Unique legal rules apply to a tenant who is injured in his apartment. These little-known rules determine whether an injured tenant has a compensable claim against his landlord. Two major questions determine the outcome of a landlord-tenant case for personal injuries: First, did the accident or injury occur in a common area of the apartment building, or did it occur within the injured person’s unit? Second, did the landlord retain control over the area where the Plaintiff was injured?
The first issue – whether the injury occurred in the tenant’s apartment unit or in a common area – is extremely important. When an apartment unit is leased to a tenant, and fully in the tenant’s control, the apartment unit is “full demised.” The overwhelming majority of apartments leased on a yearly basis are deemed “full demised,” even though the landlord may enter the unit for repairs or stop by to pick up rent checks. The legal importance of the “fully demised” designation is that a landlord is generally not liable for any injuries that are caused by defects within a fully demised space. Therefore, a tenant injured by a loose handrail in his “fully demised” apartment likely does not have a compensable claim.
On the other hand, if a tenant is injured in a common entryway due to a loose handrail, the landlord is probably liable for the tenant’s injuries if he knew or should have known that the handrail was loose. For example, if a tenant complains to the landlord about the loose handrail, and then later falls because the handrail became unhinged, the claim is likely compensable. This scenario is compensable because the landlord knew or should have known that the handrail was hazardous because a tenant warned the landlord that the handrail was loose.
Second, if a landlord retains control over the area that causes a tenant’s injury, then the landlord may be held liable, even if the injury occurred within a “fully demised” space. For example, if a lease grants a tenant exclusive use of a garage for parking, but the landlord continues to use the garage for storage and parks in it regularly, a tenant’s injury in the garage may be compensable.
A final exception to the rule protecting landlords against liability for injuries in “fully demised” spaces concerns latent defects. A latent defect is one where the landlord knew or should have known of the dangerous defect and the defect is one that the tenant could not have discovered through reasonable inspections. For example, if a landlord hires a carpenter to examine a deck and learns the deck is unstable, but there is no outward appearance that the deck is unstable, the deck is a latent defect. If the deck later collapses, the landlord is likely liable for the tenant’s injuries.
There are many exceptions to the rules outlined above, so if you or a loved one has been injured inside their apartment, contact The Kryder Law Group for your free consultation.
Steps to Take After Being Injured in a Rental Apartment
In many cases, you will not be able to take legal action against your landlord for injuries that you suffer from in your apartment, unless the maintenance or safety of the apartment or shared spaces are compromised. For instance, if your personal living conditions contributed to a fall, you wouldn’t be able to sue your landlord for the hazard. If your landlord had some responsibility for your injury, here are some simple steps you can take.
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Seek Medical Treatment
Immediately after your injury, it is important that you seek professional medical treatment. If the injury was significant, call 911 to have an ambulance dispatched to the scene of the accident. You can also choose to go to urgent care or the emergency room. You should seek medical treatment as soon as possible to document your injuries by a third-party source. Ideally, you should seek medical treatment on the same day of your injury. Delaying medical treatment can look suspicious and end up hurting your case in the end.
Document the Scene
Just like with an automotive accident, you will want to document the scene of the accident. If a poorly maintained staircase caused your injury, taking detailed photos of the dilapidated staircase can help to illustrate how your landlord was to blame. Sometimes it is a combination of factors that contribute to an injury. Even if you share some of the liability, it is worth documenting the entire apartment and shared spaces to be able to provide details about what happened.
Discuss Your Case with a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney
You probably won’t be able to accurately figure out whether or not you have enough grounds for a legal case against your landlord. By scheduling a meeting with a Chicago personal injury attorney with experience in landlord-tenant disputes, you can receive valuable insight into your legal options. You may not realize that you can pursue compensation from your landlord for your injuries. Most people do not want to continue living in dangerous conditions after a personal injury. At the very least, your personal injury attorney can help you to end your lease early, so you can move into an apartment that is safer than your current rental.