Premises liability is a legal claim for damages which can be made if you are injured on someone else's property, through their negligence. Negligence, in premises liability cases, 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 many other circumstances where the owner of the premises should have acted to protect people, but did not.
In fact, most personal injury cases are based on negligence. In order to prevail in a premises liability case, the victim has to be able to prove the property owner was indeed negligent in maintaining the property.
In general terms, negligence means the owner of the property failed to use reasonable care with the property. It should be noted that simply because you sustained an injury on someone's property, it 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, the specific details and circumstances of a premises liability claim 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 harm 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 exactly assess reasonable care of the owner.
The assessment is subjective and depends on a case-by-case basis. Your personal injury attorneys will need to thoroughly review all the details in order 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 separate rights on the property.
Most people will fall into the first two groups. Invitees are explicitly invited or given permission onto a property, and the property owner has a high duty to protect and inform of anything on the property which might be dangerous.
Invitees are typically people such as friends, relatives, or neighbors. Licensees are people who come onto the property for their own 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 intentionally harm people, 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 out 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 unsafe 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 slip 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 poorly light area.
- Damaged doors, stairs, or fences – these kinds of conditions can easily result in serious 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 maintained properly – Elevators and escalators are extremely dangerous when they are defective. People who are injured in accidents involving them can experience injuries as serious as accidental amputations and spinal cord injuries.
- Wet or icy surfaces – Wet or icy surfaces are easily capable of causing extremely serious slip and fall accidents that car result in brain injuries, broken bones, serious soft tissue injuries, and even spinal cord injuries.
- Uneven pavement or floors – These conditions are another common slip and fall risk that can result in extremely serious injuries.
- Toxic or poisonous materials – Businesses that store or use poisonous or toxic materials have a duty to ensure that people on and nearby the premises are not inadvertently exposed to them.
- Inadequate warning signs around areas which aren't obviously dangerous – Property owners who have opened their door to the general public have a duty to 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 certain 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 scene of the accident, 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 the way in which your injuries have affect you. Finally, be sure to speak to an attorney before signing anything or discussing your accident with an insurance company representative.
When you've been injured by someone else's negligence, you shouldn't have to worry about how to pay your medical bills.
Hire an attorney with the experience you need to make sure you have peace of mind.
Injury Justice Law Firm has the attorneys who specialize in personal injury cases and can make sure you're taken care of at a difficult time.
Contact our law firm for a free consultation at 310-734-7974. Serving the greater Los Angeles area.