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Comparing Common Law and Statutory Duties of Virginia Property Owners

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Comparing Common Law and Statutory Duties of Virginia Property Owners

Comparing Common Law and Statutory Duties of Virginia Property Owners

By Jan Hoen

If you were injured because of hazardous conditions on property, Virginia law provides you with options to recover monetary damages under the legal concept known as premises liability. In short, your rights stem from the duty imposed upon property owners to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner, so they do not create a risk of harm to those who enter. A breach of this duty could give rise to a claim for an injured victim.

However, a common area of dispute in a premises liability case is what acts or omissions constitute a breach of the legal duty. In some situations, the property owner’s failure amounts to general negligence; other claims may be based upon a violation of law. A Virginia premises liability lawyer can explain why the difference is key, but you can also read on for some background information on common law versus statutory duties of property owners.

Liability for Injuries on Dangerous Property

In most personal injury cases, including injury-causing accidents on property, there are four elements you need to prove to recover monetary damages. You need evidence that shows: 

  • The property owner had a duty to maintain a safe space for others;
  • That party in control of the property breached this duty;
  • The breach was a direct cause of the injury-causing accident; and,
  • You sustained losses because of your injuries. 

Legal Duties by Common Versus Statutory Law

With respect to #2 above, there are multiple sources of law that could result in a breach of duty. They are:

Common Law: Over many generations, courts have developed a body of law from case precedent – i.e., what types of conduct amount to the failure to comply with the duty to act with reasonable care. The standard is what a prudent property owner would do to make the premises safe, given the same set of circumstances.

Statutory Law: Lawmakers at the federal, state, and local level pass statutes that require a property owner to secure the premises. The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code is an example. It contains provisions related to: 

  • Installing smoke detectors;
  • Guarding against lead paint, mold, asbestos, and other environmental hazards;
  • Repairing loose railings, balconies, stairs, and related structures; and,
  • Many other safety issues. 

According to these requirements, the property owner could be liable for injuries through a violation of the statute. Evidence in such a case could be citations, fines, and penalties levied against the person or entity who owns or controls the property. You still need to prove the other three elements described above, but a violation of building codes is in your favor. 

Contact a Virginia Premises Liability Attorney to Discuss Your Claim

Regardless of whether you were hurt on a property because of negligence or a direct violation of statutory law, you will need solid legal representation to assist with your premises liability case. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the insurance claims process and will take your case to court to get fair, reasonable compensation for your losses. For more information about your rights, please call Hampton Injury Law PLC to set up a free case evaluation today. 

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