Whenever a slip-and-fall lawyer helps a client pursue a claim or lawsuit, there is a question regarding who will be the defendant. If one person or organization is the outright owner and user of a property, that's a fairly simple issue in most instances. However, there can be challenges in sorting out cases where the owner is a separate party from the occupier. These three issues matter the most on the owner-occupier front.
What Is the Owner-Occupier Issue?
This is a problem that appears whenever an owner allows someone else to occupy a location. Most of the time, this is because of a rental agreement between the two parties. For a slip-and-fall lawyer, this is a concern because there are different scenarios where the defendant in the case might be either the owner or the occupier.
Consider an accident at a shopping mall. Numerous businesses rent retail spaces in malls, but they're only responsible for maintaining their rented areas. If someone slips and falls in the common area, the mall owner is probably going to be the defendant. However, if the victim slips and falls in one of the businesses, the defendant is likely going to be the rental occupant.
There may also be similar situations with rented residential properties. Is a landlord responsible for keeping a tenant's sidewalk free of ice and snow during the winter, for example? Oftentimes, the answer is deep in the rental agreement.
Ultimately, this is about determining legal liability. Specifically, the question is who was responsible for preventing other people from getting hurt on the property. Many rental agreements have terms outlining who has to deal with maintenance, cleaning, and other issues that create liability exposure.
Notably, many commercial rental agreements use different forms of responsibility. There are agreements where landlords are responsible for everything down to cleaning the floors. Likewise, there are agreements where a tenant may accept responsibility for all of the maintenance tasks, including replacing safety features.
Even if the owner is wholly responsible, there are still scenarios where an occupier doesn't inform them about problems. That complicates liability questions further.
Obviously, a slip-and-fall attorney will want to see the rental agreement. Likewise, they may need to see some maintenance logs. In cases where a landlord says the tenant never notified them, an attorney may get into checking phone messages, emails, and written correspondence. Also, a law firm has to do this while figuring out who to demand compensation from before the statute of limitations expires.
Contact a local slip-and-fall lawyer to learn more.