It Is commonly understood that businesses are sometimes responsible for their customers’ injuries. However, accident victims do not always understand the extent of this responsibility. There is a significant difference between an avoidable accident caused by a company’s negligence and an injury that could not have been foreseen or prevented.
This is where the legal theory of premises liability comes into play. If you have been hurt on the property of a public organization, this theory will determine if the organization is liable for your injuries. This article discusses the definition of premises liability, how liability is determined, and how it may be applied in your personal injury case.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is the legal theory that holds location owners responsible for injuries on their property. It is used in civil courts to determine if the owner of a location must compensate accident victims for the injuries they have suffered. A premise is a physical location such as a home, brick-and-mortar business, or any other public place.
This is one of two main theories through which businesses can be held accountable for injuries they cause. The alternative is product liability, which covers injuries and accidents caused by something the company produces, including cars, medication, appliances, toys, clothing, and other consumer goods. Businesses that provide services at their location are generally covered by premises liability, not product liability.
These legal theories aim to ensure that people who have been harmed by the negligence of property owners and businesses can pursue compensation. Under the theory, the owner of a property could be considered liable if they did not take adequate measures to protect people on their property. This includes guests, customers, and anyone they reasonably anticipate being on the grounds or using their facilities.
How Premises Liability Is Determined
There are two main types of personal injury claims: those where the injuries were caused by someone’s purposeful malice, and accidents. Malicious injuries include fistfights and other attacks and often coincide with criminal charges. In these cases, it is usually clear who may be liable for the harm. However, if someone is hurt in an accident, it is not always clear whether another party is responsible.
In general, another party may be liable for accidental injuries if they have been negligent in some way. Negligence is determined by a straightforward, four-point test:
- A liable party must have a duty to the victim.
- They must have breached their duty.
- The victim must have been injured or suffered a loss.
- That injury or loss must have been caused by the liable party’s breach of duty.
In California, premises liability theory more carefully defines duties and breaches.
- The party responsible for the property must take reasonable care to keep it in a reasonably safe condition.
- They must use reasonable care to discover unsafe conditions and fix them or adequately warn people about the issue.
Failing either of these tests means that the party responsible for a premise is negligent.
Property owners are not the only parties who may be held liable under this theory. Businesses that rent, occupy, or control a premise may also be liable if they have assumed responsibility for maintaining the property. For example, many restaurants lease their locations but take on full maintenance responsibilities. In this case, the restaurant would be liable for injuries caused by negligence, not the property owner.
Demonstrating a Lack of Reasonable Care in Premises Liability Cases
If you have been injured in an accident on a company premise, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. In California, you will need to demonstrate that the party responsible for the property didn’t take “reasonable care” to maintain the property. However, reasonable care can vary depending on the property, the accident, and your reason for being present.
Reasonable care is defined as “the degree of caution and concern for the safety of the self and others an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the same circumstances.” Essentially, you will need to argue that the party responsible for maintaining the property was unreasonably careless, and this caused your accident. That means proving that the owner should have reasonably expected someone to be on the property and that the conditions they permitted were reasonably likely to cause someone harm.
There are many ways you can accomplish this. For example, a hotel should reasonably expect people to walk through the lobby on a regular basis. If the lobby has hard-to-see tripping or slipping hazards and the hotel does not warn people about them, it may not be taking reasonable care to prevent falls. This is an example of failure to fix or warn about an unanticipated danger.
Similarly, if a company has a sign secured to the front of its building, it should regularly inspect it to ensure it’s in good condition. If it fails to do so, it is not taking reasonable care and could be liable for injuries if the sign falls and hurts someone. This is an example of failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.
Contact Our Bay Area Premises Liability Law Firm
You have the right to expect that companies will keep their premises reasonably safe and warn you if that isn’t possible. If you’ve been hurt because a company failed to meet those standards, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries. The best way to determine if you have a case is by scheduling a consultation with the expert personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Reuben J. Donig.
We are dedicated advocates for clients who have been injured through another party’s negligence. You can discover more about how we can assist you by calling 650-391-0615 or messaging us online today.