Articles Posted in Premises Liability

The difference between an independent contractor and an employee is an important distinction in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases because an injured person’s ability to recover may be limited based on the negligent actor’s status. The following case shows how the plaintiff’s ability to recover compensation from his employer was limited by the wrongful actor’s status as an independent contractor.

In that case, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of injuries he suffered while working on his property. According to the record in the case, the defendant owned and operated a construction business, and the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant’s company. The defendant sometimes offered employees work at his home outside of normal work hours. One day, the plaintiff and his coworker went to do maintenance work, and among their tasks, they were told to burn the brush in the yard. The plaintiff attempted to do so by standing on top of a large pile of logs and throwing gasoline on the brush. The brush “blew up,” causing him to fall back and burning his skin with severe burns.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was liable because he failed to supervise the burning of the brush, he had gasoline available to use, he did not train the plaintiff on how to properly use the gasoline, and he did not train his coworker on how to properly use the gasoline or supervise others properly. He also claimed the defendant was responsible for his coworker’s negligence acts under respondeat superior. The defendant argued he was not liable for any of the coworker’s acts because he was an independent contractor rather than an employee.

Summer is officially here, and soon, families will be heading to water parks where they can escape the heat, enjoy the water, and cool down for a few hours. Others with a taste for adventure may seek the excitement of a rollercoaster or a waterslide during their visit. These trips are usually filled with fond memories and amusement parks often do take the necessary precautions to adequately protect guests’ safety. However, when a preventable injury occurs, these parks can often be held accountable through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. In addition, a recent case illustrates that amusement parks may also be liable for guest’s injuries under a product liability theory.

According to the recent opinion, a man brought a product liability claim against a water park after he was injured while going down a waterslide. The plaintiff had slipped from a sitting position on an inner tube and landed on his stomach. When the plaintiff splashed into the pool below, he hit his feet on the bottom of the pool, leaving him with a fractured pelvis and hip. Even though the plaintiff had ample evidence of his injury and the water park’s role in causing it, the trial court ruled against him in his product liability claim.

In front of the appellate court, the defense argued that their water park provided its guests with a service, and not a product, and thus the plaintiff’s product liability claim must fail. Because product liability claims can only apply to products and not services, the defense argued that patrons visit the water park to obtain a service involving the use of waterslides, rather than paying a fee to primarily use waterslides as a product.

Governmental immunity, historically referred to as sovereign immunity, is a legal theory that protects government personnel and agencies from civil lawsuits. The premise stems from the idea that governments would not be able to effectively function if they feared constant liability for all of their actions. However, to address the fundamental unfairness of this doctrine, many jurisdictions limit the amount of immunity that a governmental entity enjoys. These laws are generally referred to as “tort claims acts.” In Washington, D.C., individuals who believe they suffered damages because of the negligence of a government entity should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

The U.S. Department of Education requires that teachers, principals, and other school administrators protect their students and provide them with appropriate educational environments. However, the law often protects these institutions from lawsuits. Additionally, lawsuits that can proceed often require plaintiffs to abide by burdensome filing and notice requirements.

Lawsuits against governments encompass many other complex issues. One issue is whether the potential defendant falls under the protected category. For instance, in some cases, a negligent university or college may enjoy governmental immunity protections, whereas another similar institution may not. This largely depends on the type of institution and the type of funding they receive from the government.

As part of a D.C. premises liability claim, a plaintiff has to prove that a defendant had the duty to protect the plaintiff from foreseeable harm. Under D.C. law, generally, a defendant is not liable to an individual for the criminal acts of a third party, unless there is a special relationship between the parties. Special relationships can include employers and their employees, landlords and tenants, and businesses and their invitees.

Generally, business owners have a duty to protect invitees from injuries inflicted by third parties if the owner could have known that such acts were occurred or were about to occur. Cases involving criminal acts have a heightened burden of proving that the act was foreseeable. In cases involving criminal activity, because of the nature of criminal conduct, D.C. courts generally require that plaintiffs prove that the criminal act was “so foreseeable that a duty arises to guard against it.”

In a recent case before one state’s supreme court, the court considered whether a bar could be held liable for a person’s injuries sustained in a fight in the parking lot at closing time. In that case, the plaintiff and a friend were at the bar, and went outside when the bar was closing. The plaintiff did not have any disputes with anyone in the bar while he was inside. As the plaintiff and his friend were crossing the parking lot, they got into a fight with other customers, and the plaintiff suffered injuries that left him permanently blind.

Homeowner’s insurance policies can be very advantageous for Washington, D.C. residents. It can protect homeowners from claims brought against them for property damage or bodily injury arising out of their property or tortious conduct. However, insurance companies are notoriously difficult to work with when an incident does occur, because they have an interest in paying as little as possible, and so they often deploy expensive legal teams to reduce their liability. Because of this, Washington, D.C. accident victims who decide to file civil suits against a negligent party may find themselves involved in litigation with the defendant’s insurance company first.

A recent case considering insurance policy provisions in another state highlights the importance of what a policy does and does not cover. According to the court’s written opinion, the insured purchased a homeowner’s insurance policy from his insurance company, which provided coverage for both personal liability and property damage. The policy contained an exception and did not cover the insured if a claim was made against him for damages arising out of a premises owned or rented by the defendant but not insured under the policy. The insured owned a cabin in Maine that was not insured under the policy and was the location of the tragic incident that sparked this lawsuit.

In the summer of 2015, the insured’s two children, along with two of their friends, went to the cabin to celebrate an upcoming birthday. In the cabin, they plugged in the cabin’s small generator the insured kept at the property to charge power tools. They ran this generator inside the cabin without opening any windows or doors, and ultimately all four died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

As more and more Washington, D.C. residents live in apartments, issues of landlord liability for injuries suffered on the property is of increasing importance. All residents expect to be safe when they are at home and may not worry as much about accidents in their living spaces as they do out in public. But a recent report out of New York City highlights that accidents can truly happen anywhere—including in individuals’ apartments—and how injured plaintiffs can recover against their landlords in some cases.

According to a major news source covering the New York incident, a landlord in the East Village decided to save some money and install a faulty gas system, rather than spending more money to ensure the system was safe. In 2015, the gas line caused an explosion on the landlord’s property, resulting in the tragic death of two men. In addition, the blast destroyed two buildings and injured over 12 other people.

Instances like the tragic story above are fortunately rare, but injuries caused by landlords’ negligence are not. While typically on a smaller scale than the large gas explosion, Washington, D.C. residents may be injured in or around their apartments from a variety of things, such as tripping over built-up garbage and litter on the walkways or stepping through a faulty stair. What many D.C. residents might not realize is that their landlord may be held liable for their injuries in these cases.

A statute of limitations refers to the time period in which a lawsuit must be filed. Knowing the relevant statute of limitations is essential, and it varies depending on the type of claim and where the claim is filed. The general statute of limitations for Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuits is three years, as explained in D.C. Code § 12-301. However, some types of claims have shorter or longer statute of limitations. For example, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years. In comparison, Maryland has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and wrongful death claims.

Failing to file within the applicable statute of limitations will likely result in a dismissal of the claim, regardless of the merits of the claim. In some cases, the statute of limitations can be tolled. In other cases, the statute of limitations may be shortened based on an otherwise-agreed upon limitation. In a recent case before one state’s supreme court, the court considered whether a statute of limitations still applied despite a shortened limitation period agreed upon in a contract.

In that case, a tenant fell in the common area of her apartment complex. She later filed a claim against the apartment complex, alleging negligence and negligence per se, claiming that the complex failed to repair a crumbling curb, despite being aware of its condition. The complex claimed that the claim was barred by a limitations period that was included in her lease. The tenant filed the lawsuit exactly two years after her injury, and the claim normally would have been subject to a two-year statute of limitations. However, the woman’s lease contained a clause which stated that any legal claim against the complex was required to be filed within one year.

Bringing a claim against the federal government complicates what may seem like a simple Washington, D.C. (D.C.) personal injury case. If the federal government is a defendant in a D.C. personal injury case, it will almost always argue that it is protected from suit for claims brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

The Federal Tort Claims Act allows individuals to file claims against the federal government and its agencies for certain wrongful conduct committed by federal officials. In an FTCA claim, a plaintiff must show that their injury was caused by a federal employee, that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment, that the employee acted wrongfully, and that the act caused the plaintiff’s damages.

Certain claims can be barred, depending on the nature of the act. If a claim is based on the act or failure to act in a discretionary function or duty, the claim is barred. Determining whether an act was a discretionary function or duty requires a determination first of whether the actions involved an element of judgment or choice. If so, the second determination is whether the judgment is one that the discretionary function was intended to protect, as a decision based on public policy considerations. It is only if both determinations are answered affirmatively that an act would fall under the discretionary function, and the government would be protected from suit. If the government claims that it is immune from suit under the FTCA, the government has to prove that an exception applies

When someone is injured as a result of another person’s negligence, Washington D.C. law allows the victim to seek monetary compensation from the party responsible for their injuries. The victim may file a negligence action, and if successful they may recover for lost wages, past and future medical bills, and even for the pain and suffering they suffered as a result of their injury. While this may sound like a simple process, the requirements for successfully bringing a negligence claim can at times be difficult to manage.

To be successful in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care towards the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, that the breach was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result. When filing a claim, it is crucial to include all of these elements in the complaint. Without one of the above elements, the case can be dismissed before it even begins, and the plaintiff will not recover any compensation for their injuries.

For instance, it is not enough to establish that the defendant had a duty of care toward the plaintiff, that they breached this duty, and that the plaintiff was injured. Missing in this example is the critical element of causation. To succeed, the plaintiff must show that their injuries were a direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty. This cannot be implied but must be explicitly stated.

In Washington D.C., injury victims may be able to recover for their damages if they can establish that their injuries were the result of another’s negligence. Lawsuits based on another’s negligence are appropriate when the accident victim can prove that the other party’s negligent action or inaction caused their injuries. Favorable outcomes are only possible when the victim successfully meets the following four elements of a Washington D.C personal injury action: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The first two elements require the victim to prove that the other party owed them a duty to act responsibly, and that they breached this duty. Victims often face challenges when they reach the causation element.

In Washington D.C., plaintiffs must prove that the defendant’s actions were either the cause-in-fact or proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Cause-in-fact is when the injury would not have occurred but-for some action of the defendant. Whereas, proximate cause is a legal theory where the plaintiff argues that the defendant engaged in some action that set in motion the sequence of events that ultimately led to the plaintiff’s injury.

Proximate cause is broken down into two further elements; policy, and cause-in-fact. Washington, D.C specified these two distinctions in an attempt to limit a defendant’s responsibility. Most frequently, the defense occurs in instances where a defendant claims that the chain of events that led to the plaintiff’s injuries was unforeseeable or extraordinary.

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