Potential Personal Injury Claims For Fire At Northeast Baltimore Apartment Complex
At least one person was reported injured due to a fire that broke out at an apartment complex in Parkville, a suburb about eight miles northeast of Baltimore. According to a report released by WJZ-TV CBS Baltimore, authorities were alerted around 4 p.m. on January 31, 2017. The Baltimore County Fire Department arrived at the Ridge Gardens Apartments, near Putty Hill Avenue and Old Harford Road shortly thereafter. First responders faced a few challenges in getting the fire under control, and the investigation continues as to whether there were any other injuries reported besides the one at the scene. Officials have not released any additional information on the number of people residing at the apartment complex, the condition of the building, or the cause of the fire. The one victim that was identified, and any that may come forward, may have a cause of action against the building owner and/or manager based upon theories of premises liability.
Claim for Premises Liability: Negligence of Apartment Complex Owner
Generally, a plaintiff who files a personal injury lawsuit against the owner or operator of a premises for negligence, must prove:
- Duty: That there was or exists a duty of care that the premises owner/occupier must adhere to. In general, an owner of property, such as an apartment complex, has a legal duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe manner.
- Breach: A property owner that fails to maintain the building or property in a safe manner commits breach of the duty. Often, the breach is through carelessness, inattentiveness to conditions on the property, or failure to address hazards that could result in an injury.
- Causation: If the hazardous condition was the cause of the injuries to the plaintiff, the causation element is established.
- Damages: An injured victim presumably is damaged due to the accident that occurred on the owner’s premises. That person may be entitled to financial compensation for these losses, which he or she can pursue against the property owner as the responsible party.
Status of the Injured Victim
In a premises liability case, the general duty an owner’s duty to maintain the premises may vary depending on the identity of the victim: Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser. The obligation of a landlord to maintain the apartment building in a safe condition for tenants and those legally allowed to be on the property is clear. However, there may be issues with regards to the duty owed to a trespasser. For instance, if the person injured in the Baltimore apartment fire had broken into the building to use the laundry facilities or pool, there may be no right to compensation. If he or she was there illegally, the law will not reward an individual for injuries that resulted from trespassing.
The damages component of a premise liability lawsuit grounded in negligence falls into two primary categories – economic and non-economic. Losses that are ascertainable by some sort of proof are considered economic damages. In a personal injury lawsuit, they may include:
- Medical Bills for Treatment and Recovery: When the victim seeks medical care for injuries, there will be bills from the healthcare providers itemizing the procedures and treatment. There may also be ongoing care for rehabilitation purposes. These documents establish a definite amount that the victim incurred for medical treatment, so they are considered economic damages.
- Lost Wages: A person who is out of work due to injuries can claim economic damages for lost wages. Past paystubs and payroll information serve as evidence of the amount that the victim would have made in income had the accident not occurred.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses: If the accident on a premises was severe enough to cause death, there will be costs related to the funeral and burial of the victim.
A victim may also suffer losses that are not easy to determine from documents or other evidence. Under Maryland law, these are non-economic damages, such as:
- Pain and Suffering: Injuries obviously cause a certain amount of pain, which may range from extreme in the immediate aftermath of an accident to mild discomfort during the recovery period. It is difficult to put a dollar value on the amount of physical anguish a victim feels, which is why pain and suffering are non-economic damages.
- Other Non-Economic Losses: There are other impacts on a victim’s life after an on-premises accident causes injuries. That person’s familial relationships may be affected where he or she cannot offer the same love, guidance, companionships, affection, or comfort.
Statutory Cap on Non-Economic Damages in Maryland
Under state law, there is a limit on the amount a victim can recover for non-economic damages. The Maryland legislature enacted a formula for this statutory cap, which increases by $15,000 every October.
- October 1, 2014: $800,000
- October 1, 2015: $815,000
- October 1, 2016: $830,000
- October 1, 2017: $845,000
The relevant figure is based upon what year the premises liability accident occurred, so incidents refer to a time window of October 1 through September 30. For example, the statutory limit on non-economic damages for the victim injured in the January 31, 2017 apartment complex fire would go back to the amount that kicked in on October 1, 20176: $830,000.
Investigation into the cause of a fire, whether at the Ridge Gardens Apartments or any other apartment complex in Maryland, are usually necessary to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support a premises liability claim on behalf of an injured vicitm. Only if the victim proves the essential elements of a negligence case under this theory, will he or she be entitled to compensation for different types economic and non-economic losses.