Implications of an Accident on Private vs. Public Property

February 12, 2024

New Jersey Has Specific Liability Rules for Accidents That Occur on Private Versus Publicly-Owned and Operated Properties, Which Are Crucial for Assessing Legal Claims.

Implications of an Accident on Private vs. Public Property in New JerseyThe threat of injury from a slip and fall or another type of accident exists in both private and public spaces. If you slip on a wet floor where there are no warnings of danger, the severity of your neck injury will not be affected by who owned that floor or your purpose for being there, but these factors might affect your ability to recover damages from the property owner.

Under New Jersey law, there are different types of liability that apply to private property owners for injuries that happen to others while on their property, depending on the injured individual’s reason for being there. Another standard applies to public places that are government-owned. Understanding these rules and the responsibilities held by different types of property owners for injuries that occur on their premises is necessary for injury victims to assess whether they have a claim for compensation for their injuries and who is responsible.

Understanding Liability in Public and Private Spaces

One of the first steps in determining who is responsible under premises liability law following an accident that results in injuries or property damage is to determine if the location of the accident was private or public property. Private property owners are non-governmental entities, businesses, organizations, and individuals. Private property may include residential homes and businesses like stores, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, and more. Certain places might be open to the public, but privately owned. Government-owned public places, on the other hand, are owned and operated by a government entity like a town, county, city, state, or federal government. These places include sidewalks, public libraries, parks, town halls, courthouses, police stations, and schools to name a few.

Visitor Classification: Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers

Next, you must analyze your status or classification as a visitor on the property. Visitors to a property may be classified as invitees, licensees, or trespassers.

Invitees are individuals who are permitted to be on the property for the benefit of the property owner, usually in a commercial setting or for a commercial purpose. However, the occasion need not be commercial in nature and could be something like a formal social event for a non-profit organization.  The duty of care owed to invitees is the highest of any visitor classification. Property owners have a duty to inspect the property for dangers and rectify any dangerous conditions. If a condition cannot be fully rectified, the owner must provide adequate warnings of the danger to invitees and mitigate the danger as much as possible.

Licensees are people who have permission to enter a property for their own benefit or purpose. Licensees may include relatives or friends visiting a private home as social guests. Property owners owe licensees a duty of care that is slightly lower than that owed to an invitee. The owner must rectify any known danger and/or provide adequate warnings, but they need not inspect the property for dangerous conditions.

A trespasser is an individual who was not invited onto a property and has no legal right to be on the premises. The duty of care owed to a trespasser is fairly low but still exists. Property owners must avoid intentionally harming trespassers. So, a property owner does not have a legal duty to rectify existing dangers to make the property safe for trespassers, but they also can’t act to intentionally hurt a trespasser either.

Injury Claims on Public Grounds

Finally, individuals visiting publicly owned property like a park, sidewalk, or government building are owed a duty of care by the controlling government entity. However, in many cases, government entities are protected by laws providing them with immunity from civil liability, which require injury victims to follow very specific procedures for bringing an injury claim.

How People Get Injured on Private and Public Premises in NJ

Determining who to File a Claim Against when Injured on Public vs. Private Property in New Jersey One of the most common types of accidents that individuals suffer on private or public property are falls. Whether slipping on a wet surface or catching one’s ankle on a damaged sidewalk or flooring, falling accidents tend to vary in severity based on the impact of the fall. A person’s size and age can contribute to the severity of their injuries, as more weight will cause more impact during a fall and older, more fragile bones are more prone to breakage. If a person falls backwards and hits their head, they can suffer from a concussion, a cracked skull, and even brain injury. Broken bones can also happen due to a fall. If an elderly person falls and breaks a hip, they often require extensive surgery and rehabilitation.

Other types of accidents may include an object falling onto a person, explosions, dog bites, elevator malfunctions, escalator-related injuries, and swimming pool accidents.

Speak with an Attorney about Pursuing Compensation for an Injury in a Private or Public Setting in New Jersey

If you are injured on someone else’s private property or on government-owned property, there are many questions that must be answered before you can determine whether you are entitled to compensation for your injuries and who is responsible for paying those damages. Most injury claims are based on a theory of negligence, which is comprised of four separate elements that you have the burden of proving as a plaintiff: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Our knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh can help you analyze the facts of your case and determine what type of duty was owed to you by the property owner at the place where you were injured. Then, we will assess, based on the facts, if this duty was breached or, in other words, whether the property owner failed to make the property safe or warn of dangerous conditions as required based on your classification as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.

Navigating this legal landscape can be complex, but it is not a burden that should fall on your shoulders. Our team of experienced and dedicated personal injury lawyers will analyze all of the evidence in your case to determine if you have a valid claim and pursue the compensation you are entitled to so you can focus on healing and getting back to your regular life after your accident. Whether you or a loved one is suffering injuries in Freehold, Red Bank, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Belmar, Holmdel, Manasquan, Hazlet, or elsewhere in Ocean and Monmouth County, you can trust our skill and background handling claims of all kinds in the personal injury space to ensure optimal results. To set up a complimentary consultation, please contact us today at 732-440-3950 for a free evaluation of your case.