When you go to someone’s home or property, you probably don’t expect the worst to happen, or anything bad, for that matter. You assume that the premises will be free of hazards or anything that could possibly cause you harm. However, we know that this is not always the case.
When an accident or injury occurs because a property owner failed to maintain their premises, the injury victim is able to take legal action by filing a premises liability lawsuit.
Our Fresno injury attorneys are dedicated to advocating for victims of premises liability. Below, we discuss everything you need to know what your legal rights are after sustaining an injury on someone else’s residential property.
Property Owner Responsibility
Under California’s premises liability law, homeowners have a legal responsibility to act with a certain duty of care that involves keeping their property “reasonably safe” by:
Consistently inspecting the property
Maintaining the property
Repairing any potential hazards
Giving visitors adequate warning of dangers
Now, determining what is considered “reasonably safe” can be difficult because what one homeowner considers safe may not fit into another person’s definition.
However, there are certain questions that an attorney will work to answer in order to determine whether or not a property owner took the legal steps that they should have, such as:
Was the dangerous condition something that the owner had control over?
Did the hazard exist long enough that the owner should have known about it?
Was the building regularly inspected for dangers?
Did the owner already make plans to fix the issue or mention the issue at all?
Did an unnecessary amount of time pass between when the owner first knew about the hazard and when they made plans to fix it?
After finding the answers to these questions, an attorney will be able to paint a broader picture of the incident and whether the property owner legally did everything within their power or knowledge to fix hazards for visitors.
If it is proven that the property owner, in fact, did not uphold their duty of care to maintain reasonably safe premises, they are liable for injuries. A premises liability claim would most likely be filed with their homeowners insurance or another insurance carrier.
Premises Liability at Residential Properties
The bottom line is if you invite someone to your home, you are responsible for making sure that they stay safe and know of any potential hazards that linger. Here are a few common instances of premises liability accidents for property owners to keep in mind.
Slip and Fall Accidents
This is the most common type of premises liability accident, mainly because it can occur in almost any condition and can be caused due to many different factors, including:
Uneven driveway or pavement
Falling off a ladder
Falling due to inadequate lighting
Wet floors or concrete
Loose floorboards, rugs, or mats
Swimming Pool Accidents
Young children are most at risk of pool injuries, but really no one is immune to them. Common injuries include:
Diving board injuries
Falls from wet concrete
Dog Bite Injuries
Dogs are incredibly territorial animals, especially within their own homes. Property owners have a responsibility to keep visitors safe and could be held liable if they fail to:
Restrain their dog from attacking
Warn someone of the animal’s dangerous habits or disposition
In addition, California follows a “strict liability” rule when it comes to dog bite injuries. The law essentially says that a dog owner is always liable if their dog bites another person, even if the dog was provoked or had no history of violence.
Four Elements for Establishing Liability
A premises liability case is similar to any other injury case involving negligence. In order to successfully pursue compensation for damages, four elements must be proven in court:
Duty of Care. The defendant was the owner of the property, therefore had a legal duty to keep their premises reasonably safe.
Breach of Duty. The property owner failed to uphold this duty, therefore acted with negligence.
Causation. This failure directly caused the accident that the case involves.
Damages. You incurred damages as a result.
If it is proven that all four elements are present in your case, then your attorney will calculate the entirely of your damages in order to help you seek maximum compensation for:
Current and future medical expenses
Lost wages and lost earning capacity
Pain and suffering
Scarring or, disfigurement
Diminished quality of life
How to Keep Your Home Safe
With this in mind, property owners can take certain actions in order to ensure that their residences stay safe for all. Here are some accident and injury prevention tips:
Light up dark areas of your house so everything is clearly lit and visible
Secure rugs and runners to the ground
Be wary of guests around visitors
Put warning signs on any potential hazards
Cover exposed cords or wires
Put fencing around pools
Have an adult supervising children swimming at all times
Make sure someone knows CPR in the home
Secure animals who may become dangerous or violent
Helping You Recover Damages
If you or a family member sustained injuries on someone else’s property, it’s imperative to hire legal representation to protect your rights. Just because you file a homeowner’s insurance claim does not mean the insurance company will readily pay up. You want someone on your side with experience negotiating with insurance companies and who has your best interests in mind.
We understand that it may be difficult when your injury occurred at the residence of a friend or someone you know. You probably don’t want to offend this person or have them believe that you are pursuing a claim simply to make an extra dollar.
Pursuing a premises liability claim is not about being opportunistic. It’s about getting the compensation you need to cover the entirety of your current and future medical expenses, as well as other damages.
If you need future surgeries, physical therapy, or time off work to completely recover, it’s not fair for you to have to pay for all of this yourself, nor may you even have the financial means to even do so.
Contact Fowler Helsel Vogt
The Fresno premises liability attorneys at Fowler Helsel Vogt are here to stand in your corner as your legal advocates. We will put you first and fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
Do you want to learn more about your legal options? Contact our firm at (559) 900-1280 to get started on your premises liability case.