We have personal injury laws in place to ensure that individuals who are unjustly injured will be able to seek damages that cover their medical bills or lost income. Even a simple slip and fall could result in serious and life changing medical issues so it only makes sense to allow individuals to get justice in this manner.
But in order to determine the winner of your case it is important to be able to attribute fault or blame to the proper party. In some types of cases this can be quite hard to do but premises liability cases tend to be a little more straightforward in this way, though that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily easy to win!
What Premises Liability Laws Does California Have?
California premises liability laws are based around the idea of negligence. Negligence is an interesting factor in these cases and pretty much the entire outcome of a premises liability case is dependent upon negligence on the part of the defendant.
California Civil Code 1714(a) explains the importance of negligence as:
“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person…”
This very clearly states the three most important elements of a premises liability case. First, it very clearly states that an individual does not need to act with intention in order to be held responsible for an injury. Second, it tells us that these laws apply to everybody and not just specific groups of people. Lastly, it very clearly extends that responsibility to the management of a property.
It is important to note that it isn’t just the owner of the property but rather the manager. In many cases these would be the same individual but they aren’t always. This component helps us to begin to identify who is at blame in a premises liability case.
Who is at Blame in a Premises Liability Case?
There are two steps that have to be taken in order to prove who is at blame in a premises liability case. It must first be proven that you are taking your suit up against the correct person. This happens before going to court, as you would be wasting yours and the court’s time otherwise. Once you have determined the correct person, you then must prove their negligence in court.
To bring a premises liability case against somebody you must check off four criteria as set forth by Californian law:
- You must show that the defendant owned, leashed, occupied, controlled or managed the property on which you were injured.
- The defendant must have been negligent in their maintenance of the property. Keep in mind, this is a point which will be argued at length later in court.
- You must be able to prove that you were injured, typically by supplying medical records.
- The defendant’s negligence must have been the cause of or a substantial factor in causing the injury you suffered.
When discussing the negligence of a property owner or manager we often use the term “duty of care.” This simply means that the person in question has a duty to care for or maintain the property. Proving a premises liability case is still all about convincing a jury that your side is the right one and there are a number of factors that could play into that:
- The location of the premises may matter, especially if lack of illumination played a role.
- The likelihood that somebody would enter into the premises from the same way you did (for example, through the front door rather than through a back-window).
- The likelihood of an accident or injury occurring because of some obstacle or feature of the property.
- How serious an injury was faced and how serious an injury was risked because of the defendant’s negligence.
- If the defendant knew about the dangerous condition that caused the injury or not.
- What actions were taken to try to reduce the risk of injury on the premises.
- How much control did the defendant have over the danger? Did their actions make it worse?
When considering a premises liability case first determine who a suit would be levelled against. Then start considering how to answer these questions and present these factors. It’s also an extremely good idea to get pictures of the dangerous condition as soon as possible after being injured so that they don’t have time to fix the issue before legal action can be taken.
What are the Possible Damages Available in a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
An injury can bring a ton of struggle into your home as you deal with being off work, having to pay medical bills and having to deal with any emotional or psychological trauma caused by the injury, just to name a few issues that arise following an injury.
Californian law allows you to seek compensatory damages including:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Ongoing medical care
- Wages you lost from being off work
- Wages you lost because your capacity for earning has been damaged due to the injury
- Compensation for scarring or disfigurements you’ve suffered
- Compensation for your pain and suffering.
In cases where the accident causes a wrongful death then you could seek damages for the burial expenses, the cost of the funeral, support for the family that has lost an income stream and compensation for the loss generally.
In rare cases, a premises liability case may have room to allow you to seek punitive damages. These require the defendant to have intentionally caused the accident or to have acted with such recklessness as to cause death or catastrophic injury. However, there is a thread element which is more common to these cases and that is when the defendant intentionally took steps to destroy evidence of their liability.
How do I Start a Premises Liability Lawsuit?
If you were injured on somebody else’s premises then you may have grounds for a premises liability case. The best way to start moving forward is to contact an experienced attorney such as those at Sweet Lawyers. They’ll help you determine if you have a case and work with you to win it.
Give us a call at (949) 504-5523 to see how we can help today.