Can I sue a New Jersey property owner for my injuries?

Whether or not you have a premises liability case in New Jersey will depend on your right to be on the property.

Consider three situations: A New Jersey woman walks into a store, looking for a new kitchen table. While browsing, she slips on a puddle, striking her head on the floor and suffering a serious injury.

In another situation, a man breaks into a building at night. He attempts to climb stairs that have fallen into disrepair, and he falls, breaking several bones and requiring surgery.

In the last situation, a woman goes to a bar, where she drinks heavily for hours. She trips over a wire that was clearly marked and severely injures herself.

It may be possible for some of these people to hold the building owner responsible for damages. Much of New Jersey's premises liability law hinges on whether or not the injured party had a right to be on the property and the degree to which the party is responsible for his or her injuries.

Trespasser, licensee or invitee

In lawsuits citing premises liability, the injured party will be considered one of the following:

  • Invitee: Someone specifically invited onto the property, like a customer in a store.
  • Licensee: Someone who is on the property with the owner's consent, such as someone there to make repairs.
  • Trespasser: Someone who is on the property without the right to be.

In New Jersey, landowners typically do not have a duty of care to trespassers. However, if the trespasser is a child, there may be increased liability. For example, if the property owner knows or should know that children may enter the property and there is a dangerous condition, it is possible that the owner could be held responsible.

Dangerous conditions

The condition in question must meet certain requirements in order to establish that the property owner was in some way negligent. The law states that, when it comes to public property, the condition must have created a risk that the owner did know or should have known about. Further, the condition must have been a result of either the owner's unreasonable action or inaction.

Comparative negligence

Another factor that will determine the viability of a lawsuit is to what degree the injured party is responsible for his or her damages. As FindLaw points out, New Jersey employs a contributory negligence model, which means victims can only recover compensation if they are less responsible for an incident than the defendant. Further, someone's award could be diminished based on the percent to which he or she is responsible.

In the case mentioned above in which the woman was drinking, a jury could find that she was partially to blame for her injuries because she was too drunk to notice the wire. Her award could then be deducted by that percentage.

Statute of limitations

Someone who is injured on someone else's property and wishes to file a lawsuit must do so within two years of the incident. New Jersey law clearly states that claims involving injury to a person must be initiated within two years, or the case may be dismissed.

People who have questions about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in New Jersey.