Dangerous Structure Laws

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What Are Dangerous Structures?

A property owner has a duty to ensure that their premises do not contain any structures or conditions that might be hazardous to a visitor who is exercising reasonable care. In this regard, dangerous structures may include any structure that is on the proper that poses a risk of harm to visitors. Property owners who fail to repair dangerous structures may become subject to a premises liability lawsuit.   

A dangerous structure can be the main building on the property lot, such as a residential home, business office, or shopping retail center.  In such cases, the building itself may be dangerous, for example due to structural defects. Property owners have a duty to repair such defects that can be discovered through a reasonable inspection of the property.   

Or, the dangerous structure can be located within the main building, as when a dangerous shelf or stand is located inside the building. Dangerous structures can also be located outside of or adjacent to a main building. In other words, dangerous property or buildings may be any structure that the property owner has legal control over. 

Examples of Dangerous Structures

Structures can be considered dangerous due to structural defects or due to normal wear and tear over time. In a residential setting, some examples of dangerous structures can include:

In a business or commercial complex, dangerous structures can include:

Some businesses have special needs that may require additional safety features that are not normally considered in other types of property. For example, movie theater aisles usually need to be equipped with lighting so as to prevent slips and falls.  Failure to maintain these requirements can also create dangerous conditions in a structure.

What Is the Standard of Care for Dangerous Structures?

Generally speaking, it is the building owner who has a duty to exercise a reasonable standard of care to repair dangerous structures or remove defects which pose an “unreasonable risk of harm” to other persons.  In order to be held liable, the dangerous structure must be of such a nature as to cause injury to a prudent person using ordinary care given the circumstances.

However, this standard of care may change depending on the nature of the property, as well as the type of visitor to the property. Furthermore, premises liability laws may be different in each state, and may require various standards of care. However, the “reasonableness” standard mentioned above applies in most situations.

For example, suppose that a stairway was not equipped with a handrail. If the property owner knew about this condition, yet failed to install a handrail, they might be held liable if a person used the stairway and became injured.  In this case it may be considered unreasonable to ignore the missing handrail, especially if the owner knew about it. That is, a “reasonable” person would install a handrail upon learning of the dangerous stairway structure. 

A property owner who fails to exercise their duty of care may be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous structures. Alternative, a judge may issue an injunction ordering them to repair the dangerous structure. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been injured by a dangerous structure, you may be able to recover damages for your losses. These costs may include medical bills, lost wages, and attorney’s fees. You may wish to consult with a personal injury lawyer if you need advice or representation regarding dangerous structures. An attorney can help you file your claim to obtain the appropriate remedy.   

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Last Modified: 07-15-2015 03:27 PM PDT

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