Top Three Premises Liability Claims in Southern California
The duty of care, which applies to residential and commercial property owners in California, is based on the story of the Good Samaritan. This guy went out of his way to help an injured traveler. Likewise, property owners must go out of their way to ensure that social and commercial guests are safe. How far must owners go out of their way? That answer depends on the factors listed below.
The damages in a premises liability claim, however, are usually fixed by the same laws that establish the duty of care. Usually, fall and other victims are entitled to compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. A Los Angeles personal injury attorney might also obtain additional punitive damages, in some extreme cases.
Duty of Care
To determine the duty of care in a premises liability claim, many states cling to an outdated victim classification that very few jurors, and very few Los Angeles personal injury attorneys, really understand. California, which is known for being on the cutting edge of the law, discarded that classification system in the early 2000s and replaced it with a variable duty of care. The questions to consider include:
- Did the owner have exclusive control over the property?
- Could the owner have easily taken steps to prevent the victim/plaintiff’s injury?
- Did the owner have actual or constructive knowledge (should have known) about the injury-causing hazard?
- How often do people come onto the property?
- What’s the probability of serious injury?
Usually, the more factors that are present, the higher the duty of care. This responsibility usually ranges from a duty to refrain from intentional harm (e.g. setting bear traps for trespassers) to the aforementioned duty of reasonable care.
Despite the clear advantages of the California model, most other states still use the victim classification system. For the most part, old habits die hard, especially in the law.
Premises Liability Claims
The aforementioned compensation is available in premises liability claims if a victim/plaintiff proves negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. At least, that’s true in most premises liability claims.
These injuries are, by far, the most common premises liability claim. The average fall-related medical bill is about $40,000. Other economic losses, such as lost wages, and noneconomic losses might be three or four times that amount.
Wet spots, uneven walkways, and loose items, like rugs or rails, cause most slip-and-fall injuries. Sometimes, it’s hard to prove that owner negligence caused the fall. Generally, the only witness is the victim, and the victim’s credibility is often a question mark.
Fortunately, California law includes a broad res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) law. In most cases, if negligence usually causes a certain injury and the owner exclusively controlled the premises, jurors may assume that owner negligence caused that injury.
Falls from a height are more common in job injury claims. Usually, workers’ compensation covers such injuries. Victims don’t have to prove negligence to obtain compensation for their economic losses.
Animal attack injuries work a bit differently as well. The Golden State has a limited strict liability law. Owners are responsible for bite injuries, even if they didn’t know the animal was vicious. Section 3342(a) usually doesn’t apply to head injuries, broken bones, and other knockdown injuries.
Attorneys can also use negligence, or a lack of care, to obtain compensation. Usually, these claims rely on scienter (knowledge), which is also known as the one-bite rule in this context. Owners are negligent if they know their animals are dangerous and they fail to properly control them. Evidence on this point usually includes aggressive barking, vicious snarling, and other such pre-bite behavior.
Assumption of the risk is a common defense in both fall and dog bite claims. If the owner put up a warning sign, like “Caution Wet Floor” or “Beware of Dog,” the insurance company must prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what it meant.
The duty to provide a safe environment includes a duty to provide a secure environment. Individuals are legally responsible for assaults and other such crimes. Property owners may be financially responsible for them. Broken cameras, unlocked gates, and other security gaps give evildoers a chance to, well, do evil things. The same thing is true if the security level is too low (e.g. an unarmed guard when an armed guard is reasonably necessary).Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, contact Sharona Hakim, Attorneys at the Law Offices of Eslamboly HakimLawyers can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.
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Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.