or asphalt. The danger is higher in the evening when it’s harder to see breaks or holes in the pavement.
Most apartment complexes have buildings with multiple floors. When handrails or banisters break loose from their fittings, it’s easy to lose your balance and stumble. Outside steps made slippery from weather conditions and inside steps made unsafe by worn carpeting can also cause injury.
Faulty shower doors
Faulty shower doors, especially those with sharp edges, can bruise or cut your legs and feet. Trying to keep a broken shower door closed while showering can also make you lose balance and fall.
Snow and ice
When landlords fail to remove snow and ice, or fail to salt or otherwise add de-icing agents, there’s a much greater chance tenants will slip and fall.
Exposed nails, torn carpeting, and loose floorboards
Left unrepaired, exposed nails can cause puncture wounds. You can stub your feet on torn carpeting or loose floorboards, and fall on the floor or into furniture, resulting in severe bruising, sprained or torn ligaments, and even broken bones.
Inadequate lighting in stairwells, parking lots, and along common walkways can contribute to tenants slipping and falling on steps, cracked pavement or in potholes. Inadequate lighting also provides excellent cover for criminals who prey on unsuspecting tenants.
Improperly grounded electrical sockets or worn away wire insulation can give you quite a shock. Electric shocks can cause second- or third-degree burns and even death.
Neglected children’s’ playgrounds can have broken monkey bars, slides, seesaws and sharp edges. Unpadded basketball poles can be exceptionally dangerous when teenagers run into them while playing. Unpadded indoor playground flooring can cause a child severe injuries if the child falls.
Loose ceiling tiles
Ceiling tiles crumble from age or when water leaks from upper floors and broken pipes. Finely granulated ceiling tile can be so small as to go undetected. Adults and children alike can easily inhale this tile debris, damaging their lungs. Larger pieces of falling tile can cause head injuries, including cuts and bruising to the scalp and face.
Landlord Liability and The Law
The law requires landlords of apartments, townhomes, rented homes, and duplexes to meet a very strict legal duty to keep their property habitable and free of dangerous conditions. When a landlord fails to carry out regular inspections and make timely repairs of his property, he’s negligent.
When his negligence results in injuries, the landlord breaches (violates) his legal duty of care (obligation). As a result he becomes responsible, or liable, for damages. Damages include the injured person’s medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medications, crutches, etc., lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The question then becomes how to prove the landlord was negligent and therefore liable for your damages. To succeed in your apartment building insurance claim, the law says you have a legal burden of proof. To prove your landlord was negligent requires evidence. You have to show:
- Your landlord was aware, or should have been aware of the dangerous condition existing in your apartment, townhome, duplex, or in the common area of the complex.
- A prudent (careful) landlord knows, or should know, the dangerous condition could result in injuries to you, your family members, or visitors.
- The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to correct the dangerous condition or to prevent you and others from exposure to it. This is true even during the time repairs are underway.
- The landlord’s negligence in failing to inspect and correct the dangerous condition was the direct and proximate (legally acceptable) cause of your injuries.
Your landlord has an implied obligation to make regular inspections of your apartment complex common area. You don’t have a legal duty to formally notify the landlord of the dangerous condition. It’s not your responsibility to make inspections of the property and send written notices to the landlord every time you find a dangerous condition.
The law doesn’t require you to act as a property inspector, making sure the grounds are safe. The law says the negligence is attributable to the landlord if he fails to make regular inspections of his property to guard against dangerous conditions.
Example: Failing to Repair Water Leak
It’s the middle of winter. A sprinkler head in your complex broke weeks ago. Each day, water leaks all over the sidewalk, making it dangerously icy. While coming home one evening, you slipped and fell, breaking your arm.
In this case, that you never notified the landlord about the broken sprinkler head doesn’t matter. The landlord was negligent in not inspecting the sprinkler heads regularly.
Example: Neglecting to Repair a Dangerous Shower Door
The shower door in your rented townhome broke a while ago. It tends to swing open when you get in and out of the shower. It won’t stay closed because the latch is broken. On several occasions, while drying yourself, the shower door has smacked into your leg, scraping it.
The landlord knew of the broken shower door latch because you called him several times, sent him several emails, and wrote several letters asking him to make the necessary repairs. All your requests to repair the latch went unanswered. One day the shower door swung open. This time the lower portion of the shower door cut into your leg causing a gaping wound.
Although your landlord had a duty to make regular inspections of the property, it didn’t include entering your apartment on a regular basis to inspect for dangerous conditions. That’s impractical and an invasion of your privacy. For the law to find the landlord negligent, and therefore liable for your injuries, you must have expressly notified him of the danger your broken shower door posed.
In this case, the landlord was clearly aware of the shower door because you called him several times, sent him several emails, and wrote several letters to him. Your letters, emails, etc. established express notice to the landlord of the dangerous condition inside your apartment. You also gave the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make repairs.
The landlord’s negligence in failing to repair your shower door was a breach of his duty of care to you. The faulty shower door was the direct and proximate cause of your injury. Therefore the landlord is liable for your damages.
Evidence to Prove Your Claim
The stronger your evidence, the better your chances of success in your insurance claim. Proving your landlord had notice of the dangerous condition inside your apartment, townhome, or duplex requires evidence. The more notice your landlord has ahead of an injury, the stronger your negligence claim. Here’s the evidence you’ll need:
Copies of notices to the landlord
Make copies of emails, texts, and letters you sent to the landlord advising him of the dangerous condition. Keep a written diary of each time you called to ask for help, and what the landlord or his representative said in response. Make sure you write down the name of the person you spoke with and the time and date. It might also help to get your phone records listing the calls.
Photographs and videos
Photographs are vivid portrayals of dangerous conditions. A digital camera is usually better than your cell phone camera. Be sure to turn on the date and time function before starting. Photograph and video the dangerous condition from several angles and in relation to other objects in your apartment. Get close-ups and panoramic shots. Take tons of photos.
For example, if you fell on an exposed floorboard, take a ruler and place it next to the raised floorboard to show how many inches the floorboard is above the rest of the floor. If insulated wiring shocked you, photograph the area of worn insulation first and then take a wider shot to show the rest of the wire.
Eyewitness testimony, especially from non-family members, can help prove landlord negligence. Witness statements can document a dangerous condition before and after an injury occurs. If you have a smartphone, you can video their responses. Ask first of course.
For example, while at the apartment complex playground, your child fell when the monkey bars broke in half. At the time, there were several other mothers with their kids on the same playground. After photographing the broken monkey bars, ask each of the mothers, if they would, to write down what they saw. Do it nicely. Many people are wary of legal actions and don’t want to “get involved.”
Any paper will do, just get it written down. Don’t worry about notaries or sworn affidavits. They aren’t necessary. Just make sure the witnesses sign and date their statements. If any of the mothers tells you she previously reported the monkey bars to the landlord, make sure she includes that information in her statement.
Proof of damages
You need a medical link to show your injuries were a direct (legally acceptable) result of the dangerous condition. This means you must seek medical care as soon as possible after your injury. If your injury is serious enough, call 911. The paramedics will assess and document your injuries in a written injury treatment form. You can request a copy.
If the paramedics think you should go to the emergency room, don’t refuse. If your injuries don’t require emergency care, you must still seek medical care from a local clinic or your own doctor as soon as possible. The longer the delay between your injury and its treatment, the greater the chance the landlord will refute your claims. He may say that you were injured by something else after you left the property.
Example: Injured by Exposed Nail
While moving furniture in your apartment, you stepped on a nail sticking up from the floorboard. You previously notified the landlord there were several exposed nails, but he ignored your repeated requests for help removing them. The puncture wound caused you to bleed profusely.
Your husband drove you to the local all-night medical clinic. While there, the doctor gave you a tetanus shot, prescribed antibiotics, and ordered you to keep off your feet for at least a week. You asked the doctor to write down her diagnosis and prognosis for your injury.
Her written diagnosis included:
- The type of medical care administered (tetanus shot, wound sterilization and bandaging)
- The medications prescribed (antibiotics and pain medication)
Her prognosis included:
- The type of medications you must continue to take and for how long
- The type of follow-up care you need (MRIs, X-rays, etc.)
- The doctor’s order telling you to refrain from working at your job for a specified period
Hiring an Attorney
If your injuries are serious, including broken bones, head injuries, scarring, severe burns, and other injuries requiring hospitals stays, you’ll need an experienced injury attorney to pursue your insurance claim. There’s just too much at stake.
Attorneys can take depositions (recorded statements), subpoena landlord’s records, and more. If your injuries are serious or permanent, an attorney will almost certainly negotiate a much higher settlement than you could on your own.
If your injuries are less serious, such as abrasions, minor contusions, sprained or torn muscles or ligaments, and other injuries not requiring extended hospital stays or surgical procedures, you can probably handle your own injury claim with the landlord or his insurance company.
See an example of an apartment injury demand letter here.
Lawsuit After Loose Masonry Fell on Tenant – In this construction accident lawsuit, a general contractor working on an apartment complex is seeking to be released from liability for a woman’s injuries.
How Much is Your Injury Claim Worth?
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Visitor Questions on Residential Injuries in Homes and Apartments
What are management’s responsibilities? I fell over one of many deep cracks/holes in the parking lot of my apartment complex. I was going to the mailbox when I tripped and went flying and landed on my left knee. It was a Saturday so I had to wait until Monday to call the office. They never asked me if I... Read More >>
Fell at bottom of stairs due to uncovered drain hole… I was bringing my bike down to the basement of my apartment building, and when I reached the cement landing outside the door that I had propped open, I stepped in a hole (about size of a softball) and severely twisted my ankle and fell. I’ve lived in this property for about 8 months, and... Read More >>
Fell through a rotten walkway… I fell through a rotten wooden walkway that leads to the pool. I even previously offered to help repair the walkway if I was provided the materials to do so, but they were not provided. I went as far as going in my personal car to get old boards my landlord had. I was provided... Read More >>
How to get settlement for damages from my landord’s insurance? I fell on 08/04/16 near the front door of my upstairs apartment. There was repair work being done and the area was very hazardous and unsafe for well over 1 month. I am suing the contractor, but I feel I should also be compensated from my landlord’s liability coverage. My landlord neglected to stay informed... Read More >>
Fell down stairs and cut leg due to inadequate lighting… I was walking down stairs in an apartment complex which were poorly lit. Once I got towards the end of the steps I thought I was at the landing, but I went to step and fell down two concrete steps. It hurt pretty bad. We then went and dropped the dog off at the sitters,... Read More >>
Improperly designed walkway… March 1st was a rainy day and I had left my rented condominium. From my front door to the parking lot are a few steps and broken sidewalk, with grass/mud on each side. If there is a car in the parking spot, the sidewalk ends and one has to step on to the grass/mud to... Read More >>
Fractured shoulder from fall… I was walking my dog though the hallways of my apartment complex late one night because it was cold, wet and dark outside. I caught my toe in a hole in the carpet, fell and sustained two fractures in my left shoulder. It has been a long healing and treatment process. I am scheduled for... Read More >>
Chemical burn from lounge chair… I was at my apartment building’s fenced in pool area, where I was laying on the lounge chair to sun tan like I do often. This particular day there was a foreign white chemical that matched in color to the chair I laid on, so I didn’t notice it while on it. I had a... Read More >>
Is it my fault if my hand was injured due to window falling out? I went to open a bedroom window in my apartment and it fell out and hit my wrist. The window is very heavy and from the 1960’s when they were built. I was injured and have to see a doctor to care for my wounds. The owner told me he was not responsible for my... Read More >>
Fell through a step at my rental trailer and broke my foot… In December 2014 I was at my home, which I rent, in Jesup, GA. On this afternoon I was walking down my back doorsteps and fell through a step, falling face first on the dirt. I was 7 months pregnant at the time. The fall broke my foot. They haven’t done any sonograms or anything... Read More >>
Landlord has no insurance? I suffered a severe injury to my left shoulder due to a flooded basement. I went into the laundry room in the basement, which is a common area for 3 families. One of the property managers was draining a pool and the water was running into the basement laundry area, causing some flooding. As I... Read More >>
Puncture wound from an exposed nail at the outdoor pool… My 8 year old daughter was in the pool and stepped on an exposed nail at our apartment complex. I immediately took her to the ER where she was diagnosed, treated and discharged. No further medical treatment is needed, but I want to move because now she is terrified of getting into the pool. The... Read More >>
What’s my first step in toxic mold case? I have recently had to walk away from my home of 7 years, everything I own still there, due to toxic mold. My landlord has known of this problem for 4 yrs. He had a neighbor try and fix it last June by tearing up the back part of my house, while I lived in... Read More >>
Fell in hole in grassy area… On Friday I went to my car to retrieve some documents. It was raining and I ran from the car back into the apartment, cutting across the grass. While running, I slipped and fell in a big hole created by some type of animal. My right foot was stuck in the hole and my body... Read More >>
Stepped on tree root and broke my foot… In Texas on May 3, 2013 I broke my right foot (the 5th metatarsal) completely in half by stepping on exposed tree roots. In front of each apartment there is a small grassy area were kids play or tenants will sit. It is like a small yard with a tree about every other apartment. Many... Read More >>
Broke neck diving into swimming pool… My daughter went into the pool after hours at her apartment complex. When she dove into the pool she hit the bottom, split her head open, broke her neck and irreparably damaged one of her main arteries. She spent 2 days in the Neuro ICU (Intensive Care Unit), and had surgery to put her neck... Read More >>
I slipped after reporting a ceiling leak in my subsidized apartment… I slipped and fell on a puddle of water in my kitchen. The water came from a leak in the ceiling that I have reported a number of times to the maintenance emergency line and the rental office voicemail (because they never answer the phone). I spoke to maintenance 3 days before I slipped. They... Read More >>
Received 27 Stitches in Knee After Fall… I was doing laundry in my apartment building. While walking to the laundry room I tripped over a pothole in the floor. I fell on my knee and I was a little disoriented afterwards, so a neighbor helped me to my apartment. I ended up going to the ER immediately and received 27 stitches on... Read More >>
Stepped on a roofing nail outside my apartment… One week ago I stepped on a two-inch rusty roofing nail on the walkway beside our apartment. I was wearing rubber, Croc-type slip-on shoes and the nail pierced the bottom of my foot, going approximately one inch into my foot. I went to the local emergency room and received treatment (cleaning, x-ray, pain medications, prescription... Read More >>
Broken Ankle from Unlevel Floors in Rental Property… I was standing on a step ladder (2-steps high) inside a rented property when it slipped from beneath me because of an unlevel floor (discovered after the accident). I suffered a broken ankle which has required 2 surgeries so far. I have constant nerve pain and cannot stand or walk for very long at a... Read More >>
Apartment Safety Hazards… I am trying to figure out what safety hazards are illegal for my apartment complex since I cannot get my landlord to fix them. There was glass and rusty nails all over the yard when I moved in, there are rusty screws sticking up from the toilet, the dishwasher falls forward, and the paint on... Read More >>
Knee Injury from Slipping on Dog Poop… I was walking in my condo complex and didn’t see a pile of dog poop on the sidewalk. I slipped and fell on it, and injured my knee very badly. I have no health insurance and I do not know who’s dog pooped on the sidewalk. Can I sue the condo association for my medical... Read More >>
Fell Through the Floor of My Trailer… Me and my family are renting a trailer in a trailer park. The trailer we live in has weak flooring in some spots of the home. The trailer park says we have to fix the floors ourselves or our rent will go up $150.00 more than what we are already paying which is $665.00 a... Read More >>
Fell Outside My Apartment Complex… I was walking between my and my mother-in-law’s apartment (we live at the same complex). I went to run down the grassy hill, fell into a hole/dip in the grass and twisted my ankle pretty badly. I went to the doctor that night and am being referred to an orthopedic specialist. I later found out... Read More >>
Tree Fell On Me In Apartment Complex… I was walking my dog through an apartment complex and a tree fell on me. The apartment complex management says it is just an act of God. I had to go to the emergency room and I don’t think I should have to pay for it. It wouldn’t have happened if the branch was trimmed.... Read More >>
Plaster Fell from Ceiling and Injured My Son… I live in a rental building with a big corporate landlord. A few weeks ago a piece of plaster, about the size of a fist, fell from the ceiling in the lobby (which is obviously under disrepair) and hit my 2 year old son on the head and then bounced onto his leg. He was... Read More >>
Can I get my medical bills paid after getting stung by a scorpion? I was stung by a scorpion that came up from the drain in my apartment. I went to the hospital and had to pay for all my prescriptions. I reported the accident to my apartment complex the day it happened and all they said was they’ll have someone come to spray for bugs in a... Read More >>
Injured in Mobile Home Park… I live at a mobile home park and pay a lot of rent. My buddy that lives with me cut his foot really bad outside. He was cleaning up along the side of the trailer when he stepped on a piece of glass that cut his foot. Can he sue me or does he sue... Read More >>
Slip and Fall Inside My Own Apartment… April 5th I was inside my apartment and fell on a flooded hallway on a very hard surface which caused a major injury. I fractured my left shoulder, tore a tendon in my lower back pain and sustained neck injuries. I first thought the leak came from the bathroom as there was water everywhere and... Read More >>
Fall in dark staircase due to negligence of landlord not maintaining the premises… I was visiting my boyfriend’s apartment last night when I fell down a flight of stairs. The stairwell was pitch black and the reason for my fall was my inability to see neither the landing (upon which I was hoping to step before I fell), nor the handrail. The stairwell is part of the common... Read More >>
Liability for Residential Basketball Court… I am renting an apartment in a fairly large complex. They have two half-court basketball courts. Both are in quite bad shape. The one has cracks and holes and areas where the top surface is coming up so it leaves an area where someone could easily trip and hurt themselves. There is nothing in the... Read More >>