Personal injury lawyers are in the business of enforcing our civil laws when someone is needlessly hurt. Those laws require that we exercise “due care” in our dealings with one another. If I have a business that invites the public onto my property, I have a duty to ensure that the premises are reasonably safe so that my customers are not hurt.
A municipality – city, county or state – generally has the same responsibility, to take reasonable steps to make sure that its sidewalks, streets, and highways do not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to those who are using them.
When a dangerous condition exists and is known to exist for a sufficient period of time that it could be corrected but is not, the property owner (or the person who occupies or controls the property) may be responsible if someone is injured.
Not only is this the law, I think it makes a lot of sense. As a society, we want to encourage individuals, businesses and governments to act responsibly – to take due care in dealing with others. It is, in effect, a codification of the Golden Rule. We generally treat others as we wish to be treated. This is a good thing, in my view.
It is better to have a dangerous condition corrected with no one hurt than to have a lawsuit because someone did not do what the law required of them, causing injury to another. However, the threat of the lawsuit is often the impetus to correct a dangerous condition of the public or private property. This is consistent with our free market economy. When maintaining the status quo – a dangerous condition, for example – is potentially more costly (because someone may get hurt and sue) than fixing it, repairs are more likely to get made and we, as a society, are collectively safer, as a result.
Although personal injury lawyers are often vilified in the press, we, at Rice & Bloomfield, consider the work that we do as important – not only to our clients but to a society which values personal responsibility.