Do You Have a Case? Facts and FAQ’s About Premises Liability

In California, if you are injured on someone else’s property, and your injury resulted from an unsafe condition, you may have a legal claim against the property owner. Here are some FAQ’s about California premises liability and your rights under state law.

What kinds of property are covered by California law?

Property includes stores, parking lots, and other commercial buildings and their surrounds. It also includes job sites, including constructions sites, and land and buildings owned or controlled by municipal entities such as cities and towns, water districts, and the state itself.

What does the law require of property owners?

The person who owns or controls a property has a duty under the law to maintain that property in a safe condition for anyone who enters the property, including visitors, customers, suppliers, contractors and other tradespeople, and workers.

What kinds of unsafe conditions are covered?

The property owner is responsible for unsafe conditions that the owner created or allowed to develop. Examples would be broken pavement that made a walkway unsafe, an unsafe elevator that is not repaired, a failure to keep stairwells properly lit, or a spill that was not cleaned up. Property owners or their designated representatives are expected to show reasonable diligence in inspecting property for hazards, and seeing that they are resolved.

Are unsafe conditions on job sites covered?

The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 is very clear about employers’ obligation to assure that employees have a safe and healthful workplace. This would include maintaining halls and stairwells in the workplace free of hazards, installation and use of safety equipment on machinery and provision of appropriate safety equipment for workers.

Are there other kinds of unsafe conditions?

Here is a list of additional conditions that frequently lead to injuries:

  • Trash or debris left where it can be a hazard
  • Broken or missing railings
  • Broken steps
  • Exposed electric wires
  • A hole left uncovered, and without warning signage
  • Failure to install smoke alarms, or smoke alarms not working >
  • Lack of security lighting, or lighting not working
  • Emergency exits not marked, or locked during working hours
  • Hazardous materials not stored safely.
  • Vehicles, tools, and other potentially dangerous objects not stored securely
  • Warning about worksite hazards absent or inadequate

What can I do if unsafe conditions on someone else’s property caused my injury?

If you have been seriously injured because of unsafe conditions, you may have a claim against the person or entity that controls the property. You should consult as soon as possible with an experienced premises liability lawyer, who can help you determine how to proceed?

Why do I need to act as soon as possible?

If there is any question of negligence, it is critical to talk to witnesses while their memories are fresh, and to gather evidence before it is destroyed or lost. Moving quickly on your concern can improve your prospects of a successful resolution.

How do expert witnesses get involved in premises liability lawsuits?

An experienced premises liability lawyer may work with safety experts, including safety engineers who can testify about safety standards and legal requirement and point out the ways that a property owner failed to meet those requirements.

Lawsuits can be expensive. How can I pay for my case?

Premises liability lawyers usually work out a contingent fee agreement. This means that the lawyer will be paid only if the client’s case is resolved successfully, either by a negotiated settlement with the property owner, or if this is not possible, by a court case resulting in a judgment in favor of the claimant. The lawyer’s fee is an agreed-on percentage of the settlement. A contingent fee arrangement is helpful for many people, because the person who has been injured does not have to front any money for the cost of filing, depositions, expert witness fees and other costs of prosecuting an expensive lawsuit.