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Falling down the stairs: Your landlord could be liable

You were enjoying a day out around town when you remembered that you needed to buy groceries. You picked up a few bags and headed home, where you had to walk up a new set of exterior stairs to reach your apartment's entrance.

As you reached the top of the flight of stairs, the step you were on suddenly gave away. You fell backwards, and you ended up tumbling down the stairs. Two other stairs broke on the way down.

Fortunately, your neighbor saw the incident and quickly called 911. You had to get stitches and were left with a nasty concussion. You're frustrated, because this shouldn't have happened. You expected those stairs to be in good condition, especially since they'd just been installed.

What happens when you fall as a result of defects on a property?

Yours is an interesting case, because if your landlord installed new stairs, they may not have known that they were dangerous. However, if you can show that there was negligence, such as not having the stairs installed professionally or using reclaimed wood to build them without verifying that the wood could handle the weight of a body, then you could have a claim against your landlord.

If you don't have a claim against your landlord due to negligence, you could have one against the manufacturer of the stairs or the person who installed them. Clearly, a new set of steps should not be so weak that a person would fall through them or break others while falling down the stairs.

What can you do to make a better case?

One thing that would be helpful would be to have a witness statement. If your neighbor saw you fall and can verify that the steps broke while you were walking normally, then that would be beneficial. Photographs of damage to the steps, as well as documentation of any mold, rot or other issues, could also be beneficial to your case.

This is a difficult situation, and it could be complicated as you and your attorney work to see who is at fault for the incident. Regardless, you should be covered by your landlord's homeowner's insurance, which is something you may want to speak with them about. If you struggle to make a claim or aren't sure how to move forward, you may want to talk to your attorney about what happened and your intention to start a claim.

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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Cary, NC 27511

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