Wet floors, frayed carpets, uneven sidewalks, flimsy railings, and broken stairs – any one of these property conditions could cause serious injuries to unsuspecting visitors.
Under the law, property owners have certain legal responsibilities to visitors or customers who enter their premises. If there’s a dangerous condition and the property owner knows about it, they need to either repair it, limit access to it, or warn you about it. In some cases, that legal responsibility goes even further – even if the property owner didn’t know about a dangerous condition on the property, they have a duty to find out by regularly inspecting the premises.
If a property owner fails to live up to these responsibilities and you get hurt as a result, you can hold them liable for the fallout from any injuries you suffer. A successful lawsuit could cover damages such as medical bills, lost work wages, and out-of-pocket expenses.
After a slip-and-fall injury, how can you tell whether you have a premises liability claim? No two falls are the same – so the best way to find out for sure is to talk directly to a personal injury lawyer about the specific details of your case. When you contact an attorney, they will consider the following key factors to determine the strength of your claim.
1. How Serious Are Your Injuries?
Not all injuries are obvious right away, even when they’re serious. You should get checked out by a doctor shortly after a fall even if you manage to “walk it off” – especially if you suspect you hit your head. Traumatic brain injuries like concussions can fly under the radar and cause problems later on when it’s much harder for you to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.
When you go to the hospital, primary care physician, or urgent care to get your injuries looked at, you not only establish the severity of your injuries but you also start to document proof that your injuries are actually related to – or caused by – your fall.
In contrast, if you wait three months to get checked out, your injuries could theoretically have been caused by so many other things during that time. You would have a much harder time establishing causation, which is critical to a successful premises liability case.
2. Who Is Responsible for the Property Conditions?
Restaurants have a responsibility to clean up slippery floors or put up warning signs. Sports stadiums have a responsibility to manage crowd control and check visitors for weapons. Construction site operators and contractors must follow all worksite rules and regulations to keep workers and innocent bystanders safe from falling debris or crushing machinery.
Sometimes, the property owner’s not necessarily the one who’s responsible for the conditions of a property. If a tenant is renting the premises, they could be held liable instead. For example, a building owner rents out space to a gymnastics studio. The studio operators do a shoddy job installing their equipment, which fails and injures a student during a class. In this case, the dance studio operators could be held legally responsible for their negligence.
3. Did the Property Owner Fail to Take Proper Care?
Property owners and operators aren’t necessarily responsible for every single injury that happens on their premises. To have a successful premises liability case, you have to show that the person responsible actually fell short of their legal expectations.
For example, a ski resort blocks off an area of its sidewalk that’s covered in treacherous ice with fencing and clear signage pointing out the danger. You see the warning signs but you choose to go around the fence and walk over the ice, falling in the process. In a case like this, the property owner would argue that they actually did exactly what they were supposed to do. At that point, you could be responsible for your own contributory negligence causing your injury.
4. What Evidence Do You Have to Prove Your Case?
To win a premises liability case and recover compensation for your injuries, you must have evidence that’s strong enough to convince a court of law.
Not all personal injury cases go to trial, but the stronger your evidence, the stronger your position will be when it comes to negotiation settlements. If you have video and photographic evidence clearly showing the dangerous conditions that caused your injury, the property owner will be less likely to take their chances in front of a judge or jury. Instead, they will be much more willing to offer a settlement agreement that compensates you properly.
5. Are You Within the Statute of Limitations?
Like other states, California has a statute of limitations – otherwise known as a deadline for filing your legal claims. For personal injury cases involving premises liability, you have up to 2 years after the incident that caused your injuries to file a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, once you miss the statute of limitations, you lose your chance to file a legal claim based on that incident forever. That’s why it’s critical to get the legal process started early and contact a lawyer as soon as possible after you fall or suffer an injury.
6. How Much Should You Get in Damages?
Premises liability claims are supposed to “make you whole” by making the person responsible for your injuries pay for their consequences. The goal is to minimize the effects of the injury on your life as much as possible. Usually, this involves financial compensation called damages.
The amount of damages you can get in a premises liability case depends on the severity of your injuries and the severity of the negligence that caused your injuries. For example, if you get injured because a construction company has a history of cutting corners when it comes to safety, you could receive punitive damages meant to punish the company’s actions.
Your damages should cover not just your current expenses and losses, but also any losses you can expect to experience in the future. For long-term or permanent injuries, that includes the cost of medical care years or decades after the fact. If your injury makes you unable to work, you should receive compensation for all the years you miss out on earning income.
Premises liability claims can get complex, which is why it’s critical to get an experienced personal injury lawyer on your case. At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, your consultation is free and we take cases on a contingency fee basis – which means you don’t have to pay legal fees unless we win your case. Contact us now to get started right away.