Victims who are hurt on someone’s property have several hurdles to clear before they can recover damages for their injuries. Property owners will assert many defenses to avoid responsibility for causing the accident. One defense is the presence of a Not Responsible for Accidents or Injuries sign.
What is a Not Responsible for Accidents or Injuries sign?
Disclaimers, warnings, and notices about risks are found in many public places and businesses. Regardless of how they are worded, they mean “enter at your own risk” or “use at your own risk.” They put a visitor to the premises on notice that the property owner will not pay for any injuries that happen on the property if the injuries are related to the topic of the warning sign.
For example, public swimming pools and hot tubs must display a number of warning signs. Pool warnings explain whether a lifeguard is on duty, the pool hours, and safety rules at the pool. Spa pools must list several “not responsible for accidents or injuries” warnings, including these:
- “Elderly persons, pregnant women, infants and those with health conditions requiring medical care should consult with a physician before entering the spa.”
- “Hot water immersion while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, drugs or medicines may lead to serious consequences and is not recommended.”
“Not responsible for accidents or injuries” signs often contain general warnings, such as playground signs saying “Adult supervision required. Play at your own risk.” Premises liability disclaimers can also warn of specific dangers such as damaged equipment or beehives. Again, the message is that visitors assume all risks for injuries.
Does a “not responsible for accidents or injuries” sign prevent a victim from seeking compensation?
Property insurance companies argue that whenever a property owner posts a warning sign, the duty to warn of a dangerous condition has been met. In my 35 years as a Long Beach Premises Liability Lawyer, I have never seen a case that simple.
When an injured person asks me for help, we always walk through the elements of a negligence case to determine whether they have a claim that will lead to payment for their injuries. An actionable premises liability claim must include four elements:
- Possession or control of the property
- A dangerous condition on the property
- An injured victim
- Causation: the dangerous condition caused the victim’s injuries.
Winning a premises liability claim depends on proving that the property owner breached his duty to the injured victim. The duty of a property owner is to keep the property in a safe condition, to monitor the property for dangerous conditions, and to repair dangers or provide warnings about the dangers.
Defenses to Premises Liability Claims
Property insurance companies assert many defenses to premises liability claims, including these:
- The Insured didn’t have “control” of the property and therefore was not obligated to keep the property free from dangerous conditions.
- The property owner could not have reasonably known about the existence of the dangerous condition.
- The Insured was in the process of fixing the dangerous condition in a timely manner after learning about the condition.
- Warning signs were adequate, and the injured person assumed the risk after seeing the signs.
- The injured person is responsible for his injuries; they are unrelated to the dangerous condition.
- The injured person was negligent after being warned about a dangerous condition.
The goal of all these defenses is to protect the insurance company from paying for the victim’s injuries. In my premises liability practice, whenever any of these defenses are raised, I work with the victim and expert witnesses to disprove the defense and ensure just compensation is obtained.
In my experience representing thousands of clients, a disclaimer on a property does not automatically prevent a victim from obtaining compensation for her injuries.
What makes a Not Responsible for Accidents or Injuries sign effective?
Warning signs can prevent accidents. They can also shift liability from a property owner to a visitor on the premises. To accomplish one or both of these goals, a disclaimer must be effective.
I have represented many victims who recovered damages because of ineffective warning signs. An effective warning sign has these qualities:
- Placed where a visitor is likely to see it before encountering the dangerous condition.
- Clearly visible and not covered or blocked by plants or objects or obscured by dim lighting.
- Lettering is large enough and dark enough to be easily read.
- Written in a language understood by most people who will encounter it.
Another consideration in deciding whether a sign is effective is whether the sign is required. Local or state ordinances, codes, and rules may require signs in certain places. For example, the California Building Code requires public pools to post signs. The Code specifies what the signs must say and the size of the letters on the signs. The Code also dictates where property owners must place pool signs.
If a sign at a public pool does not meet the minimum requirements of the California Building Code, the sign is ineffective. If someone is hurt at a swimming pool with signs in the wrong place or of a smaller size than required, the pool owner is liable for injuries related to the warnings on the signs.
Getting Help From A Long Beach Premises Liability Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
My law practice exclusively handles personal injury cases. I focus on helping accident victims obtain just compensation after a negligent person hurts them. I am a skilled Long Beach Premises Liability Lawyer who has represented thousands of victims over the last 35 years.
Your injuries are personal to me. I handle all aspects of your claim until you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 today to talk with me about your accident. You can also contact me through the convenient online contact form. I offer a free consultation with no further obligation. You owe nothing unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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