Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of property owners to exercise reasonable care – the owner of the property is not the insurer of safety under the law – in the management of their property in order to avoid injuries to anyone who uses or might be present on the property grounds. Premises liability guidelines stipulate that a property should be kept in a reasonably safe condition at all times. The duties of the property owner include inspecting for and correcting dangerous conditions that might cause harm to property users. A proprietor, commercial landlord, or the owner/s themselves may be held financially responsible for injuries caused as a result of dangerous conditions on the property in the event that he or she knew, or should have known, about the dangerous conditions in sufficient time to make necessary safety repairs. In many cases, the element of notice of the dangerous condition in question is contested if the condition has not been there for long.
Premises liability cases often extend liability for unsafe conditions that the owner designed or built into the property, as well as those dangerous conditions that result from neglect and/or lack of maintenance. A key concept in premises liability tort law is the reasonableness of the conduct of both the property owner/occupiers and the injury victim. Even tresspassers are protected under California law.
Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall
We at the Law Offices of William C. Bibb can help you establish property owner liability for damages that are the result of dangerous conditions on their property. Liability can sometimes extend to workers, visitors, and residents of the property in question.
A Slip-and-Fall accident usually results from a slippery condition, and the person involved usually falls on his or her backside. Common slip-and-fall injuries are neck, back, and head injuries. These injuries can be very serious and should never be underestimated. That is why it is very important for the victim of such an accident to document the dangerous condition with photographs and witness testimonies whenever possible.
A condition like a highly waxed floor can cause a person to slip. In a case like this, it would be important to keep the shoes that you were wearing at the time of your fall as evidence. A professional engineer could actually measure the coefficient of friction with a special device, and be prepared to testify in court. However, simply saying that the floor was slippery when you fell does not necessarily prove that the conduct of the property owner was unreasonable or that the condition was unreasonably dangerous under the circumstances.
It takes an experienced attorney to document the dangerous conditions found on the property, and prove that these conditions existed for a period of time such that the owner or occupier of the property knew -- or should have known -- of the existence of the dangerous condition in time to fix, repair, or warn.
Building Codes often set the standard of care in premises liability cases. There are other safety codes that often apply as well. These codes deal with railings, stairs, and access for handicapped persons, along with all other aspects of construction and maintenance. The sooner you call the Law Offices of William C. Bibb to assist you with your premises liability case, the more likely it is that you can receive monetary damages for your serious injuries.
Examples of Premises Liability Incidents
- Falling down broken stairs
- Slipping on wet surfaces
- Drowning in a swimming pool
- Getting burned in a fire
- Being bitten by a dog
- Being mugged or assaulted because of inadequate security
These are all typical situations where people are severely injured by the negligence of land owners and occupiers. The owner or occupier of land may be a theater, shopping mall, grocery store, government building, apartment building, or private home.
Property owners cannot usually be held liable unless they had notice of the dangerous condition in question. That notice can be actual notice or "constructive notice," meaning that the property owner knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known that the dangerous condition existed. Keep in mind that if the proprietor constructed the building in such a way that a dangerous condition was created, the notice element of your case is satisfied. Property owners can be held accountable for failing to comply with their duty to inspect or properly maintain their property too. Illustrating this type of liability can be done by proving that the hazardous condition was not inspected by the property owner within a reasonable amount of time. Property owners should post warning signs identifying wet floors and other hazards. They are also obligated to mop up spills, repair damaged steps, and use caution cones and signs whenever dangerous conditions cannot be repaired right away.
The key to avoiding premises liability is acting reasonably and responsibly in the maintenance and management of one's property. The owner of the property is not an insurer of your safety; he or she is charged with using such care that a reasonable person would use in the maintenance and foreseeable use of his or her property. This is an important fact to understand when considering the circumstances surrounding any premises liability case – a fact that many personal injury attorneys overlook.
Just as the owner or occupier of land must act reasonably to avoid liability, the law requires the injured person to exercise due care for his or her own safety. This legal doctrine is referred to as comparative negligence. The legal assumption is that if a danger is open and obvious, then a reasonable person will generally avoid that danger by looking where he or she is walking. As a result, property owners do not need to warn of hazardous conditions that are so obvious that a reasonable person would notice such a hazard. Likewise, if the dangerous condition in question is a trivial defect, it is not fair to expect the property owner or occupier to prevent any injury from that condition.
Comparative negligence requires that the plaintiff exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety. In California, that means that the degree of the plaintiff's negligence will be compared to that of the defendant owner or property. The percentage of negligence on the part of the plaintiff is then subtracted from the entire negligence of all defendants in the case. The amount of damages recoverable by the victim can therefore be reduced by his or her degree of responsibility for the accident.
Injuries Suffered in Premises Liability Cases
Sprains, burns, fractures, lacerations, spinal injuries, and severe head trauma (traumatic brain injuries) are common injuries. Many of these injuries are serious enough to retain an experienced attorney to achieve compensation in order to help pay for the hospital bills, medical bills, time lost from work, and pain and suffering. The Law Offices of William C. Bibb handle multiple premises liability cases each year.
What to do after an Accident
If you were injured on someone else's property, there are several steps that you should take to protect your legal rights:
-- Be sure to file an incident report with the property manager and/or owner of the property. That report will help document that you were injured. Note the time, place, date, and nature of the injury you sustained, and keep a copy of that report for your personal records.
-- Take photographs of the scene of the accident incident. No matter if you tripped on a broken stair or fell because of a hole in the ground, take photographs with a time and date stamp. The dangerous condition in question might be fixed immediately following the incident, leaving you with little actual proof that the dangerous condition ever existed.
-- Get the contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. It is invaluable to have a witness in your case who can corroborate your account of the accident.
-- DO NOT sign settlement documents or provide any tape-recorded or signed statements before talking to an experienced California premises liability lawyer. If you accept a small settlement right away, your case will be closed and you will not be able to collect all of your items of damage later on. If you do not understand the complex legal issues of your case prior to giving a statement, or you do not properly secure the necessary evidence to support your claim, you are very unlikely to recover significant monetary damages.