April 7, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark

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.

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 protect against injuries or death caused on their property.

Who can I sue under premises liability law?

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.

What if I am partially at fault for the accident?

If the plaintiff’s own negligence is the only cause of his or her injuries and the plaintiff is 100% at fault, the plaintiff will not be able to recover 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.

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

You have to prove that the condition of the property 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 have to prove that the defective condition is significant and not trivial and that the defendant either created the defect or was aware of it at the time you were hurt.

What are some examples of dangerous conditions that 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.

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 on their property if they threaten your safety and an injury results from these acts which the property owner should have foreseen. 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 that result 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 location of the plaintiff’s incident and the defendant failed to take adequate measures to protect against the predictable misconduct.

I am a tenant. Under what circumstances can I sue my landlord for injuries resulting from the dangerous condition of property?

Landlords can be held responsible for injuries that you receive inside your rental unit and in the common areas of the building if you can prove that the premises were kept in a dangerous condition.

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

An injured person 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 the 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.

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 the amount of their insurance coverage.