The simple answer to this question is a qualified YES. Like most matters of liability, if you can prove negligence in a court of law, you can probably successfully sue your landlord.
While burns have become a common injury, with more than 112,000 individuals treated in US emergency rooms annually for scalding burns, only a comparatively small number of those – about 3,000 – occur due to tap water exposure. These injuries inflict significant pain and suffering on the person often causing second and third-degree burns that require skin grafts and lengthy in hospital stays. Despite the grafts, the individual could remain scarred and disfigured for life.
Younger people require less time exposed to the scalding water to inflict damage. If a child holds their hand under scalding – 140 degrees – water for only three seconds, they suffer second to third-degree burns. Scalding injuries can also occur due to steam exposure.
Because of these facts, the plumbing industry developed anti-scald devices that individuals can install or have installed to their bathroom and kitchen plumbing. Water heaters provide precise thermostats for setting appropriate water temperatures. Insurance companies encourage landlords to create checklists for tenants to review every six months so they can identify potentially hazardous situations in their building and on their property. Insurance companies also encourage them to check each apartment or home for damage after a tenant moves and immediately repair any damage.
The landlord’s property insurance provides liability coverage that provides for the financial compensation of a tenant or guest who incurs an injury on the property. If you bring a lawsuit against the landlord, this insurance policy also pays for their attorney fees and court costs.
If you sue the landlord, you need to prove negligence. The burden of this proof always falls on the plaintiff.
So, what is negligence in relation to scalding burns? You need to show that the landlord knew the danger existed and did not correct it or should have known about the problem and corrected it.
This applies to all equipment in the building such as boilers, radiators, water heaters, plumbing and plumbing fixtures, and faulty electrical wiring. It includes defective equipment and breakdowns.
Landlords often use as a defense a plausible alternate theory, so obtaining an expert to examine the accident location and equipment immediately proves vital to a successful case of premises liability. This expert can provide testimony to refute the testimony that the landlord’s expert will provide.
A property owner of any kind has what the legal community refers to as a “duty of care.” That refers to their responsibility to “take reasonable care to avoid injuring others.” That does not mean they avoid wielding an ax although that makes a good start. The concepts of duty of care and reasonable care refer to common-sense expectations. For example, a normal home or business owner would fix a broken front step or a board that rotted through on the floor. If they visit the property and find that damage, but know that an invitee – someone they invited to the property – is on the way, they must contact that person to warn them of the problem. This assumes they have no time to fix it because the person is already en route to the location.
A landlord who found the broken step five minutes before a potential tenant visited the property and phoned them to tell them to be careful on the front steps has upheld their duty of care. If the landlord found the step a week before the potential tenant visited and did not warn them or fix it, they failed at their duty of care. The example, though simple, explains the concepts.
This means if your landlord did not lower the water heater temperature when you reported it was too hot or they failed to install anti-scald devices, you have a better chance at proving negligence. The same is true if you reported the water heater malfunctioned or you told them that the radiator seemed faulty. Far from an exhaustive list, this only tips the iceberg. You should contact Indianapolis burn injury lawyers to learn more about proving negligence of your landlord if you or a loved one incurred scalding burns at a rental property.