Knowing Your Responsibilities as a California Property Owner

falling on stairsWhen you own a property, especially in a sue happy state like California, you must know that you have certain responsibilities. When there is a property under your ownership, and/or control, there are several liabilities on you. It is important that you know about those liabilities in as much detail as possible because even slightest mistake can lead to you getting involved in legal procedures and spending thousands of dollars. While there are responsibilities on you on how your property should be built and how much area it should occupy, there are some more responsibilities that are tied to people who visit your property invited or uninvited.

Premises Liability

Law binds you to certain liabilities under premises liability law. When you have a property and there are people visiting your premises, you have to provide them security in a certain way i.e. by keeping your property safe. Your property should be in such a shape that it causes no accidents. If there are visitors on your property and they get injured or hurt then you are liable for those injuries. The severer the injuries the more you are in trouble because you will have to compensate for more damages.

Injuries can be caused to the visitors in many different ways:

  • Your sidewalks might be broken or made in a way that cause accidents
  • Too much lighting might blind people and cause accidents
  • Stuff in the passages that causes accidents
  • Stairs or aisles might have very poor lighting
  • Steps of the stairs might be uneven and irregular
  • Floor might be slippery due to soap, surf or other stuff
  • Broken handrails that cause cuts and bruises

When any of the above mentioned situations or others cause injuries to the visitor on your premises, that party will prove that you were negligent at taking care of you responsibility. The point of the suit is to prove that you knew the dangers but were negligent in fixing the problems in the property that caused the accident. There are generally three things that need to be proved in order to hold plaintiff the rightful party of the compensation money.

  • The property owner was aware of the condition of his premises and knew that accidents could be caused by it.
  • The owner of the property did not do anything to warn the visitors of the conditions that he knew could cause accidents. He also did not bother to have the property fixed to avoid accidents.
  • The dangerous condition at the property became the cause of accident of the plaintiff and injured him.

If the owner of the property had no idea of the condition or the condition was such that owner did not have to know about it then the plaintiff does not have a strong case.

Plaintiff Also Has Responsibility

Whatever is stated above could make one see the law as more strict towards the owners of the properties but that is not the case. Law takes into consideration everything that would guarantee justice with both the parties involved in a case. Visitors on a property, as per law, have to show some reasonable behavior towards the property as well.

You could not just walk blindly while looking up, fall down and then claim that the owner of the property left a dangerous condition on the floor unattended that caused the accident. If in any way negligence of the plaintiff is also proved, the case could become weak or the plaintiff might end up with no compensation.

When you as a visitor are visiting someone’s property you have to show proper care. When you file a case against a property owner for being negligent and causing injuries to you the first method of defending for property owner is to prove that you did not show proper care while at the premises. If the owner of the property is able to prove that plaintiff was not showing proper care and has some hand in the accident, the compensation will go down a great deal. The more the plaintiff is at fault the less money will be paid as a result of a settlement.

Different Types Of Property Visitors

When there is a case in the court or in a lawyer’s office where one party is seeking compensation for being injured at someone’s premises, the injured person will be first recognized as one of the various categories of visitors of a property.

  • Licensees

When visitors visit a premises for social reasons they are called the licensees. These are mostly the people you know well such as your relatives, family, friends and anyone invited by you to join a particular party. People who you did not invite are not out of this list. If something happens to them you as a property owner will still be held responsible. The owner of the property must keep the property in proper shape to avoid accidents and if there are any dangers the property owner must let everyone know about them.

  • Invitees

They are actually called business invitees. These visitors visit the premises of a business for business purpose. Think about a big grocery store where people go and buy grocery for their homes. In the same manner you go to a barber or a beauty parlor for doing business too. Any business place where you are invited to do business you will visit it as business invitee. Such property owners are strictly under legal liabilities because their premises are regularly visited by people. They have to keep everything in safe and sound condition. They have to perform regular audits to ensure that everything is in out-of-danger condition. They even have to take care of their floors to ensure no part of it is wet because slip and fall cases are some of the most common cases in the world.

  • Trespassers

You must have thought right after looking at the term “trespasser” that these people cannot hold you liable for any injuries but you are wrong. Even though trespassers are the people who are not invited but they visit a property without the permission of the owner, when they have come to the property the property owner has a liability toward the trespasser as well.

When a trespasser is on the premises the owner of the property should inform him/her of the dangers that could cause him injuries. If the owner lets the injuries to be caused to the trespasser intentionally, he will be held liable for them and will have to compensate for such behavior.

California Makes Little or No Distinction Between Licensees, Invitees or Even Trespassers

Generally speaking, a California premises, owner, controller or managers owes trespassers no duty of care. But this is not always so. (See generally Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal. 2d 108.) As far as the other classifications, California has elected to judge these cases based upon the “reasonable person” standard, saying that: a general duty of care should be owed to all visitors who are on your property.

In fact, many other states are adopting the principles in this below quote from the majority in Rowland, supra., as follows:

A man’s life or limb does not become less worthy of protection by the law nor a loss less worthy of compensation under the law because he has come upon the land of another without permission or with permission but without a business purpose. Reasonable people do not ordinarily vary their conduct depending upon such matters, and to focus upon the status of the injured party as a trespasser, licensee, or invitee in order to determine the question whether the landowner has a duty of care, is contrary to our modern social mores and humanitarian values. The common law rules obscure rather than illuminate the proper considerations which should govern determination of the question of duty.

What Type Of Compensation Will Be Received?

Owners of the properties should keep this in mind that they will end up paying a lot of money to the injured person if they are not paying proper attention to their property and their negligence is proved in the case. The plaintiff is entitled to receive compensation not only for the physical damage and medical expenses but also for mental distress, loss of income and any effects on the life of the victim. A little care today could save property owners from thousands and millions of dollars of debt tomorrow.

Keep in mind that there are a few land use immunity exceptions, such as when land is held out for public, recreational use, or when waivers are signed, etc., but that in general, it is near impossible for any land owner to escape liability for allowing a known, dangerous condition to exist upon their land (See e.g., Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal. 4th 296.) Let a California personal injury lawyer know if you have been injured at someone else’s property in the Golden State. Typically, they are ready to provide you with a professional, yet free first consultation on your case, so you know what compensations and benefits you qualify for in your case.

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