Santa Rosa Premises Liability Lawyer
Under California law, property owners and occupiers have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition and to warn guests and visitors of dangers that may not be apparent to them. This legal duty applies to people who own, possess, or control property. To fulfill this duty, an owner must inspect and maintain the property, repair potentially hazardous conditions, and warn others of dangerous conditions.
Premises liability claims are complicated because injured victims have to meet certain procedural and legal requirements to recover damages. Santa Rosa premises liability attorney Michael Henderson has successfully represented California injury victims in their claims for damages against negligent land and business owners. A premise liability attorney can help you understand how premises liability law applies to your accident, gather evidence, and identify who is responsible for your injury. Contact Henderson Law to discuss how a lawyer can help your premises liability case.
What Is Premises Liability?
Defining premises liability in Santa Rosa requires a basic understanding of general negligence law. When someone has been negligent, that means they have failed to exercise the level of care expected of them under specific circumstances. This level of care is known as a duty of care. For property owners, that duty of care includes inspecting a property for hazards and repairing things that might harm people. The failure to satisfy that duty is called a breach of duty.
Premises liability is a subcategory of personal injury. Premise liability laws define the duty and liability of landowners and occupiers for accidents occurring on their property. An experienced Santa Rosa premises liability lawyer can assist injury victims in all aspects of their claims, including determining liability, apportioning fault, and collecting damages.
Determining and Proving Liability
The first thing you need to do when bringing a California premises liability lawsuit is to determine the individual or entity liable for the dangerous condition that caused your accident. For a premises liability claim, a plaintiff must establish they suffered injuries because of the conduct of the entity or individual who managed the property.
In California, a plaintiff must establish that:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in maintaining the property;
- The plaintiff suffered harm; and
- The defendant’s negligence was the actual or proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.
Proving each of these factors present unique challenges to injury victims trying to recover damages under California’s premises liability laws.
Liable Parties in California Premises Liability Cases
Historically, the duty a property owner owed to someone on their property depended on whether that person was a business patron, a social guest, or a trespasser. California law no longer uses these categories to determine what kind of duty a property owner owed an injured plaintiff. However, courts do instruct the jury to consider all of the circumstances and facts of the accident to determine whether the property owner’s conduct was reasonable or if they breached their duty of care. In most cases, the liable party is the individual or entity that owns, leases, possesses, or controls the property.
Common parties that may be liable include:
- Business owners,
- Retail centers,
- Public or government buildings, and
- Employees of any of the above places.
An experienced premises liability lawyer can help you identify the proper defendant, so you have a better chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.
Owners Versus Possessors
In some cases, one entity is both the owner and possessor of the property. However, other times the owner and possessor may be individual entities. If the owner and possessor are two separate entities, the general rule is the entity in control of the premises is liable for injuries to those lawfully on their land. This means a plaintiff will need to look at the facts to determine who is actually occupying and controlling the property in order to identify the correct defendant.
Landlord Liability for Tenants’ Injuries
Another complex area of California premises liability law is cases involving landlord liability for accidents in apartment complexes and other multi-unit properties. Typically, a landlord is only liable for accidents that happen in common areas of a building. In general, a landlord is not responsible for injuries that happen in a tenant’s unit.
Liability for Injuries to Trespassers
In California, a property owner can be liable for injuries suffered by someone who was trespassing on the property. Juries regularly consider the location of the incident, the likelihood the trespasser would enter the property, and the likelihood and severity of an injury when deciding if an owner breached the duty of care they owed a trespasser.
Comparative Negligence and Apportioning Fault in California Premises Liability Cases
California follows the theory of pure comparative negligence. This means an injured victim can still recover damages even if they were partially to blame for the accident. However, that victim’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Because California is a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can recover compensation even if they were 99% responsible for the accident.
Similarly, the state follows the theory of joint and several liability. This applies when there is more than one defendant at fault for the plaintiff’s injury. Joint and several liability allows an injured victim to recover their full damages award from any one defendant, even if that defendant was not solely or even mostly responsible for the accident.
Possible Damages and Compensation for Premises Liability Cases
In California, injury victims can seek compensation for their economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses,
- Ongoing medical treatment costs,
- Lost wages and benefits,
- Lost earning potential, and
- Property damage.
In contrast, noneconomic damages refer to more subjective losses such as:
- Pain and suffering, and
- Emotional distress.
Very rarely do courts allow punitive damages. To receive punitive damages, a plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence the defendant was guilty of “oppression, fraud, or malice.” Examples of oppression, fraud, and malice might include:
- The defendant willfully and consciously disregarded the risk of harm their conduct was creating;
- The defendant intentionally destroyed evidence of their liability; or
- The defendant intentionally caused the incident or injury.
Wrongful death damages are also available through a California premises liability claim. These damages permit families of those killed in a California premises liability accident to recover compensation for burial, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship and support.
Discuss Your Injuries with a Santa Rosa Premises Liability Attorney Today
If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in a slip and fall or other premises liability accident, contact Henderson Law today to learn more about your rights. At Henderson Law, we have more than 25 years of hands-on experience helping accident victims and their families obtain compensation for everything they’ve been through. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation. If you decide to bring a claim with us, we will only bill you for our services if we can recover compensation on your behalf. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, contact us by phone or online today.