What is premises liability?
If you trip and fall on someone else's property because of unsafe conditions, who is responsible for any medical bills incurred? Premises laws decide who is at fault for such accidents. In determining premises liability, the important factors are ownership, possession, and control of the premises. The person who owns, possesses, or controls the premises may be held responsible for any injuries arising from a condition of the premises. An owner or possessor of premises is required by law to act reasonably in order to keep the property safe and prevent anybody on the property from being injured. In California, simply owning or occupying premises does not make the owner or occupier liable for injuries sustained on the property. There must be some form of verifiable negligence for the owner or possessor to be held liable.
What are common types of premises actions?
Common types of injuries in premises liability lawsuits include slip and fall or trip and fall accidents. Slip accidents can occur because spills were not cleaned up, holes were not filled, a sidewalk or floor was raised, lighting was poor, warnings were not posted, or for similar negligent reasons. Other premises incidents might include a dog bite, swimming pool drowning, broken stairs or railing, construction accidents, injuries from toxic material, or inadequate security.
Premises accidents can occur anywhere including:
- Private properties/homes. One example would be a child who wanders into an unsecured area and drowns in a pool, or broken steps or stairways that cause an injury. Another example would be an unsecured dog that bites a passerby.
- Business properties. An example would be a slippery floor at a grocery store, restaurant, or hotel that causes someone to fall and get injured. In such cases, businesses have a duty to post warnings and clear the hazard in a timely manner. Another example of business premises accidents are those involving dangerous or broken stairs, escalators, or elevators. Injuries caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or fumes are another example.
- Damaged, cracked, uneven, or unsafe public walkways or sidewalks can also cause serious injury. Unfortunately, Los Angeles is home to some of the worst maintained sidewalks in the entire country. According to a 2019 report, it is estimated that 40 percent of L.A.'s streets have a D or F rating, while 8,700 miles of streets need repairs.
- Parking lots. An example would be a poorly lit area or damaged pavement that causes a fall and injury. Another example would be lack of security measures, especially in an area known to be dangerous or prone to crime.
- Construction sites. Examples include unattended dangerous equipment, a lack of adequate protective barriers, inadequate warning signs, and falling tools or debris that cause injury.
- Amusement parks and sporting venues. Southern California is home to some of the biggest amusement parks and sporting venues in the world, receiving tens of thousands of visitors on a daily basis. Accidents occurring at amusements may be caused by dangerous or defectively designed rides or attractions. They may be the result of some type of mechanical failure or improper maintenance of the grounds or attractions. Accidents may also be caused by negligent or poorly trained employees or inadequate protocols or procedures. Lastly inadequate posted warnings or instructions may contribute to accidents.
Determining who is responsible or legally liable in premises accident
Under California law property owners have the following basic duty of care:
“A person who [owns/leases/occupies/controls] property is negligent if he or she fails to use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. A person who [owns/leases/occupies/controls] property must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others.”
In determining whether a property owner was liable for an injury, the court or jury may consider, among other factors:
- The location of the property;
- The likelihood that someone would come on to the property in the same manner as the injured party did did;
- The likelihood of harm;
- The probable seriousness of such harm;
- Whether the property owner knew or should have known of the condition that created the risk of harm;
- The difficulty of protecting against the risk of such harm;
- The extent of the property owner's control over the condition that created the risk of harm;
Additional factors used to determine who is at fault in property owner liability cases, include:
- Was someone truly hurt?
- Could the owner or possessor foresee that harm might occur?
- Is there a history of similar accidents?
- What was the connection between the injury and the owner's conduct?
- What steps, if any, did the owner take to prevent harm?
- What steps, if any, did the owner take to prevent harm in the future?
- Was warning provided about dangerous conditions on the property?
- Were inspections made of the property?
- Was the property defect serious or trivial?
- Was the injured party acting carelessly or recklessly when the accident occurred?
Such analysis requires an experienced personal injury attorney. If you have been injured on someone else's property we urge you to contact us for a free, confidential review of your potential case and see how we can help!