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Any situation where you suffer an injury on someone else’s property can be devastating, especially because you may not be aware of how this plays a role in legal matters. Under California law, premises liability laws exist that allow you to hold a property owner accountable should you suffer an injury on his or her property. However, there are several factors that must be determined when proving someone is liable for your damages and pursuing the compensation you are entitled to.  

You need a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney to help you fully understand your rights and options regarding premises liability law, including who is responsible and when it becomes an issue. It’s vital for you to speak with a lawyer should you ever have a problem and are injured on someone else’s property. If you need help navigating a claim for personal injury on private property, our team is here to help you understand your options moving forward. Below, we’ll answer some of the common questions you may have and detail how premises liability law works to better protect your rights.

COMMON LAW OF PREMISES LIABILITY

You may find yourself wondering, what is premises liability? Under the laws in California, there exists laws in which property owners must ensure that people on their grounds are safe from unreasonable harm. Matters of premises liability are often dependent on occupier’s liability and whether those who suffer harm are trespassers, invitees, or licensees. Each of these designations can change how a premises liability claim is handled and whether or not someone can take legal action to pursue compensation for injuries. 

The difference between premises liability and general liability, under California premises liability laws, includes:

  • On the premises existed a potential hazard that could cause someone to suffer significant harm such as a broken leg, broken arm, back injury, neck injury, head injury, brain injury, or other permanent damage. 

  • The owner of the premises was aware of the danger on his or her property, yet they did nothing to prevent it from causing harm to those legally on the premises. For instance, if there is a report of slippery floors, the property owner must take the necessary steps to warn the general population of the danger and work to clean it up so that the grounds are safe for use. 

  • The hazard was the cause of the injury you sustained and you can prove that negligence existed. You must show that the hazard has been reported to the property owner or they knew of it, yet they did not perform proper maintenance or repairs to keep you safe. 

The three main ways that California law classifies potential plaintiffs in a premises liability case are invitee, licensee, or trespasser.

An invitee is any person that has been invited onto the property by the owner for commercial benefit. For instance, if a property owner conducts business (such as a grocery store), the customers are invitees because they have been invited onto the premises for the purpose of purchasing goods. 

A licensee is someone who the owner invites onto his or her property for any reason not associated with business or commercial gain. In this case, you may be a licensee if your friend invites you to his or her home for a social gathering.

A trespasser, on the other hand, is someone who enters the owner’s property without having prior permission and for their own personal gain. When it comes to protection under premises liability law, each of these classifications has a specific set of laws regarding a property owner’s duty of care. 

Invitee:

Because an invitee is typically someone of the general public in a place of business, the owner must use reasonable care when ensuring safety on his or her premises. This means that they are actively warning the invitee of potential harm and taking steps to prevent the harm from occurring. 

Licensee:

As a social guest, you must show three things to prove premises liability. First, you must show that the owner (or occupier for a rented home) was aware of the dangerous condition. Second, you must show that he or she failed to fix the issue or warn you of the issue that could cause harm. Third, you must show that you were unaware of the risk. 

Trespasser:

Matters involving trespassers can become complicated as there are two separate situations which can alter the laws drastically. In the first situation, a trespasser is on a property illegally and is looking to benefit through sinister action (for instance, a burglar). The owner is not responsible for the trespasser’s safety. In the other situation, a trespasser is on the property illegally with no ill-intent (for instance, grabbing a lost item). In this situation, the property owner has no obligation to provide safety for the trespasser unless he or she knows that the trespasser is on the property regularly. 

Premises liability cases can seem complicated if you’re unsure of your classification or your ability to pursue compensation. However, with a Los Angeles Injury Attorney, you can recognize common locations where these situations occur, who is liable, and what damages you may be entitled to pursue.

POTENTIAL DAMAGES IN PREMISES LIABILITY

Because premises liability matters fall under the larger personal injury umbrella, the damages that you may be able to recover for your injuries are similar to any other case. Of course, the amount you may recover is determined by a number of factors involved in your case, such as the severity of the injury, the level of negligence involved, and more.

For instance, someone who suffers a traumatic brain injury would be able to recover more than someone who suffers a broken arm in most situations. Similarly, if there was intent behind the negligence, this defendant may owe more than a property owner who is a defendant because of an accident.

The damages you may recover in a premises liability case include: 

  • Economic damages
  • Non-economic damages
  • Punitive damages

Economic damages refer to all losses you experience in which you suffer monetary devaluation, such as paying for medical care, prescriptions, or being unable to work. Economic damages have a set monetary value because you can prove how much you lost through the use of receipts associated with your treatment and recovery, as well as pay stubs showing your income prior to the injury. The more you can show you’ve lost as a result of your injury, the more likely you can pursue in a premises liability case.

Non-economic damages are all those that do not have monetary amounts associated with them, thus making it harder to prove the severity of the losses. Non-economic losses cover pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, physical impact, and any other non-quantifiable loss. In many situations, this type of compensation is the majority of your recovery because it factors the impact the injury will have on your entire life, as well as how it can affect you moving forward, so it considers future losses. 

Punitive damages are much different than economic and non-economic damages and are rarer because they’re not there to solely compensate you for your injuries. While economic and non-economic damages are there to help you recover, punitive damages exist to punish the negligent. Punitive damages are issued only in cases where malice exists; for instance, if a property owner purposely puts a danger on his or her property with the intent to injure someone. 

In many cases, courts will use judicial precedent, meaning they may use results from previous cases with a similar scenario to determine the compensation owed in a premises liability case.

FUNDAMENTALS OF PREMISES LIABILITY IN CALIFORNIA

The fundamentals of a premises liability case are important for you to understand because it’s vital to recognize the types of incidents that are involved and where they happen most often. When you have a firm understanding of cause and liability, you can effectively work to build a strong case strategy and pursue the compensation you need and deserve. These cases most often involve negligent actions that include, but are not limited to the following: 

Inadequate security:

Property owners must provide adequate security in various situations where applicable. For instance, a property owner that is open late at night should have security patrolling lots and parking structures to prevent crime. If you get hurt because of a lack of security, you may have a premises liability claim.

Dangerous conditions:

Dangerous conditions can involve a number of potential problems such as hidden electrical lines, slippery floors, wet floors, uneven pavement, and slick stairs. Property owners must ensure that these hazards either do not exist, or warn invitees and licensees of the potential danger.

Slip and fall accidents:

Slip and falls can occur in numerous ways. For instance, if you find yourself walking an aisle at a market and there is a slippery substance on the floor with no warnings around it. You slip on it, fall, and land on your back. You can hold the store owner accountable for the damages that you sustain.

Property construction:

If property is not constructed properly, elements of that property can be dangerous. For instance, if handrails on a stairwell are not secured properly, someone who puts too much pressure on the rail can cause it to break and the person would most often sustain an injury. 

Dangerous work activities:

Many worksites create potential hazards for workers and others. For instance, construction sites have numerous areas where hazards are on the ground, including open trenches and cords. These elements cause potential dangers in which someone can slip and fall and suffer serious injuries.

It’s vital for you to recognize the different places where premises liability can exist and what your rights are should you suffer harm. Some of the most common places for premises liability include:

  • Public property
  • Private homes
  • Private buildings
  • Nightclubs
  • Apartment complexes
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Big box stores
  • Gyms

These are all places where licensees or invitees frequent, and it’s the responsibility of property owners to ensure that any danger or hazard is properly taken care of or that patrons have received adequate warnings. A plaintiff cannot sue a property owner if he or she is aware of the danger, yet ignores the warning signs and proceeds to do something to sustain an injury. It’s only when the plaintiff does not know of the danger and the owner does nothing to prevent harm from occurring. 

I WAS HURT ON SOMEONE ELSE’S PROPERTY. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

Now that you know the common ways premises liability occurs, it’s vital to recognize your rights and options moving forward. This includes when you can hold someone accountable for actions that cause you harm, how to proceed with filing a claim or lawsuit, and who is there to pay out the compensation you deserve. Of course, there are many factors within your own case that can alter how these situations work, and it’s important to understand what those are. 

First, we’ll talk about when it’s possible to hold someone accountable. As we’ve discussed before, someone is accountable for the injuries they cause when they don’t take proper care of their property. This goes beyond just the owner of the property and it can involve an occupier’s liability as well.

For instance, if a tenant at an apartment complex (the occupier) knows of a danger within his or her own unit and doesn’t notify the building owner, and a licensee suffers an injury, the occuper is technically accountable for the damages. The property itself had the problem, but the building owner would not have known unless the occupier tells him or her. 

When going through the legal matters, one of the most important things is showing that the owner or occupier had a duty to ensure the safety of the licensee or invitee. This comes down to multiple factors, including the following: 

  • There is a duty of care the property owner must provide to licensees, invitees, or known trespassers
  • There is a breach in that duty of care that can lead to significant harm
  • There was a foreseeability regarding the injury you suffer
  • There was a degree of certainty that you would suffer harm
  • There was a connection between the injury you suffer and the conduct of the property owner or occupier
  • There is fault to assess that puts blame on the property owner or occupier for the injury you sustain
  • There is a policy or duty of care in place to prevent future harm
  • There is an insurance provider from whom you can seek compensation

Who should a premises liability lawsuit be made against? Whereas legal matters involving car accidents go through the auto insurance provider, premises liability cases go through homeowners or business insurance to pay out compensation as needed to those who suffer injuries.

Many homeowners or business insurance policies contain language regarding the possibility of injury within the dwelling that would help to pay out compensation for harm suffered. Like auto insurance coverage, though, these are still companies who often prioritize profit over the well-being of claimants. There are also limits on insurance policies and in many situations, these limits are not adequate enough to cover the full scope of expenses you may suffer. 

With premises liability cases, it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible, including visible signs of the danger that exists and the lack of warning that would have prevented you from suffering an injury. Working with an attorney can help you to show that the property owner or occupier knew of the danger but did not work to remedy the situation. 

Much like personal injury lawsuits, in a premises liability lawsuit, you will start by filing the necessary paperwork and informing the property owner or occupier of your intentions. They are now the defendant in your legal matter and have the right to respond as they see fit. Should your case continue, it’s important to have a lawyer on your side who can show the necessary evidence to prove that negligence resulted in you suffering an injury. Once you get through the discovery phase, you may receive a settlement offer from the insurance provider. 

Accepting a settlement offer means that you waive your rights moving forward to sue the property owner or occupier for any additional compensation, except in very specific situations. Be sure you speak with your lawyer before accepting any settlement offer. The insurance company often uses these settlement offers to pay out much less than they should for cases involving severe injuries. If your settlement offer is not adequate enough to cover the full amount of your expenses, you may forgo the offer and work to pursue compensation through trial.

In any case, as long as you were legally on a property when you suffered harm, you should work with an attorney who can help to explain your options. It may be difficult to prove that the property owner was aware of the dangers on your own, but with a lawyer, you can work to look at all aspects involved to show negligence and liability. In these situations, you can use the vital information to she that the defendant is responsible for your harm, and thus should be responsible for paying out compensation to cover economic, non-economic, and potentially punitive damages. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED PREMISES
LIABILITY QUESTIONS

What is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is a type of law that holds property owners accountable should someone else legally on the property suffer an injury because of a known hazard. The property owner has a responsibility to ensure the grounds are safe and to warn invitees or licensees of the hazard or fix it to prevent injuries.

What is Involved In a Premises Liability Case?

Premises liability cases involve negligence on behalf of a property owner or occupier that causes another person harm. Typically, these cases involve a duty of care, a breach in that duty of care, causation, and damages.

What is the Difference Between Premises Liability and General Liability?

General liability typically overlaps with premises liability and covers bodily harm and property damage. If a property owner has general liability and premises liability insurance, it can work together to cover the cost of compensation.

What Happens if Someone Gets Hurt on My Property?

As a property owner, you must maintain your grounds. This means ensuring you have warnings of potential hazards and that any dangerous elements are fixed properly. Failure to do so can cause someone to suffer harm and you may be subject to a premises liability lawsuit.

What is a Liability Attorney?

A liability attorney is one who works to hold the responsible individuals accountable under civil law. In premises liability law, the liability attorney works to pursue compensation on behalf of the plaintiff in the case (the one who suffers an injury).

Who Should a Premises Liability Lawsuit Be Made Against?

The premises lawsuit goes against the property owner or occupier, but it is technically his or her insurance company responsible for paying out compensation. This can include homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or business insurance. For a situation in someone else’s house, you would be suing homeowner’s insurance for an injury.

Is Premises Liability the Same as Negligence?

Premises liability encompasses the responsibility that a property owner has to keep patrons on the grounds safe. Negligence is a type of act in which the property owner knows of and ignores a hazard that causes someone else to suffer an injury.

WORKING WITH A LOS ANGELES
PREMISES LIABILITY LAWYER

Your rights are important, and it’s crucial for you to know that insurance companies are often looking to take advantage of a vulnerable time for you. After an injury, you need money to help cover the medical expenses and lost income you may experience. You’re also dealing with the stress of your physical pain and emotional trauma. It’s during this time that the insurance company is often looking to offer you a low settlement in hopes that you need the money enough to take whatever you’ve been offered. However, if you do this, you run the risk of being unable to pursue legal action and compensation. 

Before you even speak with the property owner’s insurance provider, you should understand their tactics and work with a lawyer to counteract them. Some of the tactics that the insurance company uses against you include asking for a recorded statement, claiming coverage has lapsed, claiming your injuries exceed policy limits, and even stating that the property owner was unaware of any dangers. A recorded statement, while seemingly innocent, is looking to question your character or your initial report of the incident. Any discrepancies can lead to the insurance company trying to deny your compensation completely. 

At Pirnia Law Group, we make it our mission to provide our clients with the highest level of legal advocacy during a time when you need it most. We know that there are several issues you may encounter on someone else’s property, and pursuing legal action can be difficult when you’re unsure of your rights. We offer free consultations so you can get answers to your questions without having to worry about a financial obligation to hire our firm. You get your concerns addressed without additional financial strain. 

Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyer is here to help you through the difficult matters that lie ahead. We offer our services on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t pay anything unless we’re able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Trust in our team to champion your rights and go through the legal matters on your behalf so you can focus on your recovery. We’ll work hard to take on the large insurance company to pursue justice and compensation on your behalf, helping you towards the most favorable outcome possible.

We encourage you to reach out to our firm to discuss your legal options with a professional who can help determine the most effective method of obtaining compensation. Ready to get started on your case? Call us today!