Premises liability is a legal claim for damages that can be made if you are injured on someone else's property through their negligence. In premises liability cases, negligence means that the owner of the premises must have known that there was a dangerous condition and not done anything to repair the situation.
This can mean keeping loose an animal known to be dangerous, not cleaning up a spill; a dangerously icy walkway; or any other circumstances where the premises owner should have acted to protect people but did not.
Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. To prevail in a premises liability case, the victim has to prove the property owner was indeed negligent in maintaining the property.
In general terms, negligence means the property owner failed to use reasonable care with the property. It should be noted that simply because you sustained an injury on someone's property does not always mean the property owner was negligent.
The key in a premises liability claim is the ability to prove that the property owner knew or should have reasonably known that the premises were in an unsafe condition, and they failed to correct the situation.
As with most negligence claims, a premises liability claim's specific details and circumstances will significantly impact the legal analysis.
Premises Liability and Owner's Duty of Care
Property owners have a lot of responsibility to ensure visitors are not exposed to harm on their property, assuming the injury could have been reasonably avoided if the owner had not acted negligently.
In premises liability cases, the property owner is the individual or entity that could be held liable, meaning anyone who owns, possesses, or controls the property.
Legally, they owe visitors a duty of care from harm. Duty of care means the owner has to use reasonable care to discover, make repairs, or warn visitors against any dangerous conditions on the property to prevent an injury.
Assessing what constitutes reasonable care is often difficult. To what extent must a property owner take inspecting the property that they can't be held liable for failing to warn visitors of a dangerous condition?
This is often a difficult question as there is no objective measure under California law that allows an individual to assess the owner's reasonable care.
The assessment is subjective and depends on a case-by-case basis. Your personal injury attorneys will need to thoroughly review all the details to discover relevant factors in your favor to support a premises liability claim.
See our related blog: What Is Negligence By a Property Owner in California?
Who Can File a Premises Liability Claim?
California law generally separates people on a property into three categories – Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers. Each of these groups has individual rights on the property.
Most people will fall into the first two groups. Invitees are explicitly invited or permitted a property. The property owner has a high duty to protect and inform of anything on the property that might be dangerous.
Invitees are typically people such as friends, relatives, or neighbors. Licensees are people who come onto the property for their reasons (the classic example is salespeople), and they are owed a lower, but still high, duty by the property owner.
It will surprise almost no one that trespassers are owed virtually no duties by the owners – as long as the owner isn't setting traps to harm people intentionally, it's almost impossible for trespassers to sue.
A trespasser is an individual who is not authorized to be on the property. Typically, the owner has no duty to a trespasser unless they are a child.
Since the rules for premises claims can get complicated, you should consult with a premises liability lawyer at our law firm to review your case.
What Kind of Unsafe Conditions Can Lead to a Claim?
Remember that an unsafe condition isn't enough – the hazardous condition has to be one that the owner knew about and was negligent in repairing.
That being said, here are some common conditions that owners often should know about and which are frequently at issue in premises liability cases:
- Poor lighting – poor lighting can often result in slips and falls, especially in places like stairwells and hallways. In addition, poor lighting can often lead to claims based on negligent security if a person becomes the victim of crime in a poorly light area.
- Damaged doors, stairs, or fences – these kinds of conditions can easily result in severe accidents in which victims sustain injuries like serious lacerations, broken bones, sprains, and strains, or even traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Elevators or escalators which haven't been appropriately maintained – Elevators and escalators are extremely dangerous when they are defective. People injured in accidents involving them can experience injuries as severe as accidental amputations and spinal cord injuries.
- Wet or icy surfaces – Wet or icy surfaces are easily capable of causing severe slip and fall accidents that can result in brain injuries, broken bones, severe soft tissue injuries, and even spinal cord injuries.
- Uneven pavement or floors – These conditions are another joint slip, and fall risk are resulting in severe injuries.
- Toxic or poisonous materials – Businesses that store or use toxic or toxic materials must ensure that people on and nearby the premises are not inadvertently exposed to them.
- Inadequate warning signs around areas which aren't dangerous – Property owners who have opened their doors to the general public must warn visitors about non-obvious dangers. When they fail to do so, and people get hurt, they can often be held liable.
What to Do If You Have Been Hurt in a Premises Liability Accident
In the unfortunate event that you get hurt while you are on someone else's property, there are specific steps that you should take to protect your legal rights.
First of all, if your accident happened on a commercial property, make sure that an incident report is generated. If you can, use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident scene, taking special care to highlight any hazards that you believe caused or contributed to your accident.
Next, before sure to seek medical attention and take detailed notes about how your injuries have affected you. Finally, be sure to speak to an attorney before signing anything or discussing your accident with an insurance company representative.
When someone else's negligence has injured you, you shouldn't have to worry about how to pay your medical bills.
Hire an attorney with the experience you need to ensure you have peace of mind.
Injury Justice Law Firm has attorneys specializing in personal injury cases and can ensure you're taken care of at a difficult time. Contact our law firm for a free consultation at 310-734-7974. We are serving the greater Los Angeles area.