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Premises Liability

Caution Sign “The proper test to be applied to the liability of the possessor of land … is whether in the management of his property he has acted as a reasonable man in view of the probability of injury to others … .” Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108

Did you get injured in a public area and need the advice of a premises liability lawyer in California? Premises liability occurs when someone becomes injured while on the property of another, be it commercial or residential, and the owner of that property has failed to maintain a safe environment. It is the responsibility of the owner of property or an establishment to maintain safe conditions for the public. If a dangerous condition exists on the property and the property owner and/or tenant knew or should have known about the condition in time to remedy the condition, they may be found negligent and responsible for the medical expenses and pain and suffering resulting from a slip and fall, trip and fall, assault and battery or other incident caused by the dangerous condition on the property.

Some of the most common areas of premises liability include:

Slip and Trip and Fall Claims

There can be any number of causes for someone to slip or trip and fall on commercial or residential property. It only takes one misstep to take a tumble and fall flat on your face or back, which can cause serious trauma. Common causes of slipping incidents include slick floor conditions from moisture or oily substances like grease or soap. (See Slip and Fall Claims). When the coefficient of friction is such that your foot loses traction upon normal strides, you can go down and strike your head, neck or back. Common tripping hazards can include merchandise that is misplaced and jutting out into aisles within a store, defective sidewalks and other walkways, stairs that are poorly constructed or maintained where steps are uneven or rails are missing or in disrepair.

Assaults and Battery

Assaults and batteries unfortunately occur on and within commercial and residential properties. They can happen during a heated exchange in a night club or in a parking garage when a person is leaving work to go home. Serious beatings and even rapes occur in and around businesses where people expect to be safe and secure from such heinous activity. Whether a landlord, manager, property owner or lessee may be found either partially or fully liable for such events depends upon a myriad of factors including prior assaults or criminal activity in and around the area or structure, whether the battery was committed by an employee of the business (e.g. bouncers) , and any number of other facts that would provide prior notice of the potential for offensive touchings to occur.

Falling Objects

Objects falling down upon people and striking them in the head or knocking them to the ground happen frequently in all types of commercial and residential environments. Inventory can be stacked improperly (either too high or unevenly causing shifting) in retail stores including big box stores like hardware, home and office supply retailers. Likewise, outdoor environments including homes can have trees that have not been properly trimmed causing branches to fall and crush people and property. Any time a heavy object falls prey to the forces of gravity due to negligence in the maintenance of the property, a claim may lie for resulting personal injury or death.

Malfunctioning Equipment

We all expect to be safely transported between floors on elevators and escalators but, unfortunately, glitches do occur causing drops, jerks and other jolts that may injure passengers. Likewise, areas under construction often have heavy equipment like cranes, bulldozers, road graders, and earth movers. Sometimes these are negligently operated or simply go on the fritz and do not function properly and people are injured or killed.

Parking Lot or Parking Structure Incidents

Parking lots and high rise parking structures should be areas where people are able to safely park a vehicle and enter a structure unharmed. Unfortunately, many people are maimed or die every year in and around these areas. Incidents range widely but, include the following:

  • Negligent operation of motor vehicle by valets or parking lot attendants
  • Slip and falls on grease built up over time
  • Tripping hazards like concrete abutments
  • Motor vehicle collisions with other cars or pedestrians
Construction Sites

Areas under construction are notorious for causing bodily injury or death to persons attempting to travel through or near them. People fall in holes, get gouged by re-bar sticking out into a walkway, fall from high points with inadequate railing, are electrocuted by exposed wiring, or get hit by a person negligently operating heavy equipment.

Importance of Hiring an Experienced California Premises Liability Attorney

The insurance companies are spending millions of dollars to defend these cases and are sparing no expense on attorneys’ fees to keep the amount of liability awards to a minimum. If you are a victim in a premises liability case, you will need an attorney that is experienced in handling these types of cases. Our tough, smart and determined legal team will fight for your rights to get the compensation that you deserve. We will conduct site inspections, retain experts like engineers and take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that evidence is preserved and the claim is presented in such a way as to maximize recovery for present and future medical expenses, lost earnings, lost future wages, and the physical pain and emotional trauma caused by the incident. Our consultations are always free and we charge no fees unless and until we recover money for you.

Examples of Recent Successes:
  1. Client was struck while standing in the service bay of a local car dealership. Driver was the valet charged with returning his car. Client suffered major knee and back injuries requiring multiple surgeries. The impairment from these fractures and ligament tears caused him to miss work for months. Total settlement $935,000.
  2. Client was injured when he fell into a hole dug for light post footers on the edge of a construction site. The hole was covered by a flimsy piece of particle board and a gap was left in the covering despite the fact that the crevasse was juxtaposed to a walkway. Total settlement $285,000.

Note: Past results are not a guarantee or warranty of future results. Each case must be evaluated on its individual merits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Premises Liability Claims

Many people have questions about premises liability claims. We have detailed some of the most commonly asked questions we receive below.

1. I Fell at a Store. Should I Report My Accident to the Store Manager?

If you have suffered an injury in a store because of a hazardous condition, you should immediately report your accident to the store manager or the person who has the highest position of authority in the store at the time of your accident. The manager or supervisor should be the person who takes your report of what happened.

If you were transported to the hospital by an ambulance after your accident, you, a friend, or a family member should contact the store manager as soon as possible to report your accident. You should also ask for a copy of the incident report either before you leave the store or after you leave the hospital. You should get a copy of the report even if a police officer did not respond to the scene, and the store manager wrote it.

If you do not report your accident to the store manager, a jury will likely have serious questions about whether your slip-and-fall accident happened. While you might still technically have a legal claim, a jury might either return substantially lower damages or award you nothing at all if you did not immediately report your accident.

When you report your accident, do not complete any part of the form yourself. Instead, the manager should complete the form. You should also not agree to sign the form since the manager might include statements that do not accurately reflect what happened. You have no legal obligation to fill out or sign an incident report form for a store manager, but you do want to make sure that one is completed and that you get a copy of it.

2. Should I Take Pictures of The Area Where I Fell?

After you fall, you should take as many pictures as possible quickly. You can use your smartphone's camera. Make sure to take wide-angle and close-up shots from multiple directions of the specific location where your fall happened and any conditions that may have contributed to your accident.

Taking photos immediately after your accident is critical. If you are too injured to take pictures yourself, ask a family member or friend to take pictures for you. Without photos, it can be difficult for attorneys to properly evaluate a slip-and-fall case. Having photographs that were taken right after your accident can also provide crucial evidence for determining who is at fault for causing the condition that led to your accident and injuries.

Not long after your fall, a business owner will likely repair or clean up the hazard that caused you to fall. However, if you did not take pictures right after your accident, you should still go back and take pictures. Some business owners fail to repair hazardous conditions even after someone falls and is injured.

Taking pictures right after your accident is especially important if you slipped and fell in a liquid that can be mopped up, tripped in a hole, or fell over something that needed obvious repairs. Liquids can be removed, holes can be filled, and objects can be repaired. You want to capture photographic evidence of the condition as it existed at the time of your accident. Finally, make sure to take photographs of your injuries and seek medical attention to treat them.

Many stores also have video cameras installed. Your attorney can ask for this type of evidence to be preserved and secure copies of any footage that shows your accident. Combined with photographs that you take, video footage and photographs can offer important evidence in support of your claim.

3. Should I Agree to Give a Recorded Statement?

You should never agree to provide a recorded statement to a business or its insurance company after you suffer an injury accident on someone else's property. The business's and insurance company's goal in asking you to provide a recorded statement is to obtain statements that can be used against you in your accident claim.

An insurance adjuster or company representative might contact you and tell you the company needs a recorded statement to help in their investigation of your claim. Even if the person acts as if he or she cares about you and your injuries, you should remember that the person's goal is to protect his or her employer's bottom line. Any statement you give will not be used to fairly evaluate your claim. Instead, the company will parse through your statement to pull out anything that can be used to dispute your claim.

If you have already given a recorded statement, you should still talk to a personal injury attorney at the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers as soon as possible. An attorney can review the statement and evaluate whether you have said anything that might hurt your claim. If you have not given a recorded statement but are asked to give one, you can decline and tell the company that you want to consult with an injury attorney before agreeing to talk about your accident. Similarly, you should also not agree to sign anything that an insurance company or business might send to you after an accident. Take these types of documents with you to your consultation with your attorney for a review.

4. Can I Sue The Owner of an Apartment Complex After Being Assaulted?

Whether or not you might have a claim against the owner of an apartment complex for a criminal assault will depend on several factors. It will depend on where the assault happened, whether the owner knew of any previous incidents and whether the owner posted warnings, hired security, installed lights, or took similar actions.

If you were assaulted in a common area, the key factor will depend on the owner's knowledge of the risks of violent crimes occurring on the grounds of the complex. If the owner was previously aware of non-violent crimes, that might not be enough to surmise that the owner knew that there was a risk of a violent assault. However, if the complex is located in an area with a history of violent assaults and similar crimes, he or she might be liable in a claim if he or she failed to take reasonable steps to protect visitors and residents, including hiring security, installing cameras, or providing additional lighting in dark areas.

This type of case is known as a negligent or inadequate security claim. To assess potential liability, the details of your assault and the details of all of the past incidents that have occurred will be important.

If the property owner tried to take steps to mitigate the risk of a violent assault by hiring a contractor to provide security, the contractor might be liable if it failed to provide enough security to protect you from an attack. The determination will be fact-specific and will require you to talk to an experienced injury attorney.

5. What can I Recover if a Property Owner is Responsible for My Accident and Injuries?

In a premises liability case, the monetary awards that might be provided are referred to as damages. The monetary amounts that you might recover will depend on a large number of factors. An attorney cannot provide a quote for the value of your case over the phone and will instead need to complete a careful analysis of the evidence, facts, and circumstances to value your claim.

Compensatory damages in a premises liability claim fall into two categories, including special damages and general damages. These types of damages are meant to compensate victims for their losses.

Special damages compensate you for your pecuniary losses for things like your past and future medical expenses, wage losses, and property damages. General damages compensate you for your non-economic losses and are more difficult to quantify. These include things like the physical pain and suffering you have gone through, your mental anguish, disability, disfigurement, and others.

Under rare circumstances, punitive damages might be available. These damages are not meant to compensate you. Instead, they are awarded to punish defendants who have engaged in wanton or willful conduct or who have acted with a conscious disregard for the likelihood that someone might be seriously injured. In most premises liability cases, punitive damages will not be recoverable. However, if the defendant in your case acted in a particularly outrageous manner, your attorney can evaluate whether punitive damages might be recoverable in your case.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.