“Premises liability” refers to personal injury claims where you get hurt on someone else’s property. Here are important things to know about California premises liability cases.
A premises liability case requires more than just getting hurt on someone else’s property. There has to be negligence.
Let’s imagine that there is a nice man named Bob. Bob is grocery shopping at a large chain store in Salinas, California, when he trips on his shoelace and falls down, injuring his knee. He calls a Salinas personal injury attorney to ask if he has a case. After all, he got hurt on the property of a big company. But if the only cause of Bob’s injured knee is that he tripped on his shoelace, he will not have a successful premises liability case. Not only must the injury occur at the store, but Bob must be able to prove that the store has liability for Bob’s injuries. This means that the store had to contribute to Bob’s injuries in some way, not just by existing, but by being negligent. Negligence occurs when the property owner did not exercise reasonable care in maintaining their property and that negligence is what caused your injury. In other words, there was something unsafe about the property. For example, if Bob had tripped due to a loose piece of carpet that created a hazard, he might have a case against the store.
2. Sometimes a third party (not the property owner) is responsible.
Property owners are not responsible for the negligence of third parties or other people on their property – to a point. For example, let’s imagine that a woman named Celia is walking to her car in the dark after leaving a bar one night when she is attacked by someone in the parking lot. In order for Celia to be able to bring a claim for her injuries against the bar owner, she would need to prove that the bar knew or should have known of the risk she would be attacked and could have acted reasonably to prevent her attack. If there was a history of attacks in that same parking lot, and the bar had inadequate security measures, Celia might be able to bring a claim. Let’s say that you’re at a restaurant when another customer spills a drink on the floor. You walk through the spill just a couple of seconds after it happens and fall down. The restaurant is not negligent in that scenario. But if the restaurant had a reasonable amount of time to realize there was a spill, put up warning signs, and clean up the mess - but failed to take these steps - you would have a good chance of proving that the restaurant was liable.
3. Your injury might be caught on video. But that doesn’t mean the property owner will give you the video voluntarily.
Security cameras are increasingly common, especially now that they can be purchased cheaply online and are relatively easy to install. If you get hurt on commercial property, such as at a store, there is a good chance that your injury was caught on camera. On residential property, there might be a doorbell camera. While you can always ask, the property owner is under no obligation to show you the video or give you a copy. You may need to compel the property owner to give you the video footage by filing a lawsuit. A California personal injury attorney can help with this process.
4. The insurance company will almost always try to blame you, in whole or in part, for your own injuries.
There are situations where it is clear that the other side is 100% at fault for your injuries. For example, if you are stopped in traffic at a red light and someone rear-ends you, it is very likely that the other driver is totally responsible. But in premises liability cases, something called comparative fault is very common. Comparative fault occurs when more than one party is responsible for an injury. In premises liability cases, the property owner or their insurance will argue that you are partly to blame for your own injuries. One of the most common defenses that comes up is the “open and obvious” defense. Let’s say you trip on a raised sidewalk ledge. The defense will argue that the raised sidewalk ledge was clearly visible, or open and obvious, and you could have avoided tripping if you had taken more care to look where you were going. Mercado Kramer’s Salinas and San Jose personal injury attorneys have a successful track record of arguing to shift blame back onto the property owner. For example, one of our attorneys represented a woman who suffered a brain bleed after tripping on a raised sidewalk ledge in front of her apartment building. The apartment complex owner argued that our client should have been familiar with the sidewalk, since she lived there, and should have been looking where she was going. The attorney was able to show that the woman was temporarily distracted by a nearby commotion as she walked and that her temporary distraction was reasonable. This helped the attorney obtain a settlement of $800,000.00 for the client.
5. The steps you take immediately after your injury are very important to the success of your case.
There are several important steps to take right away if you suffer an injury on someone else’s property. First, if you are medically able to, make sure you photograph the hazard that injured you and get contact information for any witnesses. Report your injury to the property owner. If you get hurt at a property like a store, you can ask the manager to make a written report. You should also ask if there were any cameras that might have caught your injury and request that the store preserve or keep any video recordings. If you do not report your injury right when it occurs, do so as soon as possible. It is very important to seek medical treatment as soon as you are able to. When you seek medical care, clearly explain where and how you got hurt to the doctor. And do not wait to consult a qualified California personal injury attorney about your claim.
This blog provides general information, not legal advice! Call us at 888 311-4050 today to talk at no cost to our San Jose personal injury attorneys and Salinas personal injury attorneys.