Understanding California Premises Liability Laws
Nearly 40 million Americans visit the doctor each year as a result of an accidental injury. Many of these injuries occur due to another person’s negligence. One of the most common types of personal injury cases involve accidents on someone else’s property. It could be a slip and fall at the local department store or an injury sustained while at a neighbor’s 4th of July party. Our personal injury attorneys in Southern California have seen it all.
When you are injured on someone else’s property, it is considered a premises liability case. It is case in which somebody who owns the premises on which you were hurt is held liable for any injuries sustained. If you were injured on someone else’s’ property in the state of California because the property owner was negligent, you may be able to recover compensation.
Keep reading to learn more about California’s premises liability laws, the most common types of premises liability cases, and how to go about making a claim.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a legal concept that is exactly what it sounds like. This sort of case typically includes personal injury events where the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property.
Most personal injury cases are based on negligence, and premises liability cases are no exception. In order to win a premises liability case, the injured person must prove that the property owner was negligent with respect to ownership and/or maintenance of the property. In general, negligence means that the property owner failed to use reasonable care in connection with the property.
In the state of California, property owners have what is called a “duty of care” to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. If you own, control or possess property, you are required to maintain and inspect your property, repair dangerous conditions and/or warn visitors of any dangerous conditions.
If a property owner or occupier fails to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, they may be considered negligent under premises liability laws. They may be held liable for any injuries that are sustained as a result of their negligence. An injured person can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the responsible parties.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Identifying and classifying the kind of accident that you have experienced is useful in knowing whether or not they are eligible for a premise liability claim. Below are some of the most common premises liability scenarios and their corresponding laws:
- Injuries from Hidden Defects
Most premises liability cases arise because a dangerous condition was not visible or easy to see. For example, a stair might break when you put your full weight on it, even though it may look sturdy at first glance. It is a property owner’s responsibility to look out for hidden defects on their property that could hurt their guests or customers.
- Injuries on Private Property
An owner of private property can do a number of things that make them liable for any injuries. Neglecting to do anything within a reasonable amount of time that can make the property safe for anyone coming on the property is one. This can include failing to clean up a spill, failing to salt outdoor areas and / or removing ice or snow, not maintaining walkways or infrastructure, not inspecting the premises for hazards, or failing to put up a sign warning anyone about any known or potential hazards.
- Injuries on Business Property
Businesses owe their customers a duty to keep the business premises safe. This includes conditions free from any known defects and hazards so as to avoid injuries occurring to customers. Moreover, if a business employee becomes aware of an unsafe condition on the business premises, the employee should act immediately to remove the hazard and to warn customers about any hazards. Sometimes, a ramp or step may have been improperly constructed and causes a hazard. Moreover, improper or unsafe lighting may constitute a hazard as well. Additionally, the law requires these duties of businesses because it is the business, not the customer, who is in a better position to know whether the premises are safe. Businesses should conduct regular inspections of their premises.
- Injuries on Government Property
Local, county, and state governments own many properties, ranging from office buildings and schools to parks and sidewalks. Just like private businesses and homeowners, the authorities have the duty to maintain their property and make them safe for the public. If you are injured on a public property, you can seek compensation to your damages by filing a claim against the government. However, the legal procedures for premises liability claims are different from making a claim for an injury occurring on a private property.
- Injuries on Worksites
When working in heavy construction and industrial environments, employees are exposed to many potential injuries, with some more common than others. It’s important to know how to recognize these injuries and treat them properly to both keep your employees healthy and reduce your recordable incidents.
- Injuries at Places of Recreation
There are a lot of places you can go for physical recreation, including parks, golf courses, bike paths, gymnasiums, rock climbing gyms, trampoline parks, roller skating rinks, paintball, laser tag, ax throwing and archery ranges. The owners and property managers of all these recreation facilities have a responsibility to keep them safe for people who pay to enjoy the equipment and activities. If you are hurt because one of these places was not as safe as it should be, call a lawyer right away.
- Injuries in Apartments
Landlords and property owners have a duty to maintain an apartment complex or building in a safe manner and can be liable for damages when accidents or injuries occur. When a landlord or property owner’s action or lack of action causes an unsafe situation which in turn causes an injury, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. Apartment property owners and operators are not liable for all tenant injuries, but they are when they can be found to be negligent in their actions. If you’ve been injured at an apartment building or complex, it’s in your best interest to consult with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in premises liability to discuss your case. If you have a claim, you are entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other losses.
An Overview of California’s Premises Liability Law
California premises liability laws generally require property owners within the state to provide reasonably safe conditions for those who live, work at and/or visit their properties. While these laws dictate that California property owners have a responsibility to maintain safe properties, the laws also require owners to warn people of potential hazards on their property to minimize the possibility of accidents and injuries.
Under California law, there are three scenarios in which a property owner or occupier can be held legally responsible for a dangerous property condition:
- The property owner or occupier directly caused the dangerous condition that led to your injury.
- The property owner or occupier was aware of the dangerous condition but failed to undertake reasonable efforts to fix it.
- The property owner or occupier should have been aware of the dangerous condition because a reasonable person would have discovered it and undertaken reasonable efforts to fix it.
This applies to both public and private properties. Regardless of where you were injured, under California law, the legal standards that apply are the same. However, a property owner’s or occupier’s legal responsibility will vary depending on why you were on the property at the time you were injured.
Depending on the purpose of your visit, you will either be labeled as: (i) an invitee, (ii) a licensee, or (iii) a trespasser.
Invitee (or Business Invitee) – An invitee is an individual that the landowner has given expressed or implied permission to enter the property. The landowner has an obligation to provide reasonably safe conditions for the invitee. Examples of invitees are friends, relatives, or neighbors. If you have been injured as an invitee in someone else’s property, then you have a right to file a premises liability claim.
Licensee – Similar to an invitee, a licensee is someone who also has expressed and implied permission to enter a property. The difference is that a licensee’s reason for entering a property is for his or her own purposes. An example of licensees is salesmen or other vendors.
Trespasser – A trespasser is someone who is unauthorized to enter the property of the landowner. In this scenario, an owner may only exercise ordinary care and does not owe fault to a trespasser who was injured in his or her property. However, children are an exception to this rule and property owners must ensure that an estate is safeguarded from potential hazards to children.
Common Places Where the Theory of Premises Liability Can Be Applicable in the Event of an Accident
- Shopping malls
- Retail stores and supermarkets
- Restaurants and bars
- Movie theaters
- Gyms and recreational centers
- Sports arenas
- Schools and colleges
- Hospitals and nursing homes
- Airports, train stations, and bus stations
- Factories, manufacturing plants, warehouses, and other industrial facilities
Compensatory Damages in a California Premises Liability Lawsuit Can Include:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Continuing medical care
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
California Premises Liability Laws: Property Owners’ Duty of Care
The “duty of care” for a property owner is based on what a reasonable property owner would do under similar circumstances. In determining whether or not the defendant breached the duty of care, the jury can consider, among other factors, the following:
- The location of the property
- The likelihood that someone would come onto the property in the same way as the plaintiff
- The likelihood of an injury
- The probable seriousness of such an injury
- Whether the owner knew of or should have known of the condition
- The burden of reducing or avoiding the risk
- The owner’s degree of control over the risk-creating condition
California Premises Liability Laws: Establishing Liability
To prove a premises liability case, California law generally requires that the following three facts be established:
- The property owner had a duty of care to the injured party.
- The duty of care was breached.
- The breach resulted in the injuries suffered.
Speak with a California Premises Liability Attorney for Free
While premises liability incidents may not be as dramatic or as noticeable as other types of accidents, such as an auto accident, injuries sustained on another’s property can still result in life-threatening conditions that have long-term effects on both the injured party and his or her family. California premises liability laws can be complex and difficult to handle since they require expert personal injury law knowledge. Therefore it is ill-advised to handle this case on your own. Fortunately, expert personal injury law attorneys who are well-versed in California premises liability laws are easily accessible.
If you or a loved one has suffered a premises liability injury and have questions about seeking legal action, call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.