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Premises Liability

A Law Firm Protecting Your Rights

Owners and managers of public property - including restaurants, stores, and malls - have a duty to keep their premises free of hazards and dangers, including potential criminal activity, that could lead to injury or death. In Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C., under each state's premises liability laws, owners of private property also have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their visitors.

If you have been injured because of a hazardous condition at someone else's property or because the security measures taken by the property owner or landlord may have not been adequate, you may have a right to pursue compensation through a premises liability lawsuit.

Property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property and to the extent reasonable, prevent crime and the creation of an atmosphere that invites criminal activity. Things like lighting, locks, fences, security guards are all factors that must be weighed when determining whether a criminal act could have been foreseen. A property owner cannot ignore the environment around him, but must make efforts to keep residents or patrons safe both inside and outside. Otherwise, people can sustain serious injuries due to unmarked obstacles, poor lighting or inadequate security.

Slip and fall accidents are especially common when it comes to premises liability cases. So are many dog bite cases, swimming pool accidents and other types of personal injury accidents. But even if you know the property owner is to blame, proving that can be very difficult.

Maryland premises liability lawyer Stuart L. Plotnick understands how the legal system works when it comes to such cases. That's because he and his experienced legal team at the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC have been successfully resolving these types of cases for many years.

Common Premises Liability Cases

Along with the premises liability accidents mentioned above, some of the most common cases we handle at our law firm include:

  • Negligent security - Properly owners have a legal responsibility to make sure people on their property can safely walk there without being attacked. As a result, property owners must have adequate lighting and employ security guards if necessary. Many property owners insist they did everything they could to protect the public after such incidents. That's why it's critical that you have a lawyer who knows how to uncover the truth.
  • Crime and assault - When property owners don't take steps to protect people on their premises, assaults sometimes occur. Assault injuries can be very serious, ranging from physical assaults to armed assault with a gun or knife.
  • Sexual assault - These are among the most serious cases we handle at our law firm. Sexual assaults due to inadequate security can also be very complicated legal cases, especially when they happen on college campuses because federal as well as state laws come into play. Wherever your sexual assault occurred, contact our law firm and learn more about all your legal rights. All discussions with our firm are strictly confidential, and you decide whether we take any legal action on your behalf.

Premises liability accidents can occur on any kind of property - public or private. Some of the specific types of properties that are most commonly involved in injury claims include:

  • Restaurants
  • Shopping malls
  • Apartment buildings
  • Stores
  • Bars and taverns
  • Construction sites
  • College and university campuses
  • Workplace

Premises liability cases can be very complicated. That's why it's important to speak with attorney Plotnick about your potential case as soon as possible. Call now and schedule your free case evaluation.

Examples of Dangerous Property Conditions

Common property hazards that often lead to injuries include:

  • Wet floors
  • Icy pavement
  • Inadequate warning signs
  • Locked emergency exits
  • Poor lighting in hallways, stairwells, or parking areas
  • Potholes in parking lots
  • Construction debris
  • Unsafely stacked merchandise
  • Inadequate security personnel
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Improperly maintained elevators, escalators, or automatic doors

In order to win a premises liability case, you must be able to prove that the property owner/manager either knew or should have known about the hazard, and either failed to correct it or failed to warn visitors about the danger.  Keep in mind the property owner does not guarantee full safety, but only must see and do what is reasonable, and the victim must act to protect themselves by paying attention to the area around them for dangers.

Public Property and Code Violations

All public property must adhere to standard building codes established by local government entities. These codes dictate all kinds of factors, from the width and height of stairs, to door height clearances and lighting levels. If these standards are violated, the owner can and should be held liable.

Professional engineers often inspect premises where accidents have occurred to determine whether or not the property is in violation of these basic standards and codes. However, even if the landowner met all of these codes, this does not absolve them of all liability concerning the property.

What to Do If You are Injured on Someone Else's Property

If you have suffered a serious injury due to dangerous conditions on someone else's property, an accident report should be completed at the time of the incident indicating what caused your injuries, who witnessed the accident and/or witnessed the conditions that caused your injuries, and any other relevant information (e.g. lighting, weather, hidden hazards, etc). Taking pictures of the scene of the accident can be crucial to the success of your claim. Use your cell phone!

Although filing an accident report is not mandated by law, it is usually the policy of stores, businesses, apartment buildings, and other places where these accidents often occur. If an accident report is not completed at the scene of your accident, you should write down your recollection of the accident as soon as possible. Take pictures and gather all of the information you can. When recording the incident, be sure to include the following information:

  • Date and time of the accident
  • Description of the circumstances surrounding the accident (e.g. wet floor, warning signs or lack thereof)
  • Written record of any comments made by witnesses or agents of property owner or management company
  • Contact information for witnesses

You should have your injuries treated as soon as possible after the accident. If you wait to seek medical attention, the property owner or responsible party may try to argue that it was not its/their negligence that caused your injuries, but a separate event that occurred between the time of your accident and your visit to the doctor.

Proving Premises Liability

In order to prove that a property owner was negligent, you must demonstrate that they failed to use a reasonable level of care when maintaining their property or in providing security, whether it be at your apartment building, dorm room, or the parking lot at your shopping mall. In most jurisdictions, "a reasonable level of care" is defined by the following factors:

  • The intended use of the property
  • The circumstances under which the victim entered the property (e.g. invitee, licensee, trespasser)
  • Whether or not the accident or danger was foreseeable
  • Whether or not the owner took reasonable action to prevent hazards, or warn visitors of potential hazards

Our experienced Maryland premises liability attorneys have many years of experience helping victims of property negligence obtain the compensation they need and deserve after a serious injury. We know the arguments that property owners often use to deflect blame from themselves, and we have the resources and legal strategies you need to effectively fight back.

What Sets Us Apart

In order to be successful in a premises liability case, you need to establish that the property owner knew or should have known the property was dangerous but did nothing to address the situation. That might sound simple. But finding such facts can be much harder than you think.

Property owners routinely deny doing anything to put the public at risk and often claim that the victim should have seen the danger anyway and have been able to avoid it. That's why you need us in your corner, vigorously fighting for your rights. We know evidence is the key to building such a legal case. That's why we're eager to meet with you.

Such cases are about more than just money. They're about holding property owners accountable for their actions - or inaction. They're about making sure such incidents never happen again. They're about justice.

Put the power of a premises liability lawyer who cares to work for you. Contact us right now.

Inadequate Security

Accidents and injuries due to inadequate security is a form of premises liability. In Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia, these events and accidents occur when a property owner fails to provide a secure and safe environment for residents and visitors, generally from crime.  A landlord, school or campus, or any owner of property owner has a duty to take reasonable measures to put in place security e.g. locks, lighting, cameras, fences, or in some cases, even hiring security guards in order to protect tenants or visitors. How far a property owner must go in taking precaution generally depends on the character of the neighborhood and the level of crime in the surrounding area or the risk of danger.

Gaps in or negligent security creates unsafe conditions which can lead to dangerous criminal attacks such as physical assaults, robberies, kidnappings, sexual assaults, rape, workplace violence and other events leading to severe injury, trauma and in some cases death. If a landlord, a property or business owner fails to take appropriate steps, he/she can be held liable for what is called "negligence in security".

If you need an experienced premises liability lawyer in Bethesda, Rockville or the greater areas of Maryland, or Virginia, call (301) 251-1286 to schedule a free consultation with Mr. Plotnick.

Inadequate Security at College Campuses

College brochures often portray campus life as idyllic, serene, and insulated from crime, but the reality is much different. There are thousands of reported crimes on American college campuses every year, including many violent crimes: sexual assault, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Drinking and drug use can be rampant, which leads to other crimes. The U.S. Department of Education documents thousands of sexual assaults on college campuses in a single year but many more go undocumented because victims are ashamed or scared to report.

The overwhelming number of serious injuries and wrongful deaths that occur at university campuses rarely get attention from the media, but times are changing. Hazing and bullying are other common causes of injury at colleges and secondary schools. The recent death of a pledge at a Penn State fraternity house is clear example. If you are a parent or victim, it's time to speak out. Learn more about sexual assault on college campuses and your legal rights below.

Examples of Inadequate Property Security

Property owners have a duty to implement reasonable security measures to keep their premises safe. Some property managers even hire guards to protect tenants and visitors. The lengths that a property manager should go to in order to enforce property security should depend on the level of crime in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

Some examples of negligent property security include:

  • Inadequate or no locks
  • Allowing criminal activity or legal to run rampant, illegal drinking or drug use
  • Dim property lighting
  • Lack of security cameras
  • Lack of fencing
  • Lack of security patrols in high-crime areas
  • Lack of front desk assistant or door monitor
  • No warnings to clients of known dangers

In areas known to have frequent crime, a hotline telephone number and/or alarms should be placed in an easy-access location where visitors can quickly call for help.

Evaluating Property Security: Was the Owner Negligent?

When our Maryland and DC-Metro area, premises liability attorneys take on negligent security cases, we routinely examine a few key factors that may indicate negligence on the part of the property owner or manager, including:

  • Crime mapping (the history of crime in a given area), which property managers should take into account in order to identify vulnerabilities
  • Police reports and police surveys, which often reveal clues about property security
  • Eyewitness testimony (e.g. customers who frequented the property where a criminal attack occurred) and may know the character of the area
  • Compare security measures taken by like properties in the area

Regardless of what our attorneys learn about your property's past, our main question will be: what did the owner/manager do to address problem areas involving security? For example, if a shopping mall or hotel was known to have frequent criminal activity at a certain location, e.g. the parking area, installing fences, security cameras, or additional security patrols would all be considered reasonable measures. If these actions were not taken, the victim's premises liability claim may be stronger.

Why Choose Wheaton Premises Liability Lawyer Stuart L. Plotnick?

In order to win a negligent security, or inadequate security, accident claim, your personal injury attorney needs to prove that the property was not secure, and that the property owners or managers were either (a) aware of the risk, or (b) should have been aware of the risk. Our experienced Maryland premises liability lawyers have years of experience building effective cases that prove these points and successfully argue for your right to fair compensation.

If you have suffered injury, or if your loved one has been killed on a property because of criminal activity in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington D.C., please contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC today to schedule a free case evaluation. We can help you determine whether or not you have a valid inadequate security claim.

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Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Being the victim of a rape, sexual assault or other violent crime can lead to a lifetime of emotional trauma. Sadly, the shocking reality is many women are being sexually assaulted on college campuses during their time in school. The Obama Administration and other noted investigations and studies have found that 1 in 5 women are assaulted during their college experience, but only a fraction report.

Our team has handled some of the toughest cases, including those that have made national headlines. Mr. Plotnick understands the dynamics of these cases and the consequences sexual assault can have on the victims' lives, and he has the experience and expertise to get you the justice you deserve.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault or other violent crime on campus, and you need to help concerning your legal rights, call (301) 251-1286 to schedule a case evaluation in the Maryland, District or Virginia regions.

Sexual Assault Injuries

Typical injuries and by-products of sexual assault or violent crime include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
  • Panic disorder(s)
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug or alcohol use to self-medicate

The problem of sexual assault on campus has become so widespread that former President Obama created a task force aimed at combatting this epidemic. As part of its effort, the White House established the "Not Alone" website, which continues to exist on the United States Department of Justice's website.

The website serves as a centralized resource containing information for victims, including material on crisis and counseling services, guidance about reporting attacks, prevention and avoidance, and other critical information about how to cope with the devastation that is part of these crimes.

The Red Zone

Many female college students are sexually assaulted during their time at school.  The majority of the attacks occur during freshman and sophomore years as they are adapting to a new environment and trying to find their way.

Experts and law enforcement call the first three months of the fall semester, "The Red Zone," as this is the time period when female students are most likely to be attacked. That's why it's critical that students and parents are aware of risks and dangers during this time period.

Alcohol's A Factor

In most instances, alcohol is the tool of choice used by rapists and those seeking to do harm.  First, it is easily accessible, and consumption is masked as being in the spirit of having fun and a good time.

Consuming alcohol also lowers the victim's defenses and alcohol can be easily spiked or drugged.  This renders the potential victim incapable of defending herself or himself from sexual assault.

Numerous studies have found that incidents of sexual assault or rape correlate directly with alcohol consumption on the part of the attacker and/or the victim.  That's why fraternity parties flowing with alcohol can be fraught with danger.

Under-Reported Problem

According to the National Institute of Justice, very few victims of forcible rape report the crime to local police or campus security. This generally occurs for several reasons:

Victims are afraid to accuse their fellow students, i.e. the big man campus or the popular fraternity for fear of becoming an outcast or criticized by their peers.

They are afraid to worry their parents and loved ones.

In many cases, the victim thinks it was their fault in some way because they had a drink before the attack or flirted with her attacker not knowing what was to come. This feeling of "shame" is a common deterrent to reporting.

The evidence is clear that college administrations are not welcoming of charges that they did not do their job in protecting their students, and in many situations are hostile to or turn a deaf ear to a student or parent alleging that there is a crime problem on campus.  They also cover-up or distort the number of crimes.

An article posted by a leading Ohio newspaper states the issue in a nutshell:

The crime statistics being released by colleges nationwide on Wednesday are so misleading that they give students and parents a false sense of security.

Even the U.S. Department of Education official who oversees compliance with a federal law requiring that the statistics be posted on Oct. 1 each year admits that they are inaccurate. Jim Moore said that a vast majority of schools comply with the law but some purposely underreport crimes to protect their images.

What to Do

Many studies agree that it is time to hold schools accountable for creating campus environments where drinking, crime, and sexual assault are out of control. Under the law these schools may be held liable in numerous ways to the victims of sexual assault. If a school fails to protect its students or is negligent in providing security it may be subject to a lawsuit by the victim for its role in setting in a motion the chain of events leading to the attack. Most critically, if a school provides a climate that enhances the chance that sexual assault or crime will occur, there may be legal consequences for it:

  • Allowing unchecked consumption of alcohol;
  • Failing to have or enforce alcohol policies or laws;
  • Failing to police or monitor on-campus drinking or parties
  • Failing to have an adequate quantity or quality of police;
  • Failing to prosecute or expel students with past disciplinary issues who present a danger;
  • Failing to accurately report or keep crime statistics in compliance with federal law; and;
  • Failing to keep students, parents and the campus community informed of the true severity of the crime problem on campus.

The above are all factors our firm and the courts consider in deciding to hold the school accountable to the victim of sexual assault and crime on campus.

How Do I insure that my Child is Attending a Safe School and the Clery Act

Sadly, their is no guarantee due to the reporting problems discussed above that a parent will know the true extent of the crime problem. The problem of sexual assault on campus has been known about and swept under the rug for decades.

In 1986, a federal law known as the Clery Act was passed in response to the rape and murder of a female college freshman, Jeanne Clery, by another student on campus. In response to her tragic death, Jeanne's parents convinced Congress to pass the law requiring colleges to publish and make available statistics concerning various crimes with the Department of Education.

These records are available to the public. But as recent investigations have found, colleges do not always accurately report for fear that the true numbers will scare away potential applicants. So, when you visit schools with your kids, do not be afraid to ask the tough questions about safety on campus, drinking, and the school's track record. Your child's safety may depend on it.

Do Not Make Yourself a Target

If you are going to have a drink at that fraternity or campus party, do not leave your drink out of your sight at any time, and do not drink to excess. Use a buddy-system with friends in order to keep an eye on each other. Always, trust your gut instinct. If something does not seem right, leave or report. Do not allow peer pressure to make you drink or do something you would not ordinarily do. Do not wander into a areas of the campus alone or with somebody you do not know.

Do Not Remain Silent; Report

If you are the victim of an attack or other crime on campus, do not rely on the campus police or administration to do its job. Report to the event to them and go to the local county or city police as well. Get medical assistance, if needed, right away. At a minimum, if you do not report, seek help from a counselor or therapist. You do not have to suffer in silence.

Attorney Stuart Plotnick Fights For Your Rights

In recent years, we have handled several of these cases seeking compensation for students and other victims of sexual assault or rape, and other crimes when their college failed to protect them.  We send our children off to school, and the school promises that they are in good hands and will be safe. We consider that covenant paramount.

Colleges have a duty to protect their students from the horrors of crime, and you and your child have the right to justice when they do not. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault or crime on campus, please contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Stuart Plotnick, LLC at (301) 251-1286 today. This is not a battle to fight alone. We are here to help you every step of the way.

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