Premises Liability FAQs
Do I have a personal injury claim if I sustain a slip and fall accident injury at a private residence?
If my injury from a slip and fall accident does not show up right away, how long do I have to file a claim?
What are some examples of hazardous conditions on a property that can give rise to premises liability claims?
Q: I had a slip and fall workplace accident in an industrial setting. Can I sue my employer for my injury and collect damages for pain and suffering?
A: Probably not. Under California law, an employee who is injured in the course and scope of his employment (in other words, while doing his job) cannot sue his employer. His exclusive remedy is to file a workers' compensation claim through his employer's workers' compensation insurance policy and proceed through the workers' compensation appeals board.
The reason why California employees cannot sue their employers is that the legislature wanted to provide a remedy to injured workers regardless of fault. That system, the workers' compensation system, provides the employee with compensation for his injuries and any degree of permanent disability (measured by the percentage of jobs that the employee is no longer able to work due to his disability). In exchange for this system which can provide an injured worker with immediate compensation and which adds an additional cost of doing business on employers, California employees give up the right to sue their employers and fellow employees who are acting in the scope of their employment, but whose carelessness might have caused the injury.
Exceptions exist, of course. For example, say an injured construction worker employed by a general contractor is injured while working on the job site by an employee of a subcontractor an outside vendor who came onto the job site. In that case, the careless and negligent party is not the employer or a co-employee of the employer. The wrong-doer is employed by a completely separate entity and that entity can be sued in civil court for personal injuries. In addition, the employee may also file a workers' compensation claim with his employer since he was on the job and working in his course and scope of employment. However, the employee cannot "double dip" by receiving compensation from the civil claim and workers' compensation. If the injured worker receives money damages from his civil claim, the workers' compensation insurance company probably has a right to be reimbursed for the benefits it has already paid to the worker.
Q: Do I have a personal injury claim if I sustain a slip and fall accident injury at a private residence?
A: Yes, depending on the facts and circumstances. You can have a viable slip and fall claim no matter where the accident happens.
In order to have a viable slip and fall claim, you must have been injured by a dangerous condition on the property that the property owner either knew about or should have known about (had notice of) prior to the accident and the property owner failed to fix the dangerous condition or warn others about it so that they could avoid injury.
Typically, slip and fall cases happen in public either at stores, restaurants, or on sidewalks. However, a slip and fall case can happen, and you can have a valid personal injury action, on a private residence such as during a party, a get together, or simply visiting a neighbor.
A: Yes. Under California law, supermarkets and other businesses must either fix or warn their customers of dangerous conditions on the property that the supermarket either knows about or should know about after a reasonable inspection. If the supermarket or store fails to do so, then they may be liable for personal injury damages if a customer is injured on their property.
Supermarkets are often the sites of slip and fall accidents because they have a number of customers using the property throughout the day, they have lots of liquids and other slippery materials that occasionally accidentally spill, and their employees are often overworked and are not concentrating on safety during key moments during the day. Our office regularly represents people seriously injured at supermarkets.
Q: If my injury from a slip and fall accident does not show up right away, how long do I have to file a claim?
A: In California, an injured person has two years to bring a lawsuit for personal injuries suffered in a slip and fall injury as measured from the date of the accident or from the date the accident and injury should have been discovered by the injured person. The exception to this rule is when the defendant is a government entity. If that is the case, the injured person must file a government tort claim within six months of the date of injury.
The "should have been discovered" language is a bit misleading. Most slip and fall injury accident victims will know immediately if they have slipped and injured themselves. In those cases, the date of the accident and the date it should have been discovered are one and the same. In most cases, even if an injury is discovered after the accident, it will be discovered shortly after the initial incident.
It is always a good idea to measure the two year statute of limitations from the day of the slip and fall incident. That way you won't get trapped thinking you have more time than you do to file your lawsuit.
A: For premises liability law to apply in California, the following circumstances must be present in the case:
- Defendant is the owner of the premises.
- Plaintiff was on the property as an invitee or licensee.
- The accident that caused the injuries occurred because of the negligence of the defendant.
- Property owners in California must keep children safe on their property, regardless of the child’s reason for being there.
California property owners are held to a reasonable standard of care, including maintenance of the premises, competent security staff, adequate lighting, and other safety factors. Property owners are also required to maintain public sidewalks in front of the premises and clear any safety hazards that may pose a risk to people passing by.
A: Property owners have a different duty of care to different people on their property, depending on a visitor’s reason for being there:
- Invitees are people allowed to be on the property for the purpose of conducting business with the property owner. Customers shopping in a store fall under this category. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care under premises liability law – maintenance of the property in a reasonably safe condition.
- Licensees are people present on a property with express or implied permission for non-commercial reasons, such as invited guests. Property owners owe licensees a duty to fix or warn of any concealed dangers of which the property owner is aware.
- Trespassers are individuals unlawfully on the premises. Property owners owe no duty of care to trespassers, except to refrain from willfully harming them.
Q: What are some examples of hazardous conditions on a property that can give rise to premises liability claims?
A: Property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, or to at least give adequate warning of any hazards. Examples of dangerous conditions that could give rise to premises liability claims include:
- Improperly stacked merchandise that can fall and cause injuries
- Slippery floors due to recent cleaning or spills
- Obstacles in walkways causing tripping hazards
- Ice or snow in entryways
- Unsecured items that can fall off shelves
- Defective or missing railings in stairways
- Inadequately fenced swimming pools
- Uneven pavement that can cause trip and fall accidents
- Lack of adequate security resulting in assault or rape
- Inadequate lighting
- Exposed electrical wires
- Hazardous materials not properly stored
A: The damages you may be entitled to claim depend on the circumstances in your case and the extent of your injuries. Damages may include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
In cases of malicious or egregious conduct, the jury may award additional punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future. When a premises liability accident results in wrongful death, survivors are entitled to recover their economic losses caused by the death of a family member and emotional distress damages, based on loss of the decedent’s society, comfort, and care.
A: California is a comparative negligence state. If at least one other party was at fault for the accident, you can still sue for damages, even if you were also partially at fault. However, the amount of your compensation will be adjusted by the percentage of fault assigned to you by the jury. For example, if you were found to be 10% at fault for your accident and injuries, and a jury awarded you $1,000 in damages, the award would be reduced by 10%, and your adjusted award would be $900.
Let our San Diego Premises Liability Attorneys Help You
As with any personal injury matter, premises liability cases can become complicated very quickly depending on the specific details surrounding your injuries. To make sure every piece of evidence is carefully considered in your case, be sure to contact a San Diego premises liability lawyer at (619) 233-5020 or (888) 233-5020 for information about your rights as an accident victim.
Call the Jurewitz Law Group at (619) 233-5020 and begin your path to recovery with a no-cost consultation today.