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San Diego Premises Liability Attorney

Under California law, property owners are obligated to maintain commercial and residential premises in a reasonably safe condition for visitors, and to warn visitors of any known hazards. Careless San Diego property owners who fail to meet these obligations put visitors at risk of serious, even fatal, injuries.

People who slip, trip, fall, or encounter other dangerous conditions on someone else’s property in San Diego should not have to suffer because of a negligent or reckless property owner’s poor decisions. An experienced San Diego premises liability lawyer helps people injured in these incidents to hold property owners accountable by seeking compensation for damages and losses related to the injury.

When needed, we employ forensic experts, such as engineers, who can establish coefficients of friction for various surfaces, as well as an analysis of conditions arising from design inadequacies or the failure to adhere to applicable building codes.

Do you need a San Diego premises liability attorney? Gomez Trial Attorneys have successfully handled many slip and fall cases, some involving catastrophic injuries and death. We have experience in cases that involve stairs, tile floors, wood floors, sidewalks, and other surfaces.

If you or a loved one were injured while visiting a place of business or someone’s home in San Diego, contact the personal injury lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys at (619) 237-3490 for a free case review. You may have the right to recover substantial compensation.

Injured in an accident? Get a real trial lawyer. Get Gomez.

Property Owners a Duty of Care To Visitors

In most states, the duty owed depends on whether the visitor qualifies as a licensee, invitee, or trespasser. In California, however, the law instead instructs courts to consider all relevant factors to decide whether the property owner failed to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. This can include a range of factors, such as the location of the property, the likelihood of an injury on the premises, or the likelihood of an uninvited guest (or trespasser) entering the property. What this means is that California property owners owe a duty to keep premises safe to virtually anyone, regardless of that person’s role or reason for entering the property.

Typically, owners may welcome visitors to their property for public use, for social reasons, or to conduct business with the property owner. Owners must keep their property in a reasonably safe condition to protect invitees from harm, must correct any unsafe condition in a reasonable amount of time, and must warn invitees about any dangers a reasonable person should have known about. Public invitees typically include those who visit government-owned property open to the public, such as public parks, city bike trails, post offices, libraries, and public swimming pools.

Business invitees might consist of anyone who visits a business such as a grocery store, a mall, a restaurant, a professional office, or a music venue. A social guest could be a neighbor, a friend, or visitors to a private party or event. Regardless of the circumstances, property owners (or managers) must not intentionally harm visitors, must correct known hazards, must maintain a reasonably safe premises, and must take reasonable steps to protect entrants to the property from dangerous conditions that they could not reasonably be expected to discover on their own.

While California does not observe the doctrine of “attractive nuisance,” this does not mean that property owners do not owe a duty of care to child trespassers in certain situations. Rather, child trespassers are a common cause of premises liability claims, and property owners should be particularly aware of property conditions that could harm a child (whether permitted entry or not). This can include play equipment, geological oddities, pools, trampolines, sports equipment, or virtually any property condition that could attract a child.

Injury Scenarios on Someone Else’s Property

A wide variety of accidents can happen when visiting someone else’s property. Here are some of the more common scenarios we have encountered in our law practice representing victims of “premises liability” injuries:

“Slip and Fall” Accidents

Accidents in which a person falls are the most common events leading to legal liability for a property owner. Lawyers refer to these accidents as “slip and fall,” but they are not limited to someone actually slipping. Any property condition that causes someone to fall and injure themselves could lead to liability for the property owner. This can happen virtually anywhere on a property, indoors or out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of five unintentional falls leads to severe injury. Unintentional falls are especially dangerous for young children and the elderly. They are the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), as well as the leading cause of hip fractures in older adults.

Examples of scenarios in which a property owner’s failure to live up to his “duty of care” to a visitor leading to a “slip and fall” accident include:

  • Failure to clear snow, ice, liquids, or debris from doorways, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways;
  • Using liquid products like water, floor cleaners, and wax without posting warnings for visitors;
  • Using dry products such as powders and sand without posting warnings for visitors;
  • Failure to clean up spills including liquids, oils, foods, dirt, sand, and other debris in a reasonably timely manner;
  • Failure to fix loose steps, floor tiles, carpet, and handrails; and
  • Failure to maintain sidewalks, trails, and other walkways.

These are just some examples of scenarios in which a property owner may face “slip and fall” liability. As we described above, virtually any property condition that increases the risk of someone falling and hurting themselves could create liability for the property owner, depending upon the facts that led to the injury. Then justifying a need for a personal injury attorney to get you the results you need for your slip and fall injuries.

Swimming Pool Accidents

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 150 children ages 14 and under drown each year in swimming pools across the nation. This doesn’t include dangerous accidents and deaths involving adults, or the children who sustain non-fatal injuries in or near a swimming pool.

Although nothing feels better than a dip in the pool and it’s fun to let kids expend energy while swimming on a hot summer day, negligent pool owners put visitors at risk when they don’t properly maintain, supervise, or warn of dangers in and around their pool. Swimming pool accidents can happen at residential pools, but they can also occur at public pools, fitness facilities, schools, hotels, and water parks.  Negligent practices which can lead to tragic pool accidents include:

  • Lack of supervision or lifeguards;
  • Inadequate chemicals leading to illness from a dirty pool;
  • Too many chemicals causing exposure to toxic chemicals;
  • Poor maintenance around the pool, steps, diving boards, slides, filters, drains, and pumps;
  • Failure to prevent unauthorized access to the pool, such as by not securing the poor with doors, fences, gates or other barriers;
  • Allowing too many people to swim at one time; and
  • A lack of safety devices to help distressed swimmers.

Swimming pools are also a common source of injury for children, and they create potential liability for property owners who do not take reasonable steps to keep children safe from harm. Property owners must ensure that pools, spas, or similar water features are properly contained and secured if not monitored; pools that are open to guests must be monitored for potential injury, particularly if the presence of children is likely (or known). If your child sustained injuries in someone else’s pool, there is a likelihood the pool owner has legal liability for those injuries. Speak with an experienced California premises liability lawyer to learn more.

Elevator and Escalator Accidents

Elevators and escalators offer convenience for visitors to commercial establishments and public spaces like shopping malls, airports, and office buildings. Elevators and escalators that have been installed improperly or poorly maintained can cause severe, even fatal, injuries. Mechanical issues which might cause an accident on an elevator or escalator include:

  • Defective products;
  • Improper installation including loose or missing parts;
  • Sudden elevator or escalator stops;
  • Sudden elevator drops or a door opening at the wrong location; and
  • Poor maintenance and failure to do regular inspections.

Always exercise caution when using elevators and escalators. It is precisely because we tend to take these conveniences for granted that they pose such an extreme risk of injury when they break down.

Dog Bites

Property owners have an obligation to protect visitors from dangerous animals. While visitors might suffer bites or attacks from a multitude of different types of pets, dog bites constitute the most common animal-related premises liability incidents. Small children are especially at risk of bites and attacks by aggressive and territorial dogs.

A dog bite can result in disease, illness, and infection, but the tearing of the skin typically leads to the most long-term damage. Victims who suffer severe dog bite attacks often have permanent scars.  These scars can be devastating, particularly if they occur on or near the face. Take care around strange dogs, particularly if children are present. Even if a dog does not have a history of violent behavior, or is not exhibiting signs of aggression, there is always the chance of an unexpected attack.

Violent Crimes Due to Lack of Security

Muggings, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes resulting from a property owner’s failure to provide on-premises security can lead to legal liability under California law. “Security” is a broad concept that can encompass a variety of measures. What a court deems adequate and reasonable security will depend on the circumstances of the incident. In some instances, the property owner might not have enough lighting in outside spaces; in other cases, unlimited access to a property or a building can also prove dangerous if it gives criminals the opportunity to harm visitors.

Explosions and Fires

Fortunately, explosions and fires aren’t frequent events, but when a visitor sustains an injury or loses a loved one in an explosion or fire, California courts might hold a property owner responsible for some or all damages. Many different scenarios can lead to an explosion or fire at a person’s house or commercial property, including improperly extinguished cigars or cigarettes, flammable liquids stored improperly, electrical shorts from loose wires or poor electrical work, and arson. Those who are fortunate enough to survive an explosion or fire might suffer minor to severe burn injuries.

In the most severe cases, burn injury victims have to spend weeks or months in a hospital burn unit, often in a medically-induced coma. Burn victims sometimes face multiple reconstructive surgeries, including skin grafts, and even after surgery face permanent scarring and disfigurement from the explosion or fire. Injuries from fires and explosions can be devastating, life-altering events for those who suffer them.

San Diego Premises Liability FAQ

Do you have questions about a premises liability accident or claim? Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help answer many of the questions specific to your claim. Here, we address many of the general questions associated with premises liability accidents.

Is Premises Liability the Same Thing as Slip and Fall?

Not exactly. Premises liability refers to the area of law that holds property owners accountable for injuries a visitor wrongfully sustains on the owner’s property. Slip and fall cases constitute a sub-set of premises liability cases; specifically, when someone gets hurt in a preventable fall on someone else’s premises.

Even the term slip and fall leads to some confusion. In California, a visitor to someone else’s property who falls and gets hurt need not have slipped in the process. A person could also trip, stumble, misstep, or lose a hand-hold before taking a tumble, and if any of these actions result from a dangerous property condition, we would classify the resulting legal claim as a slip and fall.

Bottom line: if you get hurt on someone else’s property, you may have legal rights for damages against the property’s owner or tenant, no matter how the injury occurred.

What Injuries Commonly Result from a Premises Liability Incident?

You name it. A visitor to a property can sustain virtually any injury imaginable because of a dangerous property condition or situation. This may include, for example:

  • Traumatic brain injury resulting from sustaining a blow or jolt to the head in a fall or accidental drowning;
  • Spinal cord injury sustained in a fall, assault, attack, or incident involving recreational activities (such as falling from a backyard trampoline);
  • Burns suffered in fires, explosions, or exposure to caustic chemicals;
  • Severe orthopedic injuries, including broken bones, dislocated joints, and muscle, tendon, and ligament tears, following falls, assaults or attacks; and
  • Long-term health complications caused by prolonged exposure to toxic substances or materials, such as asbestos or lead paint.

Any of the injuries above, which constitute merely a sampling of the wide range of injuries that can occur on someone else’s property, can leave a victim severely debilitated. Some such injuries may even cause a wrongful death. No matter the type of injury you or a loved one sustained on property away from your home, you may have legal rights to compensation.

The Property Owner’s Insurance Company Offered Me Cash to Settle. Should I Accept?

No way. A settlement offer from the property owner’s insurance company signals that the owner definitely has a legal liability to you for your injury, and that the insurer hopes you will jump at quick money before consulting with our experienced San Diego premises liability attorneys. Do not fall for this tactic. Call us right away.

Whatever an insurance company offers you, it is sure to be less than what you deserve. Consult with a lawyer. Even if you really do need the money quickly, in most cases having a lawyer on your side can boost the size of the offer you receive. Also, if you do not need the funds immediately, handing negotiations with an insurance company over to an attorney gives you the best chance of receiving the maximum settlement available under the law.

When do I have grounds for a premises liability claim?

To file a personal injury claim, your attorney will work with you to prove that someone else’s negligence—in this case, the owner of the premises on which the accident occurred or the company or entity responsible for managing that location—caused your accident.

To show grounds for a premises liability claim, you may need to show:

  • You had the right to be in the area where your injury occurred. For example, a customer of a business entering an area intended for employees only and suffering injury as a result, might not have grounds for a premises liability claim. On the other hand, a customer who suffers injury within the store itself may have grounds to file a premises liability claim. If you suffer a serious fall after an invitation to an individual’s home due to the owner’s negligence, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim; but if you suffer that fall after sneaking onto the property or visiting without an invitation, you might not.
  • The owner or manager of the property failed to take appropriate safety precautions. Businesses must adhere to specific regulations when it comes to providing a safe experience for everyone who visits the premises, including providing safety rails for stairs and areas around large drops, keeping the floor level and free of potential fall hazards, and maintaining the property to prevent maintenance-related accidents, including broken flooring or guard rails.
  • The property owner or manager failed to provide proper warnings about potential hazards on the property. Owners and operators cannot avoid every potential hazard on the property, especially during construction. For example, on a wet, rainy day, a business might struggle to keep the floor completely dry. Likewise, a spilled drink or bottle of cleaner could pose a substantial slip and fall hazard for a business. In these cases, the property owner or manager should take steps to reduce injuries: cleaning up spills quickly and offering warnings, either verbal or through proper signage, to all patrons. Wet floor signs, for example, can go a long way toward encouraging caution, especially for elderly or disabled patrons. On private property, including homes, the premises owner should provide warnings about potential dangers that visitors to the property might not recognize, including aggressive animals, slip and fall hazards, or worn areas of flooring that could pose a hazard.
  • Your injury occurred due to inadequate safety precautions. For grounds for a personal injury claim, your injury must occur due to the owner’s or manager’s negligence. If you suffer no injuries, you have no grounds for a personal injury claim. If your injuries occur for a reason other than the owner’s negligence, even if negligence exists, you may not have grounds for a claim.

If you think you have grounds for a personal injury claim, or if you suffered a serious injury on someone else’s property and do not know if you have grounds for a premises liability claim or not, contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible. An attorney can give you a better idea of whether you have a claim and how to go about filing it.

What Is My Premises Liability Case Worth?

The compensation you can receive from a premises liability claim will vary. If the premises owner or manager carries property insurance, that insurance may provide compensation for any injuries that occur on the property. That policy, however, may limit the compensation you can receive for your injuries. Property insurance liability coverage may vary based on whether you suffered an injury in a private home or a business, where your injury occurred, and the extent of the insurance on the property.

Your compensation will also depend on the extent of your injuries and the expenses you face as a result of them. Most people, following a premises liability accident, make claims for:

Medical expenses. Premises liability accidents, including slip and falls, can lead to substantial medical expenses very quickly. If you slip and hit your head or have a heavy object fall on your head, resulting in traumatic brain injury, for example, you could face between $85,000 and $3 million of medical expenses. Even minor injuries can carry a hefty price tag: a broken bone, for example, costs an average of $2,500 without surgical intervention. Suffer multiple broken bones or require surgery to set a broken bone, and you may see your costs mount even higher.

Medical expenses may also include:

  • Physical, occupational, or psychological therapy required to recover from your accident
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Modifications to your home or vehicle to help you maintain your independence and get around after your accident

Lost wages. When you suffer serious injuries in a premises liability accident, they can prevent you from going back to work—sometimes long-term. A serious accident could cause you to miss weeks or even months of work, especially if you work in a highly physical position or suffer severe injuries that interfere with your ability to complete your work at all. An attorney can help you calculate the full extent of your lost wages due to your accident.

Pain and suffering. Typically, an insurance company will base compensation for pain and suffering off of a percentage of your medical bills after a premises liability accident. Some factors, including a sense of isolation, embarrassment, or long-term scarring, can increase your pain and suffering following a severe premises liability accident. Talk with an attorney to discuss how your pain and suffering could impact your claim and the compensation you deserve.

Who Has Legal Liability for the Injury I Suffered on Someone Else’s Property?

As we have discussed above, property owners and occupants can face legal liability in California for injuries visitors sustain because of a dangerous property condition or situation on a premises. Under California law, the context in which the injury occurred largely dictates the scope and nature of the owner/occupant’s liability.

For example, the business tenant at a strip mall could well have liability for not mopping up a spill on a tile floor that led to someone slipping and falling in their store, while a residential property owner may not have much legal liability to a trespasser who trips and falls over a raised plant bed.

In addition, just because a preventable injury occurs on someone else’s property, that does not mean that the property owner/occupant will necessarily have sole legal liability for it. In California, legal liability for preventable injuries can extend to anyone whose poor decisions or dangerous conduct caused someone else to get hurt.

So, for example, legal liability for a fall caused by a loose handrail could also extend to the handrail’s manufacturer, if the handrail had a defect that made it unreasonably dangerous. Similarly, liability for injuries caused by exposure to a toxic substance or material, like asbestos, can fall on the maker of the material, or even on a contractor who failed to safely remove it.

Experienced San Diego premises liability lawyers frequently spend a significant amount of time investigating the facts and circumstances leading up to a premises liability injury to determine the full range of parties with potential liability for a client’s injuries. Property owners and occupants virtually always get considered, but seasoned lawyers know that others might share that liability, too.

The Property Owner is My Friend. Will I Have to Sue and Go to Court?

Premises liability injuries can foster uncomfortable situations. Here’s a not-uncommon scenario: Imagine that you sustained a serious laceration on your arm when your friend’s dog bit you during a party at your friend’s house. You love your friend and you know the dog just got overexcited. However, the wound required a trip to the emergency room, stitches, and painful rabies and tetanus shots. You will probably have a nasty scar on your arm, and might have nerve damage to boot. Suing your friend might feel awkward, but this injury cost you a lot of money.

Will you have to go to court and testify, potentially ruining a friendship? We cannot guarantee how that kind of situation would turn out. However, in our experience, many premises liability claims settle through negotiations between the injured person’s premises liability attorney and the property owner’s liability insurance carrier. In cases where the property owner admits fault and has a personal incentive to make things right with the injured victim, negotiations have a good chance of achieving a fair and reasonable settlement without the parties having to duel it out in court.

What types of problems could cause grounds for a premises liability claim?

Businesses, in particular, must maintain a high level of safety for their patrons and other visitors to the site. Several conditions could cause an accident that leaves the victim with grounds for a premises liability claim:

  • Slippery or uneven stairs
  • Stairs without adequate handrails
  • Inadequate fall protection around high areas, including balconies and roofs
  • Animal bites
  • Fire hazards
  • Failure to remove ice and snow promptly and properly
  • Improperly maintained elevators or escalators
  • Swimming pools or other bodies of water with inadequate protection, including protection against access by children
  • Toxic fumes and chemicals
  • Items improperly balanced on shelves or in high areas
  • Improperly maintained equipment, especially safety equipment

The premises owner and manager bear a duty of care to properly maintain the property to reduce the risk of injury to all visitors to the property. When a visitor to the premises suffers injury due to inadequate maintenance, the owner could bear liability for any injuries suffered as a result of that accident and negligence.

When should I file a premises liability claim?

The statute of limitations in California restricts the amount of time you have to file a personal injury claim following a premises liability accident. Even if you have time before the statute of limitations runs out, however, you should still contact an attorney about your claim as soon after the accident as possible.

  • Contacting an attorney soon after your accident makes it easier to gather evidence. Immediately after your accident, witness statements will remain clearer. Seeking evidence soon after the accident also increases the odds that the hazard will remain intact and your attorney can document it, giving a clearer picture of how the accident occurred.
  • An attorney can help you prevent the clock from running out. You do not want to miss out on the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Working with an attorney immediately after your accident will help prevent you from allowing the clock to run out while you focus on your recovery.
  • The sooner you start working with an attorney, the sooner you can complete your claim. You may have high medical bills and other costs related to your accident. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can complete your claim.

Can multiple parties bear liability for a premises accident?

If you suffer serious injuries in a premises liability accident, multiple parties can share liability for that accident. For example, a construction company currently working on the site must keep that site safe for visitors as well as workers, while the owner of the property may bear liability for specific conditions of the premises.

Both the owner and manager of the premises can also share liability for an accident: for example, if you slip and fall down stairs with an inadequate handrail or in poor condition, the premises owner may bear liability for failing to fix the stairs, but the manager also shares liability for inadequate signs or failing to block off a dangerous area. Contact an attorney to discuss the conditions that led to your accident and determine whether you have grounds for a premises liability claim.

If I suffer a criminal attack from someone unrelated to the business, does it count as a premises liability claim?

Most businesses must provide adequate security to protect their guests. In some cases, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim if you suffer an attack while on that premises—perhaps in a hotel lobby or a theme park’s parking lot. If the business fails to provide adequate security or that security fails to act to protect you after an attack from another patron, the business may bear liability for your injuries. The business may also share liability if an employee of the business attacks you while on the clock. Consult with an attorney to get a better idea of who bears liability for an attack that occurs at a business and how much compensation you should expect to receive.

How long does it take to settle a premises liability claim?

The length of time it takes to settle a premises liability claim can depend on a variety of factors. Consider:

  • The severity of your injuries. If you suffer severe injuries in a premises liability accident, you may need to wait until further into your recovery before filing a premises liability claim. As your injuries heal, you can get a better idea of how fully you may recover as well as the full extent of your medical expenses. You will also need to consider how much you ask for in compensation for your medical expenses: the more you ask for, the longer it may take the insurance company to settle the claim.
  • The number of entities involved in the claim. If you must claim compensation from multiple entities following a premises liability accident, it can take longer to settle the claim than if only a single entity bears liability for your injuries.
  • Your willingness to negotiate. In some cases, the insurance company that covers the liable entity may offer a quick settlement soon after your accident. If you accept, you can receive that settlement fast, but it may not represent the full funds you deserve for your injuries. Your acceptance of any settlement offer relieves the company of future liability. If you go through several rounds of negotiation before reaching an agreement, or if you require mediation or need to take your claim to court, it can extend the length of time needed to receive compensation for your accident.

An Experienced San Diego Premises Liability Attorney Can Help

John Gomez

John Gomez, Premises Liability Attorney

Severe injuries bring emotional trauma and financial burden on top of the physical pain victims must endure. Money cannot undo the harm someone suffers, but it can help put victims on a solid financial footing so they can get the treatment and care they need in the wake of an injury.

Remember, injuries following an accident on someone else’s property are often severe, and the effects can last well past the time of the accident; it’s important to consult with an attorney that can calculate the full extent of your damages, and ensure you don’t wind up without the funds you need to make a full and productive recovery.

The experienced premises liability attorneys at Gomez Trial Attorneys understand the challenges you face in the wake of a severe injury you sustained on someone else’s property. You should not have to suffer because a property owner failed to fulfill a “duty of care” to keep you safe.

You deserve full and fair compensation for losses related to your injury, which can include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and non-economic damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and harm to your quality of life. Premises injuries are a major source of harm for unsuspecting people in San Diego. This is why we maintain powerful laws to ensure the victims of unsafe conditions or negligent management do not need to suffer without due compensation.

If you live in California, contact the experienced legal team at Gomez Trial Attorneys at (619) 237-3490 to schedule a free case consultation; we can discuss the specifics of your premises liability claim, and help determine the best path forward for your individual circumstances. If you choose us to represent you in your premises liability case, we take personal injury cases on contingency. This means you pay no attorney fees up-front; instead, we collect attorney fees from any settlement or court-awarded damages we secure for you.

Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490


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