Premises Liability: When are Property Owners Responsible for Injuries?

Accidents and injuries can happen anywhere at any time – even while you are on property owned by another individual or commercial entity. Because there are unique legal issues involved in this type of situation – including issues that directly relate to the legal obligations of property owners – victims involved in accidents while on another’s property must pursue any personal injury claim under the legal theory of premises liability.

Premises liability is a legal concept that holds property owners accountable for accidents and injuries that occur on their premises. Although there are unique laws involved over how liability exists, various situations that meet exceptions, and who is eligible to file claims, there are a few general types of incidents and issues that lead to these cases, including:

  • Slip and fall accidents (at another’s home, a business, or other commercial properties)
  • Improperly maintained facilities
  • Negligent or inadequate security (leading to third party assaults, including sexual assault)
  • Pool accidents, including drowning and near-drowning
  • Exposure to harmful or toxic substances
  • Construction site accidents (including injuries to passerby)
  • Dog bites

Who is Responsible?

Determining who can be held liable for an accident and injury in terms of premises liability cases depends on the individual facts involved, as well as several important factors. These include:

A property owner’s duty of care – Generally, property owners have a legal obligation to ensure visitors and guests who come to their property are kept safe from preventable harm. As such, premises liability claims focus on how premises owners failed to uphold this legal duty. Because a breach of duty typically arises from negligence, certain negligent acts can result in property owner’s being held liable, particularly when:

  • Property owners fail to address potential hazards they knew or should have known about (i.e. wet floors or slippery surfaces, uneven flooring, tripping hazards, exposed cords or electrical wiring, open holes, insufficient lighting, etc.)
  • A property owner should have foreseen how a particular hazard or issue on their premises could lead to accidents and injuries
  • Property owners failed to take reasonable steps to address and repair a dangerous condition, or warn guests and visitors

Status of visitor – The legal status of a victim injured on another’s property can also factor into liability. Generally, property owners can be held liable for damages suffered by invitees (including invited social guests and visitors to commercial properties like stores), as well as individuals who are present on the property with the owner’s consent (such as an outside maintenance worker). However, property owners are not always liable for injuries suffered by trespassers – except in some situations where there is a reasonable expectation trespassers will likely enter the property (for which they should provide warnings), and in cases where children wander onto property without authorization. In cases of children – where property owners know that certain attractive nuisances (such as a pool, large equipment that a child may want to play with, etc.) could attract children, property owners may still be held liable even if a child was legally trespassing.

Other issues – There may be certain legal issues involved in unique cases. In dog bite cases, for example, strict liability laws make owners responsible for injuries suffered by guests or visitors lawfully on their property or in public spaces. Special rules may also apply in cases of lessors and landlords, as do exceptions, particularly as it comes to the limited liability of a landlord to ensure safe conditions once a property is leased.

Premises liability cases can introduce a number of complex legal concepts, which is why they demand the attention of proven attorneys. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our personal injury lawyers have the experience to address these challenging issues, and to fight back against the insurance companies and commercial property owners that want to pay victims as little as possible. If you or your loved one has been injured while on another’s property anywhere in Los Angeles, Ventura, or the surrounding areas of Southern California, do not hesitate to call (800) 462-7160 for a free consultation.