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Can a Landlord Be Held Liable for a Tenant's Injury?

Slip and fall accidents are fairly common in apartment complexes. Unfortunately, these types of accidents can cause a person to suffer sprains, fractures, and even death. When a person sustains a serious injury in an apartment, the issue of who is at fault will often come up. Is it the landlord’s fault, or does the tenant share some responsibility for their own misfortune? In this blog, we help answer this question by explaining how liability is determined when a tenant suffers an injury in an apartment.

Determining Liability

Like most legal questions, the answer is “it depends.” Let’s use a hypothetical slip and fall injury as an example. If the tenant broke their hand after slipping and falling, who is liable and what is the remedy? There are times when a landlord fails to maintain their rented property. This occurs when the landlord does not address harmful conditions that they knew or should have known about. In order to hold the landowner liable for injury to a tenant or guest, it must be shown that the landlord failed to use reasonable care.

There are four elements that need to be proven to establish that a landlord was negligent:

  • The landlord had a legal duty to the tenant
  • That duty was breached by the landlord
  • The tenant was injured
  • The landlord’s negligence was the proximate cause of the tenant’s injuries.

What Are a Landlord’s Duties?

The duty of a landlord is clear under Florida law. A landlord has a duty to maintain their rental property and protect tenants, as well as the tenant’s guests, from harm. This also applies to keeping the property up to housing codes.

If a dangerous condition comes to the attention of the landlord (or one they should have been aware of), the landlord has a duty to fix the hazard within a reasonable amount of time. Landlords also have a duty to fix issues involving the roof, steps, sidewalk, and other potentially hazardous areas. Because a landlord’s duty is clearly laid out, it is not always a highly contested issue in cases involving tenant injuries.

When Is it the Tenants Fault?

Even if a landlord did not follow through with their duties, they might not be entirely at fault for injuries sustained by tenants. In Florida, there is a legal doctrine known as pure comparative negligence. Under pure comparative negligence, a court can apportion fault among both the landlord and the tenant.

For instance, let’s say a tenant has a crack in their driveway that they have complained about to the landlord. However, the landlord has never addressed the issue. The tenant is always very careful to navigate this crack to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. After a night of celebrating though, the tenant comes home highly (and voluntarily) intoxicated. The tenant stumbles out of their car and is unable to negotiate this crack like they normally would be able to if they were sober. They fall over the crack and sustain a severe injury. In this example, the tenant might be deemed partially responsible for their injury.

If it is determined that the tenant was 20 percent responsible for their injury, then their damage award would be reduced by 20 percent.

Common Tenant Injury Questions

  • Can a slip and fall be covered by renter’s insurance?: Most renter’s insurance policies only cover incidents involving damage to property. However, some policies will cover bodily injuries caused by the negligence of a landlord.
  • What damages can be recovered?: In the event of a tenant’s slip and fall on a landlord’s property, the tenant can recover both economic and non-economic damages. That is, of course, if the injuries are serious enough. Economic damages include medical bills, and lost wages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, disfigurement, and mental anguish.
  • How long does a tenant have to bring a claim against a landlord?: If a claim is not brought within a certain amount of time, it will be forever barred. This is known as the statute of limitations. If the claim is not brought within the limitations period, the lawsuit will not be allowed to go forward. Different states allow for different statute of limitations periods for negligence claims. Florida allows 4 years.
  • What should I do if I hurt myself on a property that I rent?: The first thing you should do is seek medical attention. After you have had your injury assessed by a medical professional, you should report the accident to your landlord and review the lease agreement to see if it has any provisions on negligence claims. You should then consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss what legal actions you can take.

Speak to Our Pensacola Personal Injury Lawyers

At The Watson Firm, PLLC, we are committed to helping our clients secure maximum compensation for their injuries. Our law firm has years of experience handling personal injury cases and we are prepared to use our extensive resources to help you obtain a fair award for your injury expenses. Let us fight for you today.

Call (850) 403-4779 to schedule your free case evaluation with our skilled legal professionals.