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The Legal Responsibilities of Property Owners in Personal Injury Claims

Under California premises liability law, property owners have a duty of care. This makes them responsible for warning others of potential hazards and dangers on their property. The property owner’s responsibility is to discover, announce, and take care of all hazards or dangers their property may pose to others.

The landlord must maintain their property diligently to protect others. If a personal injury claim arises due to a property owner’s negligence, that owner may be responsible for the injured party’s damages.

Our personal injury attorneys take a closer look at the legal responsibilities of property owners in personal injury claims.

What Is Premises Liability Law?

The terms and conditions of premises liability law vary from state to state. Still, in California, it is the property owner’s sole responsibility (their “duty of care”) to let the public know of any hazards on their property. This duty of care is what any reasonable person would do to keep their property safe for others.

For example, if someone slips and falls down a set of damaged and unsafe stairs on a landlord’s property with no warning sign or enclosure, that landlord is entirely liable for their injuries should the injured party take the claim to court.

However, if those stairs were labeled as dangerous or closed off and someone still used them, grounds for a slip-and-fall lawsuit wouldn’t exist.

The Specifics of California Premises Liability for Property Owners

California Civil Code § 1714 outlines exactly what property owners and managers must do to fulfil their duty of care. These include:

  • Maintaining and inspecting their property
  • Conducting all necessary repairs
  • Addressing all dangerous conditions
  • Giving the public adequate warning of existing hazards.

These are the primary duties of care for all property owners in California. Should a property owner’s negligence in fulfilling these duties result in someone else’s injury, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed. That property owner will be responsible for the plaintiff’s economic and non-economic damages.

What Does a Plaintiff Need to Do to Prove a Property Owner’s Negligence?

In California, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in slip-and-fall cases; in other words, it’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that the defendant’s negligence or malicious intent directly or indirectly resulted in their injuries.

Here is what a slip-and-fall plaintiff must prove in court in California:

  • That the accused leased, owned, occupied, or controlled the property
  • That the accused demonstrated negligence in the maintenance or use of that property
  • That the plaintiff suffered injuries
  • That the accused’s negligence played a significant role in causing your injuries.

A jury may use several factors to determine whether a property owner breached their duty of care. These factors include the property’s location, the likelihood of injury, whether the property owner knew or should have known about the hazardous condition that caused the injury, and more. Ultimately, the plaintiff must establish these criteria.

What If Multiple Parties Manage and/or Control the Property?

Should you suffer a slip-and-fall accident in California and multiple parties share responsibility for that property, you may sue and bring to court all parties involved. The defendant doesn’t necessarily have to own, manage, use, and control the property simultaneously: An individual or organization who controls the property in some way is sufficient for fault.

In California, property owners are directly responsible for the negligence of any third party they may hire to work on their property. For example, if a property owner hires an independent contractor who’s negligent in repairing a walkway on their property, the property owner is still directly liable for all personal injuries that arise as a result.

What Kind of Compensation Can a Slip-and-Fall Victim Win in California?

A victim may be awarded economic and/or non-economic damages in California personal injury cases. Economic damages have a set dollar value, such as lost wages from missing work. In contrast, non-economic damages do not have a set dollar value, such as the pain and suffering the defendant’s negligence caused you.

Example of economic damages awarded to plaintiffs may include compensation for:

  • Medical expenses, both past and future
  • Travel expenses
  • Lost wages from missing work
  • Any other expense you incurred relevant to your injuries.

Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Mental anguish
  • Mental scarring
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Loss of a body part; and
  • Pain and suffering.

Even rarer for slip-and-fall cases are punitive damages, which the court mandates the defendant pay the plaintiff as a penalty. These are more common in sexual assault cases than in slip-and-fall cases.

Win Your San Diego Slip-and-Fall Case With Help From Our Experienced Attorneys

Winning maximum compensation for your injuries starts with hiring the right help. The highly-awarded HHJ Team will fight your case relentlessly. We were all recently selected as Super Lawyers and named the “Best Litigation Firm” in San Diego County. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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