If you’ve recently been injured on someone’s property, you have many concerns. Maybe you twisted your ankle after tripping on a hidden sprinkler head at a neighbor’s house. Perhaps you fell while walking on uneven steps at a local store. Or maybe you slipped on water in your grocery store produce section.
Regardless of how you got hurt, you’d like some help paying your bills and making up for lost time at work and home. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s negligence.
If your injury occurred on someone else’s property, your request for compensation is called a premises liability claim. These are complex types of personal injury claims. Victims should call an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. A premises liability attorney knows what to do, for example, if the property owner has no liability insurance or says the accident is the victim’s fault.
The following information may be helpful as you plan for your initial consultation with a premises liability lawyer.
What injuries count as premises liability accidents?
Premises liability is a legal concept that says property owners must keep their property reasonably safe for people who come onto the property. If owners allow dangerous conditions to exist on their property, the owner must pay for injuries caused by the dangerous condition.
As you can imagine, the list of accidents that could occur on someone’s property is long. The examples below give you a sense of the most common incidents I have seen in my 35 years of representing premises liability victims. “Slip-and-trip” or “slip-and-fall” is a common name for premises liability cases because the dangerous condition causes a victim to slip and then trip or fall.
Dangerous conditions leading to injuries include the following:
- Torn carpets
- Uneven flooring
- Loose handrails
- Broken or cracked sidewalks and patios
- Loose or broken boards or bricks
- Wet floors
- Hidden sprinkler heads and holes
- Objects in walkways, aisles, or parking lots
- Narrow stairs
- Uneven stair step heights
- Stair handrails placed at the wrong height
- Poor lighting
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Trampoline injuries
- Porch and deck collapse
What makes an accident a premises liability claim?
Slips and falls happen for a variety of reasons. Toddlers fall as they learn to walk. Adolescents trip as their bodies rapidly grow. Adults fall when distracted or when getting used to bifocal glasses. Everyone risks falling when walking and texting. None of these situations would count as a premises liability accident.
Premises liability law requires four elements to exist, as explained in the California Civil Jury Instructions about dangerous conditions on public property. If any of these elements is not present, a property owner is not liable for injuries occurring on the property.
1. Ownership or Control of Property
The property owner must have possession or control of the property. Sometimes, for this element, the “property owner” is the tenant because the tenant controls and manages the property. This is common for commercial properties where store owners and businesses lease property. The retail or service business is liable for accidents on the property, not the property owner that rents the property out.
2. Dangerous Condition on Property
A dangerous condition, like the items listed above, exists on the property. The property owner has a duty to keep the property safe. This means that the property owner needs to look for and fix hazardous conditions. A property owner cannot escape liability by saying that he didn’t know there was a problem. If the dangerous condition was something a court would say the property owner should have known about, the owner is responsible for resulting injuries, even if he didn’t actually know about the condition.
Sometimes an owner can’t make a hazardous situation safe or can’t promptly fix it. If a dangerous condition exists, a property owner must warn people about the danger. The ever-present “wet floor” signs outside of newly cleaned public restrooms illustrate this point. While the floors are wet, they are a dangerous condition. The dangerous condition exists until the floors are dry. The property owner could dry the floor with towels or a giant blow dryer, close the restroom until the floor completely dries, or warn people of the danger. Most businesses choose the last option.
Property owners must repair dangerous conditions within a reasonable amount of time. For example, in a grocery store, if a shopper spills a drink and doesn’t tell anyone about it, the store probably isn’t responsible for having it cleaned up before the store’s next “safety sweep,” which should occur every hour or so. If the spilled liquid is still on the floor eight hours later and someone slips on it, the store is probably responsible. Employees should have discovered the problem within those eight hours.
Sometimes a property owner cannot fix a dangerous condition because of the unreasonable expense or difficulty. In those rare situations, the property owner must take steps to ensure proper warnings are in place.
3. Injuries Occur to a Person
A person must be injured on the property. Without an injury, no premises liability claim exists. So, a shopper can’t see a dangerous condition, avoid it, and still sue the store owner. Injuries do not necessarily have to be physical injuries.
4. Dangerous Condition Caused The Injuries
The dangerous condition must cause the injuries. A property owner is only liable for harm caused by her action or inaction. For instance, if a person must walk around prominent wet floor signs to enter a bathroom but doesn’t read the signs or look at the wet floor because he is texting, when he slips, the property owner will say the victim fell because he was texting while walking, not because the floor was wet.
The dangerous condition on the property must create a reasonably foreseeable risk of the type of harm that occurred.
Who Compensates the Victim for Premises Liability Accident Injuries?
Victims must seek compensation for injuries from the “right person.” Identifying that person (or people) is much easier with the help of an experienced premises liability attorney. Sometimes the responsible party is not the person victims would expect.
Property Owners are Liable for Injuries
The law is clear about property owners being responsible for paying for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on their property. The fuzzy area is around whether the situation was indeed a “dangerous condition,” and who was responsible for the accident. Because few premises liability cases are clear-cut, an experienced premises liability lawyer can make a huge difference in the amount of compensation paid to a victim.
What if the Owner Has No Liability Insurance?
Insurance companies usually pay victims in premises liability cases. Liability insurance protects property owners from having to pay out of pocket. But what if the owner has no liability insurance?
If there is no liability insurance, the property owner is personally liable. That means the owner must use his or her own money and assets to pay the victim. Oftentimes, if a property owner has no liability insurance, the owner also has no money or assets to pay the victim. In these cases, an experienced premises liability attorney will explore every option for compensation, including looking for additional responsible parties who are insured.
Contact a Long Beach Premises Liability Attorney for Help
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
For 35 years, I have helped accident victims obtain fair compensation for personal injuries. My premises liability experience means that I know how to handle complicated situations, such as when a property owner has no liability insurance.
Because your injuries are personal to me, I handle all aspects of your claim. I will select the best strategies and experts to ensure the property owner pays you maximum compensation.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Learn how an experienced Long Beach premises liability lawyer can help if you’ve suffered an accident injury.
You will be under no obligation, and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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