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Premises Liability FAQ

Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Injury from Dangerous Condition of Private Property Cases

1. Is there a name for cases involving personal injuries caused by the dangerous condition of property?

Yes. These cases are referred to in the law as “premises liability” cases.

2. Can I bring a lawsuit if I am injured or a loved one is killed as a result of a dangerous condition in somebody’s home, or are premises liability cases limited to cases against businesses?

Although premises liability cases are most commonly filed against businesses such as stores, they can also be filed against the owner and possessor of a private house or land. Most homeowners have insurance coverage to provide protection against injuries or death caused on their property.

3. Who can I sue under premises liability law and what if I’m partly at fault?

The possessor of land and/or a building is ordinarily the person responsible for injuries or death caused on the land or building. However, a company or individual that carries on an activity on the premises on behalf of the possessor will also be responsible. Thus, a janitorial firm or security firm will be held responsible for an injury or death caused by the negligence of one of its employees working in a building.

If plaintiff’s own negligence is the only cause of his or her injuries and the plaintiff is 100% at fault, the plaintiff will recover no money in a legal case.

However, California is a comparative negligence state and a plaintiff can still recover monetary damages for their injuries if there is at least one other party at fault. However, the amount of the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the amount of the plaintiff’s negligence. Thus, if the plaintiff were to receive $1 million and the plaintiff was found to be 50% at fault for causing their own injuries, the award would be reduced by 50% to $500,000.

4. What do I have to prove in order to win a premises liability case?

You have to prove that the condition in question exposed you to an unreasonable risk of harm and that the possessor/owner of the property had no reasonable basis for believing that you would discover the condition or realize the risks involved.

Further, you would have to prove that the defect is significant and not trivial, and that the defendant either created the defect or it was aware of it at the time you were hurt.

5. What are some examples of dangerous conditions which give rise to lawsuits?

There are many different circumstances in which a dangerous condition may be found. Some of the most common are slippery floors, stairs and handrails not built to code, store displays that fall on customers, inadequately fenced swimming pools, poorly maintained apartments, houses, stores or other businesses.

6. Can I bring a case against a store or business owner if I am injured by another person while I am on their property?

Sometimes. Generally speaking, a business owner has a duty to protect you from wrongful acts of other people if they threaten your safety and injury resulting from these acts were foreseeable, i.e., predictable.

However, before a business owner will be held responsible, you must prove that the owner had reasonable grounds to anticipate the wrongful conduct and that there was a probability you would be injured as a result of the misconduct.

These cases generally involve criminal misconduct which results in serious injury or death to a person visiting a premises. The cases are usually difficult to win unless the plaintiff can prove that there were similar acts of criminal misconduct at the exact location of the plaintiff’s incident and the defendant failed to take adequate measures to protect against the predictable misconduct.


7. How long do I have to bring a lawsuit for premises liability?

Like most personal injury and wrongful death cases in California, you have two years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit. However, the time period may be extended in cases where there was a delay in discovery of your injury or the negligent cause of the injury.

Further, be careful. What you think is private property or a private building may in fact be public. A claim must be filed against a public entity or government within six months.

8. What damages am I entitled to recover in a premises liability case?

Plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress, and, if the plaintiff can establish bad enough conduct on the part of the business or homeowner punitive damages (i.e. damages intended to punish the business or homeowner).

If the plaintiff dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the plaintiff’s death as well as emotional distress damages which stem from the loss of society care and comfort of the decedent. If the survivors can prove that the plaintiff lived for a period of time between the negligent act and death, they can also bring an action for punitive damages.

9. Do I need an attorney to bring a premises liability case?

There is no requirement that you retain an attorney to bring a premises liability case. In cases of minor injuries, you may be better off attempting to settle the case without an attorney. However, it is important to make sure that your injury is, indeed, minor and completely healed before you attempt to settle the case. In cases of more serious injury, it is generally advisable to retain an attorney. In all but the most obvious premises liability cases, the business or homeowner will deny responsibility or under-evaluate your damages and the cases usually have to be litigated.

10. Will my case settle out of court?

Probably. Ninety to 95% of premises liability cases settled at some time before trial.

11. What if I am injured at a friend’s house. Is it okay to sue?

That will be up to you. Most people who own homes have homeowner’s insurance for just this type of occurrence. If you are seriously injured and your friend is clearly at fault, most people will not take it personally as long as you do not sue for more than their insurance coverage. But this is not always the case.

Most legal questions require complex answers. The answers provided here may not be complete or fully accurate but attempt to provide consumers with abbreviated answers. For more detailed answers to these questions, a consumer should check out other articles in this section of this website, research other legal articles and texts on the subject matter or consult with an attorney.

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