Have been injured in an accident on someone else’s property? If so, you may have a claim against the property owner.
Under the legal concept known as premises liability (commonly known as “slip and fall accidents”), a property owner is responsible for any damages you suffer on his or her property due to hazardous conditions they knew or should have known existed.
After an accident, the property owner’s insurance company will often attempt to settle the claim for far less than you deserve. Your best option is to speak to San Diego personal injury attorney at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC to understand your legal rights.
We have over 20 years of combined experience helping injury victims. Call today for a free consultation so we can explore your best legal options.
Premises Liability Laws Explained
Under California Civil Code §1714(a), an individual who fails to maintain their property is liable for any injury incurred by another person as a result of this failure. This includes:
- Business owners,
- Homeowners, and
When you are injured because of a fall or due to a dangerous condition or other defect on someone else’s property, you may have a claim if the property owner/renter did not exhibit “ordinary care or skill” in the management of the property.
The property owner is required to keep the property free of hazardous conditions. Failure to do so could result in owner liability if that condition caused your accident. For more information, speak with our experienced San Diego premises liability lawyer.
How Long Do I Have To File A Premises Liability Claim in San Diego?
Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1, you only have two years to bring a premises liability accident claim. This is known as the statute of limitations.
Given the short timeframe, it is in your best interest to immediately discuss your case with our legal team.
What Can I Recover in a Premises Liability Case?
The compensation available will depend on your situation and the extent of your injuries. Depending on your damages, the compensation should cover:
- Lost Wages
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Medical Expenses – Present and Future
- Pain and Suffering
- General Damages
If you lost a loved one, then you may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death action. We will help you better understand the compensation available to you during your free consultation.
What If I Was Partially at fault?
California follows the pure comparative fault rule. Under this rule you would still be allowed to collect damages, but your compensation is decreased by your share of the blame.
For example, say you’re at a store and you suffer a slip and fall accident, for which you’re 50% at-fault. Under the “pure comparative fault rule,” you would recover 50% of your damages.
Remember that comparative negligence is a defense. In other words, the person being sued must prove that you were negligent. You do not need to prove that you were not negligent.
Common Causes in Premises Liability Accidents
While there many different causes that can make a premises dangerous, the following are the most common conditions resulting in injury:
- Poorly maintained stairs
- Unsecured or improperly secured fixtures
- Faulty design
- Failure to properly maintain the property
- Inadequate security resulting in assault
- Elevator and escalator problems
- Water leaks
- Toxic chemicals or fumes
- Poorly maintained swimming pools
If you can, try to document as much as you can about the conditions immediately after the accident. That includes notes, pictures, and getting the names and contact info of witnesses.
Slip and Fall Cases
Injury that gives rise to a premises liability case is often the result of a slip and fall accident. While these accidents may seem minor, they can often lead to serious injury or death.
Every year in San Diego hundreds of people are either killed or hospitalized due to a fall-related injury. In 2011 alone there were 297 deaths and almost 11,000 hospitalizations. While those over 65 years of age were disproportionally affected, these accidents injured people of all ages.
If you suffered a slip and fall accident in a store or business, there are several things we’ll need to know to move forward with your case. For example, if you fell in a store because of a slippery floor, we’ll need to investigate:
- Why the floor was slippery?
- How long had the floor been slippery?
- Were there any warning regarding the slippery conditions?
If the floor was slippery, we need to know why and whether it was unreasonably slippery.
We’ll also want to know how long the condition had existed before your accident. A jury is more likely to find a store owner negligent if the condition had existed for a significant period of time prior to your accident. The longer the condition existed, the more opportunity the owner had to know about it and take corrective measures.
Lastly, we’ll need to know what warnings, if any, were given. We’ll also need to investigate if the warning was sufficient given the circumstances.
The following conditions often lead to a slip and fall accident:
- Wet or slippery floors
- Loose floors, steps, or sidewalks
- Snow or ice
- Faulty staircases
- Poor lighting
If you have suffered a slip and fall accident, it’s important to speak with an attorney immediately. If we agree to take your case, then we will need to quickly investigate the premises on which you were injured. A prompt investigation allows us to collect evidence regarding any hazards that contributed to your accident.
What You Must Prove To Win Your San Diego Premises Liability Case
General negligence principles governs the liability of property owners for injuries to people on their property. You must establish the following elements in a premises liability cause of action:
- The property owner owed the plaintiff a legal duty;
- The property owner breached that duty; and
- The breach was a proximate or legal cause of injuries suffered.
You must also establish the factual elements listed in California Jury Instructions (CACI) § 1000:
- That defendant [owned/leased/occupied/controlled] the property;
- That defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- That plaintiff was harmed; and
- That defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s harm.
What is an Invitee, Licensee, and Trespasser in Premises Liability Case?
In the past, the duty of care owed to you by the property owner depended on your status. The three categories were:
You are considered an “invitee” when on the premises of a business. As an invitee, you are owed the highest duty of care. Commercial property owners must:
- Inspect the premises regularly before inviting customers in, and
- Must either correct hazards or warn visitors about them.
When you visit the home of another, you are considered a “licensee.” As a licensee, the homeowner is held to a lesser standard of care than a business owner.
A homeowner or renter also has to correct dangerous conditions or warn visitors but has no obligation to inspect the property. He only has to fix dangers he is aware of or that he should reasonably know about.
When you are on someone’s property without their consent, you are considered a “trespasser.” A property owner owes the lowest duty to a trespasser, such as a duty to warn them of deadly conditions which are hidden but the property owner is aware.
Rowland v. Christian – Premises Liability Law in California Redefined
Prior to 1968, a visitor’s status as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser on a property established the extent of the owner’s duty to the visitor. The exact obligations that a property owner had to specific guests varied depending upon the circumstances.
In Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 C2d 108, the California Supreme Court held that a visitor’s status no longer establishes the extent of the owner’s duty to the visitor. Instead, a visitor’s status may be considered among the factors used to establish duty of care.
As such, the status may be relevant to the scope of those duties or the foreseeability factor (see below). For example, the foreseeability of harm is greater for an invitee or licensee as opposed to a trespasser, given that it is more likely that an invitee or licensee will be present on the property.
To determine the scope of the landowner’s duty of care under the relevant circumstances, the Rowland Court established the following factors:
- The foreseeability of harm to the injured party;
- The degree of certainty he or she suffered injury;
- The closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered;
- The moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct;
- The policy of preventing future harm;
- The extent of the burden to the defendant and the consequences to the community of imposing a duty of care with resulting liability for breach; and
- The availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.
Additionally, a property owner may not be liable for damages caused by minor defects in the property. This is sometimes referred to as the “trivial defect defense.” (See Cadam v Somerset Gardens Townhouse HOA (2011) 200 CA4th 383, 388.)
You will need to determine if the property owner failed to live up to his obligations and if that was the cause of your injuries. Our experienced San Diego trip and fall attorneys will assess your case for free and help you to decide if you have a claim for damages.
How We Can Help After an Accident
Injury Trial Lawyers, APC is a trusted personal injury law firm with extensive experience representing clients after an accident. Our attorneys are prepared to help you with every part of your case including:
- Gathering evidence,
- Interviewing witnesses,
- Negotiating with the insurance company, and
- Presenting your case to a jury
You have the legal obligation to prove that the property owner or renter was to blame if you wish to recover compensation for a fall. We will do everything possible to help you make a strong claim.
Many premises liability cases settle outside of court. Our legal team has a proven track record of aggressively negotiating for our clients so they get the compensation they deserve. We will use our experience to help you obtain a fair settlement.
Contact An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
To learn more, schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. You pay no legal fees unless we recover. We are conveniently located in downtown San Diego or can make arrangements to visit you anywhere throughout San Diego County.