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Common Premises Liability Cases in California

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Posted on April 24, 2023

Property owners in California owe a duty to others to take reasonable measures to prevent safety hazards that could result in injuries on their property. Whether it’s a homeowner with a swimming pool in a family-friendly neighborhood or the owner of a busy store, California law requires all property owners or managers of property to ensure the safety of visitors, tenants, patrons, customers, and others who are legally on their property. When a property owner breaches this duty, it leaves them liable for damages—typically paid through their insurance policy. Lawsuits for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to an accident sustained on a property may be brought against commercial property owners, private homeowners, management agencies, and government entities. 

Understanding Slip-and-Fall Accidents

Slip-and-fall accidents are by far the most commonly litigated premises liability claims. This type of accident can occur from slick flooring, recently mopped floors, slippery floor waxes, leaky pipes, spilled substances, or debris. A slip and fall can cause serious injuries including:

  • Head injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Facial injuries
  • Broken teeth
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Bruises and lacerations

A commercial property owner or manager may be liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages if they fail to take reasonable precautions to protect people on their premises from slip-and-fall accidents. Taking reasonable precautions means promptly addressing safety hazards by cleaning up spills, preventing leaks, using non-slick cleaning products, and placing “Wet Floor” warning signs after mopping. 

What Other Types of Accidents Make up Common Premises Liability Cases?

Similar to slip-and-fall accidents, many premises liability cases come from injuries sustained in trip-and-fall accidents. These accidents cause injuries similar to those stemming from slips and falls, but occur due to an uneven walking surface such as broken floor tiles, unmarked step-ups or step-downs, sloping floors, unmarked level changes, cracked pavement, and cracked or damaged sidewalks.

Some other common premises liability accidents include:

  • Falling objects, including tree limbs, shelving, and storage boxes
  • Structure collapses, such as balconies, stairways, and railings
  • Dog bites and other animal attacks
  • Swimming pool accidents and drownings
  • Assaults or attacks due to poor security or lighting

When any of the above accidents occur and cause harm and the property owner was aware of the safety hazard, or should reasonably have been aware of the danger, and yet failed to promptly address it, it leaves them liable for the economic and non-economic damages suffered by the injury victim.

Points of Liability in Premises Accidents

In tort cases litigated in civil court, the burden rests on the plaintiff (injured party) to prove liability on the part of the at-fault party. For example, in a slip-and-fall case, the injury victim must prove the property owner was liable by showing the following points to be true:

  • That the property owner owed the victim and others a duty of care to take reasonable measures to keep them safe on their property
  • That they breached this duty through negligence
  • That the negligence directly caused the injury
  • That the injury caused significant economic and non-economic damages to the plaintiff.

Once a case meets the above points, a San Diego personal injury attorney can craft a compelling case for compensation for damages.