DIY lovers can appreciate the importance of safety. Even so, you can run into a situation where you or a loved one are injured due to someone else’s recklessness— or negligence. In these cases, you can find yourself with piling costs from medical bills, missed work, and more. These instances are where Premises Liability comes into play. With Premises Liability, the owner or controller of a property owes what’s called a ‘Duty of Care’ to visitors and licensees. But determining responsibility to receive compensation isn’t cut and dry. For example, you may have difficulty getting paid for damages between insurance policies, leases, state and federal laws, etc.
Illinois, especially, puts a lot of onus on the property controller instead of the owner. In commercial properties, this would be the business renting out the space. In personal properties, this is a tenant and their family. Rental properties are bound by premises law, the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO), municipality ordinances, and leases. So how do you prove negligence or recklessness if someone is injured in Chicago, and who is liable for you or your loved one’s injury?
In most premises liability cases, the courts will find tenants responsible for the property’s safety, especially in commercial cases, when the business created the hazard. Now, liability has to delve further in commercial cases to determine liability— employees, management, corporate, or another party could be responsible. A personal injury lawyer can help you determine fault. Tenants are responsible for keeping their space safe and reporting any significant issues to their landlord. In addition, tenants must ensure they understand their lease, liability laws, and local requirements to protect themselves in the event of an injury or illness— or if they want to hold the landlord responsible for something.
Illinois laws are relatively straightforward. While every landlord should take steps to maintain their property, they cannot reasonably be expected to foresee every issue. And in Illinois, landlords are not responsible for property safety by default. Instead, you must prove beyond a doubt that the injury is their specific responsibility; otherwise, going after a landlord will not help you.
There are six main reasons a landlord could be held liable instead of their tenant.
1. The lease obligates good repair
A signed lease can trump default laws. If the property owner agrees to be responsible for property maintenance, then they can be held liable for injuries. The lease must be specific about the types of maintenance. The tenant must prove they informed the landlord of the issue that led to the injury.
2. The issue counts as a legal nuisance
This one is harder to prove. ‘Nuisance’ is a broad term in Illinois law. It must prevent the tenant from making the most of the property.
3. The landlord hid the problem
Suppose something is wrong with the property that would have easily been caught in a basic inspection, but the landlord chose to conceal and ignore the danger. In that case, the landlord is liable—examples include painting over mold, omitting that the insulation had asbestos, etc.
4. The landlord violates a statutory requirement
Premises liability law and the RLTO are not the only statutory requirements to which landlords are bound. Many municipalities have their own obligations for property owners.
5. The landlord was informed and agreed to fix the problem
If the landlord promised or agreed before the date of injury to fix an issue on the property, then they are liable for not holding up the agreement. For this reason, tenants should always have proof of the deal— saved text messages and emails or in writing.
6. The landlord was aware of the issue before leasing and has yet to fix it
In these instances, the landlord did not try to hide a latent defect discovered before the renters moved in. However, they haven’t gotten around to fixing it. Documentation is necessary to prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. The RLTO does not require inspections, and some inspectors do not catch everything. The tenant should report issues as soon as they arise, document them, and document the contact and discussion.
Special Consideration for Commercial Properties
Businesses in strict agreements with property owners must stay on top of hazards to protect themselves from liability if a customer, client, employee, or passerby is injured on the premises. Additionally, businesses should ensure that any dangers are marked clearly, or that visitors are reasonably informed. These efforts also need documentation. Business owners should ensure management understands the procedure when there is an incident. Getting reports from the injured party, employees in the area, and any witnesses in the area, gathering documentation, and knowing where to send insurers or lawyers when they call is imperative. Management should collect contact information from all parties and send all gathered information to the legal department.
When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
As much as DIYers prefer to handle things themselves, a personal injury lawyer should manage premises liability and compensation. The law is complicated, and a personal injury lawyer in Chicago will be intimately familiar with local requirements and ordinances. They can also thoroughly investigate the circumstances to determine fault before pursuing compensation. While it can be intimidating, try not to balk at the idea of reaching out for help. Someone caused harm, and they need to be held responsible before it can happen to anyone else.
If you or a loved one have been injured or made ill because of someone else, you shouldn’t be on the hook for the following expenses. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help ensure that you aren’t. They will also help you with paperwork and documentation related to the case and advise you on best practices when in contact with others involved— medical treatment facilities, insurance, the defendant, etc. Personal Injury Lawyers in Chicago, and most other cities, offer free consultations and do not require payment unless you win. So while you focus on your or your loved one’s recovery, let the experts address your case.