In California, the courts believe that an owner is expected to “exercise ordinary care” in regards to their premises so that people are not accidentally exposed to an unreasonable amount of harm. Whether the harm is natural or artificial, it does not matter – the owner should be made aware of it if they are maintaining the property to their duty of care. The courts will ask, “Would any other reasonable person ensure that this condition did not cause an injury?” and they go from there. (1)
Here are some things that you must ask yourself, according to California’s Civil Jury Instructions under “Premises Liability – Essential Factual Elements” if you are looking to make a claim after being harmed: Was a defendant particularly negligent in the use or maintenance of the property? Where you, the plaintiff, harmed as a result? Was the defendant’s negligence a substantial factor in causing harm? (2) If you believe the answer is “yes” to all of these questions, then the fact remains that you more than likely have a claim.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
There are many different types of premises liability cases that you may come across in your life. The first one involves “attractive nuisance” laws, which means that something exciting on a property could entice children onto the property even though the owner did not intend for it too. For instance, let’s look at the swimming pool example. A child may feel inclined to wander onto a property and take a swim in a neighbor’s pool even if they are trespassing. The neighbor then owes neighborhood children a duty of care by building a fence or taking another appropriate action that leads to protection of the children.
Another type of premises liability is restaurant liability, where slip and falls can take place. In many cases, these accidents may not happen in a fancy restaurant where managers are always on their feet, but instead in a fast food restaurant where owners are always on the go and ready to care for customer’s orders instead of paying close attention to spills on the floors. Spilled drinks and food on the floor may become commonplace, but this doesn’t mean that owners and workers don’t owe customers a duty of care, either. (3)
Consider a type of premises liability where you are in a huge mall, enjoying your day shopping when all of a sudden, you hit the floor because of something wet. Caution: Wet Floor signs are extremely important when an employee or manager cleans a floor to warn customers that there is a hazard in plain sight. However, without these, a customer could fall and seriously injure themselves, even breaking a bone or worse. This is why it is seen as negligence if they fail to sit out one of these signs.
Dog bite injuries on somebody else’s property may also fall under premises liability. In fact, these cases are typically settled through the dog owner’s homeowners policy. The laws governing dog attack cases are very serious and handled as such in the courtroom. Some states handle these cases with strict liability, where the owner is liable for any attack no matter if they knew the dog was dangerous or not. (4) The reason why these cases are considered to be premises liability is because they involve unsafe conditions on someone else’s property because the dog is potentially dangerous and there may be a failure to warn.
Negligent and inadequate security is also a special type of premises liability where somebody is injured due to a lack of security in a place that should have it, such as a hotel. Many of these places understand that they have a substantial duty to protect consumers and must provide security for them, which is why they can be proven in court as such. (5) There are many premises liability cases, as you can see, each of which is different from the other.
Duty to Prevent Injury
Property owners owe various degrees of responsibility or duties to people who come onto their property. They owe these duties to invitees, licensees, and trespassers as defined by the law. Here are these various categories, explained:
Invitees: This is somebody who has been invited onto the property for business purposes, such as customers who are shopping at a retail store. Since invitees are literally invited onto the property, property owners must exercise an extreme duty of care to ensure their safety. This means that, if a property owner is aware of a danger, they must do everything to fix it. They must also inspect the property in a reasonable manner as often as possible.
Licensees: This is someone who is allowed onto the property for social purposes. The level of care owed to licensees is lower, but it still exists! This means that a property owner must ensure that any hazards on the property are taken care of and must inspect the areas for such.
Trespassers: This is someone who is not authorized on the property, so they cannot be protected. The property owner owes them no duty of care. However, if an owner knows that there are trespassers coming onto his or her property, then he or she does owe them a duty of care. This is the case for “attractive nuisances,” which we discussed earlier. (6)
In some premises liability cases, comparative negligence comes into play. If the injured person was negligent in comparison with the accident, then their negligence will be played against that of the defendant. However, to make this case, the defendant must be able to show that the plaintiff was not acting carefully and caused their own injury to some extent. The defendant’s negligence must play a part, or else the case ends there.
Following Your Premises Liability Case
What can you do to protect your rights after you have been injured on another person’s property? There are some steps that you can take to protect your rights and make a case in front of the courts down the road. Follow these steps:
- Receive medical attention as soon as the accident happens, because this will not only help your health but also help you make your case and show the seriousness of your injuries. Have all medical treatment in writing. Injuries can manifest themselves and you don’t want to miss out on compensation.
- Inspect the area where the accident occurred to see exactly what caused it. If you slipped and fell, look for snow, ice, or spilled food. This evidence can be valuable in a lawsuit.
- Always identify witnesses by writing down their names, addresses, and phone numbers. They may need to help you make your case if it goes to trial. They may have seen things in the immediate area that you did not.
- Attempt to notify a manager if you had an accident in a store. You should always make someone aware of your injury.
- Take photos as soon as you can after the accident. This will show the courts exactly how the accident happened and the extent of your injuries as well as conditions overall. (7)
Do you need help after you received an injury on someone else’s property and aren’t quite sure where to turn? Luckily for you, we are personal injury attorneys who can help you with your case because we have vast experience in these areas. Your premises liability case does not have to cause you turmoil and stress. Give us a call today to help you handle your case every step of the way.