Let's review homeowner's insurance and being injured at someone's house. Homeowners owe a duty of care to those they invite onto their property.
Within this duty is the obligation to maintain a safe premise. When homeowners breach their duty, catastrophic injury can occur. Sometimes this negligence results in minor harm, but loose handrails on staircases or faulty latches on pool enclosures can lead to death.
Simply put, if you are injured on someone else's property, you can generally sue the person or company who owns, leases, occupies, or controls the property. Notably, the responsible party has to own, possess, and control the property, as control alone is sufficient to establish liability.
Further, the person responsible for the property could depend on the property type. There may be multiple parties that share responsibility for the property.
The property owner can't delegate the duty to another person to keep the property reasonably safe. For example, suppose a property owner hires an independent contractor to repair unsafe conditions, but that contractor negligently fails to make conditions safe.
Unsafe Conditions Causing Injury
The property owner is responsible for the property conditions. In other words, if the unsafe condition results in an injury, the property owner might still be liable for damages.
Likewise, suppose an employee is negligent and fails to fix a hazardous condition. Suppose they also fail to warn the employer about the dangerous condition on the property.
In that case, the employer could still be liable for the employee's negligence. However, the California respondeat superior laws say that the principal is responsible for the agent's failure.
Simply put, an employer or business is liable for the employee's negligence occurring within their employment duties. Thus, in a California premises liability action, the defendants could be any of the following:
- Property management company;
- Parent company;
- Business owner;
If you or someone you love has been injured at someone's house or property, you might be entitled to compensation. This compensation may come from a personal liability lawsuit, but it often comes from the homeowner's insurance provider. Factors like the seriousness of your injuries and the homeowner's policy will affect your legal options.
Premise Liability in California
California imposes premise liability on property owners for injuries others suffer on their premises. Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1714, a property owner who fails to execute ordinary care to maintain their property can be held liable.
Civil Code 1714(a) says, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself. The design, distribution, or marketing of firearms and ammunition is not exempt from the duty to use ordinary care and skill that this section requires. The extent of liability in these cases is defined by the Title on Compensatory Relief.”
Notably, the property owner can defend themselves by asserting that the injured person caused harm by acting negligently or recklessly. Another common defense to premise liability claims is that the injured person was trespassing. Examples of scenarios that might occur from the property owner's negligence might include:
- Unsafe balconies;
- Uneven flooring;
- Broken glass;
- Broken steps;
- Loose handrails;
- Slippery surfaces;
- Rotted out stair steps;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Stair injuries;
- Deck collapse;
- Burn injuries;
- Injuries caused by animals.
Failure to maintain safe conditions on the property breaches the property owner's duty to guests. Property owners are obliged to fix dangerous conditions or warn you about them. Property owners can't avoid liability just by claiming they did not know about the hazardous condition.
Personal Liability Coverage in Homeowner's Insurance
When a person is injured at someone else's home, they can often bring a claim against the homeowner's insurance.
This is because most homeowner's insurance policies include personal injury provisions triggered when the homeowner acted negligently in ensuring the safety of the premises.
Homeowners' insurance policies vary, and the insurance carrier will often work diligently to avoid covering the expenses related to your injury. Therefore, one significant hurdle the victim must often overcome is proving that the homeowner was negligent.
It's important to know that California doesn't require homeowners to carry insurance; in some cases, it can be difficult to get homeowners' insurance.
If a homeowner's policy, or lack thereof, fails to cover the injuries you suffered, you should explore filing a personal liability claim against the individual in civil court.
Are Injuries Covered Under California Renter's Insurance?
Although no state law requires renter's insurance, many landlords impose the obligation on their tenants. Like homeowner's insurance, renter's insurance can cover personal injury on the premises. However, not every tenant chooses to carry personal injury liability on their policy; when they do, the coverage may be less.
If you're injured in an apartment or on other rental property, you can often still seek compensation from the owner when the tenant isn't at fault.
What Can You Sue for After an Injury?
Personal injury claims can seek economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:
- Hospital bills;
- Medical bills;
- Future medical treatment;
- Loss of income;
- Damage to personal property;
Non-economic damages are difficult to calculate without the help of an experienced attorney because they relate to subjective losses. These damages are still important, and someone injured on another's property has a right to pursue them. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of a limb;
- Emotional distress;
- Decreased quality of life;
- Loss of consortium.
While there will be a cap on how much the homeowner's insurance policy covers, the state of California places no cap on non-economic damages for premise liability lawsuits. If the policy doesn't entirely cover you or your loved one's injury-related expenses, you can still bring an action in civil court to cover the rest.
Notably, a recent amendment to California Civil Code Section 377.34 allows the family to bring pain and suffering claims against a defendant even after the injured party has died.
Civil Code 377.34(a) says, “In an action or proceeding by a decedent's personal representative or successor in interest on the decedent's cause of action, the damages recoverable are limited to the loss or damage that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover, had the decedent lived, and do not include damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.”
What to Do After an Injury at Someone's House
You should immediately seek medical attention if you're injured at another's home. Not only does this step ensure you receive the treatment you need, but it also allows for documentation of the incident.
Once you are safe, you should see if the homeowner has policy coverage for personal injury. If the homeowner is your friend, this step can seem impolite, but this is ultimately the purpose of homeowner's insurance. Sometimes, their insurance policy can even seek reimbursement from your insurance.
It's also helpful to document the incident as best you can by writing down the details in a journal and, if possible, taking photos of where the injury occurred.
Homeowners' insurance policies might cover many types of bodily injuries on their property. However, just because a homeowner has insurance does not mean the insurance company will pay it.
If you need more information about how to file a claim for damages caused by home property conditions, contact our law firm to review the details and legal options. Injury Justice Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.