The New Jersey Supreme Court recently made an important decision about vacant lots in the Garden State. Although these empty lots might not look like much, they are perfectly capable of causing serious injuries. In fact, one might argue that they are more likely to cause injuries compared to active businesses. Why? Because property owners allow these lots to become dilapidated and hazardous. Fortunately, property owners can no longer avoid liability for injuries that occur in these areas. What does the recent Supreme Court ruling mean, and how can you pursue compensation for a slip and fall in New Jersey?

4-3 Decision Makes Property Owners Liable for Vacant Lot Injuries

New Jersey Supreme Court Businesses Liable for Accidents on Vacant LotsIn June of 2024, the Supreme Court of New Jersey made an important decision about personal injury law. The issue at hand was whether or not property owners should be liable for injuries associated with vacant lots. Specifically, the question involved sidewalks connected to vacant lots. Previously, there was some uncertainty about a property owner’s responsibility to maintain these sidewalks.

Eventually, this unresolved question drew the attention of the Supreme Court. A plaintiff had slipped and fallen in this exact situation, arguing that the property owners should have maintained the sidewalk with more care. However, the plaintiff lost the trial and then lost again on appeal. Finally, the Supreme Court reviewed the decision and reversed the Appellate Division opinion. The panel of judges ruled 4-3 that property owners should, in fact, be responsible for maintaining sidewalks connected to vacant lots. 

The result is an entirely new rule that forces property owners to keep these sidewalks in safe condition. If they fail to do so and plaintiffs suffer injuries as a result, they become liable for those injuries. This applies not only to vacant lots but also to closed-down stores and similar locations. 

Bloomberg Law notes that this could affect some of the most major real estate companies in the state. Many of these companies have “large real estate footprints,” and they might hold hundreds of these vacant lots as investments. While the average investor might not be able to keep these lots in their vacant, unprofitable state for very long, major corporations can afford to wait. During this waiting period, sidewalks may fall into disrepair. The Supreme Court claims that this change in stance represents the “evolution” of modern real estate. 

What Kinds of Injuries Might I Suffer Due to a Shoddy Sidewalk?

People of all ages may suffer serious injuries due to defective sidewalks. The obvious threat is a fall, which could be caused by holes, cracks, divots, and similar defects. “Uneven surfaces” may also qualify as negligence, especially if there are excessive slants throughout the walking area. Often, these issues are caused by the natural changes in the earth. These pressures could be the result of underground tree roots, minor earthquakes, and water erosion. The truth is that most sidewalks require regular maintenance, and these walking areas quickly degrade after just a few years of being neglected. 

After losing your footing on one of these shoddy sidewalks, you might fall forward, backward, or sideways. If you fall backward, you could strike your head on the cement. This may cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI can lead to disability, cognitive impairment, loss of motor control, psychological issues, and many other problems. 

If you fall forward, you might extend your hands and wrists to protect your face and head. While this might cushion the impact, it could also cause serious injuries to your upper extremities. These include wrist fractures, wrist sprains, finger fractures, and broken arms. These injuries can put you out of commission for months, and they may dramatically affect your ability to earn income. 

If you fall sideways, you might fracture your hip. This is a common injury for seniors with brittle bones, and it has the ability to rob you of your mobility for the rest of your life. 

Find an Experienced Slip and Fall Lawyer in New Jersey

If you slipped and fell in an empty lot, you are now fully within your rights to consider legal action. However, filing a slip and fall lawsuit is not easy – and you can receive plenty of help from experienced personal injury lawyers in New Jersey. Reach out to Lependorf & Silverstein today to review your legal options in more detail. While internet research is always a positive step, it only provides general information. A lawyer can offer you much more specific guidance based on your unique situation. Contact us today to book a consultation – and get started with an effective action plan. 

The firm’s principals, Gabriel R. Lependorf and David E. Silverstein, have each been representing injured victims in the State of New Jersey for over thirty years.

Call Our Office At (609) 240-0040 Today for Help