Premises liability represents a specific type of personal injury law. In a premises liability case, you have suffered injuries and other harm due to an unsafe condition on someone’s property. In many respects, this kind of case works the same as many other cases handled by attorneys for premises liability claims.
Who is Liable?
In any negligence case, you want to identify the responsible parties. For premises liability, those parties are the owner and occupant or person in control of the land and building where your injury occurred.
With the physical address, a Sherman Oaks personal injury attorney will search the land records and tax records to determine the owner at the time of your injury. If the alleged negligence took place in a store or office, chances are that the business owner rented the premises. The name of the owner of the business and, thus, the occupant, might be revealed on a business license certificate or an inspection card posted in the establishment.
Proving an Unsafe Condition
In California, the owner and occupier or person controlling property owes you a duty to use reasonable care to manage the property and keep it safe. Unsafe conditions for which a lawyer may pursue claims for you include:
- Wet or slippery floors caused by a leaking or spilled container
- Broken steps
- Insecure railing
- Lack of properly operating fire safety devices, such as a smoke detector or fire extinguisher
- Inadequate security resulting in criminal acts against the visitor, such as guest in a hotel or motel
- Dangerous animals
- Swimming pools lacking appropriate safety measures, such as a fence, wall, safety pool color or exit alarms
The proof of what happened to you can come from eyewitness testimony, but it makes a strong case to have images of the incident or the condition. As such, attorneys want video footage from either smartphones or the security camera, photographs taken at the scene, images of the premises posted on social media.
The Unsafe Condition and Injury Were Foreseeable
A property owner or occupier faces premises liability when the unsafe condition causes the injury. This involves typically a question of foreseeability. That is, the party you are trying to hold accountable either knew or should have reasonably known about the unsafe condition and that it would cause injury. To prove notice, a premises liability attorney seeks evidence of:
- The length of time an object or liquid has remained on the floor
- Frequency of criminal activity at the premises
- Failed inspections
- Prior dog bites, incidents of aggression by the animal, or other signs of an animal’s dangerous propensities
Depending upon the case, proof of foreseeability can come from:
- Police reports of incidents at the premises
- Insurance claims filed by the property owner
- Requests by and invoices to the property owner or tenant for repairs
- Inspection records from local building code officers
- Citations by animal control officers, such as for failing to restrain the dog
- Statements of employees, customers or other witnesses
The goal in a personal injury case is to seek compensation for your injuries caused by a negligent actor. The types of damages that an attorney pursues include the following:
Injuries. Medical records from the hospital, ambulance, your doctors, physical therapist, pharmacists and other medical providers document and illustrate the extent of your injuries. A slip, fall, trip or criminal assault can cause fractures, bruises, cuts and abrasions. Concussions can arise if you hit your head on a floor, other surface or an object. Through your medical records, we can examine the effect of the injuries on your memory, mood and physical ability to engage in your activities, work and recreation.
Past and future medical expenses. Your medical expenses represent a dollar figure of your injuries. This may include charges for the ambulance, emergency room or other hospital services, doctors’ visits, prescriptions and physical therapy. If you need ongoing treatment, a legal professional will seek an opinion from your treating physicians or evidence in the medical records of the necessity of the continued medical services.
Lost wages. Your injuries from a premises liability incident may result in your missing work. You would need evidence of your earnings before the incident and how long you have had to miss work. This may come from prior pay stubs, W-2 forms or tax returns.
Lost earning capacity. Related to lost wages is the element that your injuries have diminished your ability to engage in employment. Proof may come in the form of a disability rating or other indication of disability by a physician. As an example, the injury may leave you unable to lift objects above a certain, sit or stand long enough to perform job duties and might affect your memory or other cognitive skills.
Pain and suffering. California law treats pain and suffering as non-economic damages. In this category live harms such as anxiety, depression, discomfort, physical pain and sleeplessness. Generally, there is no specific cap in California upon pain and suffering.
Presenting the Case
As with any potential lawsuit, you need to act promptly after the slip, trip, fall or other incident in your premises liability case. In California, you have two years from the date of a personal injury to file a lawsuit. In premises liability cases, the statute of limitations normally will run from the date of your fall or incident. This is because at least some of your injuries would become apparent at the time.
Prior to filing a lawsuit, attorneys for premises liability claims will want to contact the insurance company to attempt a settlement. For that reason, a property injury lawyer may at the outset of taking the case ask the business owner and the property owner for copies of the insurance policies. This is done to learn how much insurance the premises owner or occupier has to pay for the damages you suffer.
If you have been the victim of an unsafe condition on someone’s land or building, the injuries may very well disrupt your daily life and finances. Getting the compensation you deserve and need takes The efforts of a premises accident lawyer who will help you gather all the necessary documents and evidence and present your case to the defendants, their insurance company and if necessary a court.