Every year, hundreds of thousands of individuals suffer serious injuries in accidents that occur on public and private property. In many of these cases, problems with premises liability arise concerning the building’s design, construction and compliance with complex local, state and national building codes.
Building codes are essential to designing and constructing safe buildings and facilities. These minimum standards must be followed to create a safe environment for occupants and visitors. There are building codes for every facet of construction from the foundation to the rooftop. The codes regulate materials, components, design and building practices to ensure the durability and safety of the structure and its systems including mechanical, electrical and plumbing.
Additionally, building codes involve the installation of the buildings fire sprinklers, energy uses, emergency escapes, ADA compliance, exit signs, smoke detectors, elevators and accessibility. In addition to establishing building codes, the state also takes various means to enforce the codes and punish violators. Common violations often involve structural defects, missing exit signs, dangerous stairways, leaky gas fittings, faulty electrical wiring, malfunctioning sprinkler systems and absent emergency lighting.
Establishing Negligence By Evidence of the Code Violation
By law, the enforcement of local, state and federal building codes are handled by the local building inspector. Their duties include examining buildings under construction, reviewing architectural design plans for new buildings and additions, and compliance issues in existing structures.
Negligence can be established any time an owner, possessor, lessee, or others in charge of property fail a building inspection or violate a building code. If any individual suffers injuries due to a code violation on the property, the owner or others in charge of the premises can be held civilly liable. However, the law establishes a specific threshold must be met in filing a premises liability claim or lawsuit for compensation.
Lawsuits Based on Negligence of Landlords
Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence for tenants, guests, customers or others visiting property to suffer serious injuries caused by a building code violation. In many incidences, the violation creates a hazardous environment or specific challenges during an emergency event. If an individual is harmed because of a violation, they can file a claim or lawsuit to pursue recompense from every individual at fault for their injuries.
However, to build the case based on negligence, the victim is required to prove four specific elements that include:
- Duty of Care – The victim must prove that every individual at fault in the case was required to provide a duty of care. Every responsibility or duty of care, including those set forth by local, state and federal building codes, must be provided to every individual lawfully entering or using the property.
- Breach of Duty – Once the duty of care has been established, the victim must prove how the duty was breached by all defendants involved in the case.
- Proof of the Breach – To prove this element, the victim can detail how the defendants neglected to act or took action including violating a building code that then resulted in causing the victim’s injuries. As an example, the defendant might have neglected to install exit signs in the building, or removed them, which then caused confusion during an emergency situation where the victim was injured.
- Accident-Related Harm – To win a successful lawsuit or claim, the victim must prove a connection between the established negligent violations of a building code to the actual harm they suffer.
Solid premises liability lawsuits are built on established negligence of building code violations by proving the four elements listed above.
Resolving a Premises Liability Accident Case With the Use of Building Codes
These types of premises liability cases are complex and difficult to resolve. Because of that, many victims will hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in building code violation cases. An experienced lawyer will build the case for recompense by gathering and preserving evidence, investigating the scene of the accident, interviewing eyewitnesses and establishing exactly what code is applicable to the case.
The attorney will present the evidence to a claims adjuster working for an insurance company or in front of a judge and jury at trial. By establishing proximate cause, the lawyer can show the reason why the defendants in the case of the victim damages that could include medical expenses, lost wages along with mental and emotional stress, pain and suffering.