Premises liability is a legal theory under which a person can sue after getting injured on another person’s or entity’s property and as a result of a dangerous condition. In order for a premises liability claim to have any legal backing, the owner-operator of the property must have been negligent in some way. “Negligence,” in such an instance, can refer to the creation of the dangerous condition, failure to maintain the property, failure to inspect or become aware of the dangerous condition, or failure to repair the dangerous condition.
Like all personal injury claims, negligence is a key component of a premises liability claim. Proving negligence is never cut and dry, which is why it is critical to work with a skilled Orange County premises liability attorney from the very start of your case until the very end.
Elements of a Premises Liability Claim in California
Though each premises liability case is different, each plaintiff is required to prove four essential elements to be true. Those elements include a legal duty, a breach of that duty, proximate cause, and damages. The California Civil Jury Instructions list these four elements as follows:
● The defendant owned, leased, controlled, or occupied the premises;
● The defendant was negligent in his or her use of the property and/or the maintenance of said property;
● The plaintiff sustained injuries on the property; and
● The negligence of the defendant was a substantial contributing factor in the incident.
The theory behind premises liability is that the property owner or person residing on or responsible for maintaining the property is liable for any injuries sustained on the property. Nowhere in the legislature does it state that the defendant has to be an owner. The fact that a person occupies a property is enough evidence to establish a duty to exercise reasonable care.
When the Victim is at Fault
It is possible that a plaintiff could be proven at fault for his or her own injuries. For instance, if the dangerous condition is an obvious one, and if any other reasonable person would have detected it, then the decision maker may determine that the plaintiff is responsible for his or her own damages. Likewise, if a dangerous condition had ample warning, the property owner or occupier cannot be held liable for injuries that result from said condition.
Moreover, California operates under a comparative fault theory, which means that the plaintiff can be held partially liable for his or her damages. If the decision maker determines that the victim was partially responsible for his or her own injuries—for instance, maybe a non-obvious dangerous condition did exist, and maybe there was not sufficient warning, but the plaintiff was acting in a reckless manner when the accident took place—then the victim would only be able to recover the total amount of damages less the percentage of fault assigned to him or her. For instance, if a plaintiff is found to be 30 percent liable for his or her own injuries, his or her settlement or verdict would be reduced by 30 percent.
A Premises Liability Attorney is a Necessary Component of Any Claim
If you were injured on another person’s property and plan to file a premises liability claim, retain the help and experience of a skilled Orange County personal injury attorney. The attorney you hire can make or break your case, so be sure to hire smart. Contact RMD Law to schedule a consultation with our legal team and to see why so many victims across Orange County choose us.