California property owners and occupiers have a duty of care to keep their property reasonably safe. This means they must maintain and inspect their property, repair any potentially dangerous conditions, and give adequate warning of any hazardous conditions. A property owner who fails to keep the property reasonably safe may be liable for any injuries sustained due to negligence.
A premises liability claim holds property owners responsible for injuries that result from unsafe conditions on their property. Such claims may occur at someone’s home or on a commercial property. Premises liability claims must meet specific legal criteria about liability, collectability, and damages.
Liability means that the property owner owed a duty of care, breached the duty of care, and the visitor’s injuries occurred as a result. The property’s location, the likelihood of injury, the potential seriousness of the injury, the property owner’s knowledge of the dangerous condition, and the property owner’s ability to protect against harm determine whether the property owner breached their duty of care.
You can bring a premises liability claim against property owners, renters, businesses, government agencies, contractors, subcontractors, and anyone else who must keep the property safe. Expect those at-fault to deny it and blame others for the accident. Depending on the circumstances, the case will likely involve an insurance company. Expect the insurance company to minimize the value of your claim and try to leave you with nothing. From our experience, you will need a proven personal injury lawyer to receive anything close to the full value of your claim.
You may be eligible to recover past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning potential, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, physical impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other damages. If someone dies from the accident, their family may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims award lost income, emotional pain and suffering, medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of companionship, and other damages to the victim’s family.
You generally have two years from the date of the injury to file a premises liability claim. Do not delay. Go to the doctor right away and receive treatment for your injuries. Continue treatment as instructed by your doctor. Do not wait to get treatment, and do not stop treatment early. If you do, insurance companies will use it against you as evidence that you are not as injured as you say. The best way to protect your legal rights is to contact a proven personal injury lawyer immediately following the accident.
You can expect insurance companies to treat your premises liability claim skeptically and offer you little or nothing compared to the actual value of your claim. They will blame the accident on you. They will downplay the nature and extent of your injuries and the degree of your pain and suffering. Insurance companies will deny coverage wholly or partially to avoid financial responsibility. Do not expect them to offer you a fair settlement. Contact an experienced premises liability attorney before contacting an insurance company.
Settlements and verdicts for premises liability claims vary greatly depending on several factors. The extent of the injuries, the amount of insurance available, the evidence of liability, and the likability of the plaintiff influence the case’s outcome. So does the skill and experience of the plaintiff’s attorney.
The most important factor when selecting a premises liability lawyer is to choose one who focuses on personal injury law and has a proven track record of taking personal injury cases to trial and winning at trial. Insurance companies pay more money to the clients of lawyers who have a proven track record of taking personal injury cases to trial and winning them.
Suppose the insurance company sees that the plaintiffs’ lawyer lacks experience taking personal injury cases or that personal injury cases only compose a small portion of the lawyer’s practice. In that case, they will offer the lawyer’s client less money. Likewise, if the insurance company sees that the lawyer lacks trial experience or settles all of their cases before trial, they will offer the lawyer’s client less money. Make sure you choose a lawyer who focuses their practice on personal injury law and has won honors and awards for winning personal injury trials.
Below are some of the most common incidents which result in premises liability for the property owner.
A slip-and-fall case typically starts with a wet floor – whether the floor is wet from water, grease, soap, or a slippery surface. A “slip” is caused by a loss of friction with the floor surface, causing the foot to slip outward and upward, resulting in a fall. Spills, plumbing leaks, mop water, ice, oil, mud, dirt, gravel, beads, and any other substance which makes the floor slippery can cause a slip-and-fall accident.
Slip-and-falls can happen anywhere but often occur at hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, work, stairways, and public venues. Injuries to the head, neck, back, hip, and spine are typical of slip-and-fall accidents.
Trip-and-falls happen when the victim trips and falls over a raised mat, loose carpet, uneven floor, or uncovered cable. A “trip” occurs when the victim’s foot meets resistance from a hidden object, affecting the victim’s stride and resulting in a fall.
Broken floors, poorly placed items, poorly lit spaces, floor mats, steps, uneven floors, and cables can cause tripping accidents. Injuries to the face, head, spine, hand, arm, elbow, and knee are typical of trip-and-falls.
Some public venues like grocery stores place floor mats on the ground when floors are wet, such as after mopping or when it is raining outside. Floor mats may help prevent slipping when floors are wet, but they create an unnecessary tripping hazard when floors are dry. Floor mats commonly cause trip-and-fall accidents and thus are dangerous conditions if left out after floors are dry. As such, floor mats left on the ground when floors are dry may give rise to liability for the property owner.
Explosions and fires can be caused by gas leaks, improperly stored flammable materials, electrical shorts caused by poor electrical work, and arson. Such accidents can almost always be avoided with due care. Explosions and fires may leave survivors with severe burn injuries, among the most painful and life-altering injuries a person can experience.
Pool owners must maintain, supervise and warn of dangers in and around their pools. Swimming pool injuries may be caused by negligent use, construction, maintenance, or supervision of the swimming pool and surrounding areas. Swimming pool accidents may include drowning, falls, entrapments in drains, cuts or lacerations from dangerous objects (like glass), burns from excessive cleaning chemicals, and infections and other illnesses from unclean water. Children require constant supervision near pools, as drowning can happen within seconds.
Property owners must protect visitors from dangerous animals. Dog bites are the most common animal-related premises liability incident. California dog owners are strictly liable if their dog attacks someone (with limited exceptions for people who trespass, threaten or attack the owner, or provoke the dog). This means the dog’s owner is still liable for the attack even if the owner did nothing wrong and even if the dog has never bitten anyone before. Dogs more commonly target children due to their small size and commonly target the face, neck, eyes, and head.
Violence and sexual assault resulting from inadequate security can lead to liability for the property owner. Poor lighting, failure to install locks and security cameras, failure to restrict access to the property, failure to hire adequately trained security guards, and permitting dangerous activities like illegal alcohol or drug use can give rise to liability for property owners if a violent crime takes place. Prior similar incidents are not necessary to prove liability, so property owners may be held responsible even if an assault has never occurred on their property before.
Unsafe glass can cause severe injuries like lacerations, nerve and tendon damage, blood loss, and foreign body deposition (glass stuck inside a person). As such, California has various laws requiring safety glass on glass doors, windows adjacent to doors, glass near wet surfaces, glass near stairways and ramps, glass near walkways and elevators, and other spaces. Failing to install the correct glass and failing to clean up broken glass can result in liability for property owners if someone is injured.
Poor architectural design, construction, corrosion, fatigue, or defective materials may cause building collapses. Failure to consider unexpected conditions like heavy snow, rain, ice, earthquakes, or other naturally occurring phenomena may cause building collapses. California has many building codes to keep people safe from collapses during such events. Property owners may be liable for failing to construct or maintain buildings up to code.
Improperly stacked items, loose overhead signage, racks or displays with sharp edges, and self-service displays which result in floor debris are examples of dangerous retail displays. Any presentation holding ice or water is dangerous if it causes the floor to become wet.
Design flaws, poor craftmanship, use of inferior materials, inadequate supervision, inadequate inspection, or some combination thereof may cause construction defects. Builders, installers, developers, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers, architects, engineers, inspectors, and others may be responsible. Assigning liability in construction defect cases typically requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced attorney.
Elevators and escalators must be properly inspected, maintained, and repaired. Defective parts, improper installation or repair, poor maintenance, and failure to do regular inspections may cause elevator and escalator malfunctions. Sudden drops or stops, doors opening at the wrong location, or persons becoming trapped in an elevator are malfunctions that may cause injury.
Rollercoasters, water slides, bumper cars, spinning rides, inflatable slides, bounce houses, water rides, and other attractions may injure people. Such injuries may be due to mechanical failure, inadequate or unlatched safety restraints, improper operation, or the ride’s inherent nature. Failure to post clear warning signs, failure to properly train ride operators, failure to maintain the rides in a safe condition, failure to inspect a ride, operating a ride improperly, or failure to provide correct instructions to riders may give rise to liability for the park or its employees. Poor design or malfunctioning parts may give rise to liability against the manufacturer of the ride or the maker of the defective part.
Property owners must warn visitors about potential hazards or unsafe conditions on the property. This is especially true (1) when the property is under construction and (2) on wet, rainy days when the floor may be slippery. Proper signage is necessary to warn visitors about wet floors, construction hazards, dangerous animals, broken appliances, slip and fall risks, broken flooring, and other potential dangers on the property. Hazardous areas such as construction zones and unprotected ledges should be blocked off.
A fall from an elevated space such as a roof, balcony, window, bridge, or scaffold typically results in more severe injuries than a single-level slip and fall. Broken or missing handrails, defective windows or screens, unstable ladders or scaffolding, low or inadequate railing, unguarded openings, unfinished construction, collapsing structures, and other dangerous conditions may cause elevated falls. Property owners must build and maintain railings, windows, and screens according to state and local codes. They must also warn about hazardous property conditions, such as unprotected ledges.
Traffic turning in and out of driveways moves more slowly than through traffic. As such, driveways which require drivers to turn onto and off busy streets can be very dangerous due to traffic passing by at high velocity. The danger is multiplied if the driveway is concealed or offers little or no vision in either direction. Owners of such dangerous driveways should take reasonable steps to reduce the likelihood of accidents, such as by installing convex mirrors, installing proper signage, removing vision barriers (like plants or fences), relocating or eliminating driveways, and providing alternative access to the property.
Broken or missing floor tiles, broken or missing stairs, damaged or torn carpeting, uneven or broken sidewalks, loose carpets, and other unsafe floorings may cause falls or lacerations. High-risk zones include entrances, exits, narrow walkways and corridors, and any other highly trafficked area. Productivity zones like workstations or checkout counters are also hazardous places for flooring disrepair.
Trampolines require proper supervision and maintenance. Attempting dangerous tricks, having too many people on the trampoline simultaneously, falling or jumping off the trampoline, and landing on the springs or frame of the trampoline are common causes of trampoline injuries. Property owners can minimize the risk of such injuries by only allowing one person on the trampoline at a time, not allowing somersaults or flips, installing an enclosure to prevent people from flying off the trampoline, keeping the trampoline away from trees and other structures, and installing padding over the springs, hooks, and frame. Alcohol significantly increases the chances of a trampoline accident and should not be consumed while using a trampoline.
James Iagmin has 20 years of experience as a San Diego premises liability lawyer and has a proven track record of achieving the best possible results for his clients. His clients and fellow lawyers recognize Jim as an intelligent, compassionate, caring, and outstanding attorney. Jim is a leader among attorneys and served as President of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.
Suppose you were injured on dangerous premises through no fault of your own. In that case, you may be entitled to recover for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages from the incident. James Iagmin has the skills and experience to achieve the best possible resolution in premises liability claims.
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California Legislative Information – Civil Code § 1714
California Civil Jury Instructions – Premises Liability – 1001. Basic Duty of Care
California Legislative Information – Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1
California Legislative Information – Health and Safety Code §§ 115920-115929
California Legislative Information – California Civil Code § 3342
California Department of General Services – California Building Standards Code
James Iagmin has more than 20 years of experience handling personal injury claims. Jim has a proven track record of achieving successful results for his clients. Jim is known for being a compassionate, caring and intelligent attorney and is recognized in the San Diego community for his integrity, character and skill has a lawyer. Jim has received numerous honors and awards for his abilities as an attorney.
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James Iagmin is widely recognized by his clients, fellows lawyers and others within the San Diego community for his integrity, compassion, intelligence and skill as one of the top accident lawyers in San Diego.
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