What is premises liability insurance?
Premises liability insurance is similar to other liability insurance policies that pay for damages caused by the policy holder. By issuing the policy, the insurance company agrees to pay legitimate insurance claims for covered risks.
Premises liability insurance is not that different from auto insurance. If you get hit by another driver who has auto liability insurance, that driver’s auto insurance pays for your injuries and property damage, with some exceptions. The amount the insurance company pays is capped at the other driver’s policy limit. If your damages are higher than the policy limit, you must ask the driver to pay the overage. That often means filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Just as drivers purchase liability insurance, business owners purchase Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies. If a customer gets hurt while patronizing a business and files a premises liability claim, the insurance company defends the claim on behalf of the business owner. The insurance company only pays, however, if the accident circumstances include the elements of a personal injury claim. If the elements aren’t present, the business owner is not liable. Therefore, the insurance company does not have to pay.
How is premises liability insurance different from other liability insurance?
Although comparing CGL to auto insurance is helpful to demonstrate the purpose of the insurance, there are significant differences between them. The most obvious differences are the types of injuries covered and the type of policyholder. Auto insurance covers damages resulting from vehicle accidents. The policyholder is an individual driver. CGL insurance covers injuries resulting from premises liability accidents, such as when a store customer slips and falls on a wet floor. A CGL policyholder is a business.
Another huge difference that is probably only noticeable to premises liability lawyers and accident victims is the difficulty of getting an insurance company to pay on a premises liability claim. These claims are more complicated than many other types of accident claims. Proving fault – who caused the accident – is more difficult than proving fault in auto accidents, for example. If an accident victim can’t show that the policyholder is responsible for the accident, the insurance company won’t pay. I have successfully advocated for premises liability accident victims for more than 35 years. For every client, I draw on my experience to build a strong case that demonstrates the property owner’s negligence.
For an auto accident, police reports and traffic citations often help determine fault. Also, car crashes often have witnesses. In a premises liability accident, sometimes the only person around was the victim. Even if people saw the accident happen, figuring out what caused it can be tricky.
Will premises liability insurance pay if you fall at a business?
If you fall down the stairs at a bed-and-breakfast and break your leg, what happens next? After you have received medical attention, your thoughts will probably turn to logistics and expenses. If it is the start of your vacation, you may have to cancel excursions and visits to other destinations. You may need follow-up care. Perhaps the leg was too swollen to be set and put in a cast. Maybe you need additional scans to determine whether surgery is required. Who is going to pay for all this?
The answer is rarely straightforward. At first glance, it seems like the owner of the bed-and-breakfast should pay. However, he only has to pay if your injuries were caused by a dangerous condition on the property that he knew about or should have known about, and that he didn’t fix or warn you about.
If you file a claim, you will interact with the insurance company, not the inn owner. The bed-and-breakfast’s premises liability insurance will pay for your damages, should the insurance company agree that the owner is responsible. If the insurance company will not settle, you can take the next step of filing a lawsuit. Then a judge or jury will decide whether the inn owner was negligent.
Who caused the premises liability accident?
The resolution of your claim will focus on how and why you fell. The inn owner will be found at fault only if a dangerous condition existed that caused you to fall. Furthermore, the owner must have known or should have known about the condition. Other key elements of a premises liability claim are met: the inn owner owns the property, and you suffered injuries.
Was there a dangerous condition?
What might constitute a dangerous condition that would cause you to fall down the stairs? One dangerous condition might be stairs that don’t comply with applicable building codes. California law says that if a building code violation causes injuries, the owner is presumed to be negligent.
Another dangerous condition might be unevenly worn flooring, such as deep grooves worn in the center of each step. That would make the step surfaces uneven. Yet another example would be old carpet with edges that turn up enough to trip a person.
Were you negligent?
The insurance claims agents will work diligently to show that you caused your fall. Their goal is to prove that no dangerous condition existed on or near the stairs. If it turns out that there was a dangerous condition, they will try to show that you are at least partially responsible for the fall. Perhaps you ignored a sign saying the steps are uneven and guests should use a different staircase. Maybe you were drunk or carrying a suitcase that was too heavy for you.
California uses a comparative negligence approach to premises liability insurance cases. Therefore, both you and the inn owner can be found at fault for the accident. The total amount you’re entitled to receive as compensation for your injuries will be reduced in proportion to your fault for the accident. So, if you are found 40% responsible for your fall, the inn owner will only pay 60% of your damages.
How can an experienced premises liability lawyer help?
Your injuries are personal to me
If you have been injured at a store or business, first get care. Next, consult with an experienced premises liability attorney and do it quickly. If there was a surveillance video of the accident you want it to be preserved before the defense destroys it, and possibly your case in the process. I have been representing accident victims for 35 years and know that the sooner you talk to an attorney, the stronger your position when you deal with the premises liability insurance company.
In a free initial consultation, I will talk to you about your options for next steps. We will discuss the information you should gather to decide whether to file a claim. For example, for a stairwell accident, you should take pictures of the stairs where the accident happened. The photos should document the flooring, the lighting, the slope of the steps, the angle of the stairs, the stair height and depth, and the placement of the handrail.
I take your injuries personally, so I will handle every aspect of your case and make sure you receive maximum compensation. Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks today at 888-394-1174. You can also use the convenient online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
You are under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover damages for your injuries. I offer bilingual services and I am available 24/7 to talk to you about your premises liability injuries.
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