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Understanding Premises Liability

In California, a person can be held responsible for accidents that occur on their property because of the way that they managed the property. To win a premises liability case, you must show that:


  1. The person owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property;
  2. They were negligent in the use of maintenance of the property;
  3. You were hurt; and
  4. Their negligence was a substantial factor in causing your harm.


Under this standard, property owners must take care of their property in a way that a reasonable property owner would under similar circumstances. Otherwise, they will be considered negligent. The question of whether or not a property owner was negligent depends on the specific facts of the case. For example, a person who owns property in Alaska will need to take care of their property in a different way than a person who owns a home in the Bay Area.

Under California law, property owners have a duty to (1) fix dangerous conditions or (2) warn people about hazards that are not obvious. Importantly, property owners cannot just ignore the condition of their property and claim that they didn’t realize that there was a danger. They must use ordinary care to maintain the property to avoid exposing others to risk.

If a property owner cannot fix the dangerous condition, then they should put up a notice or warning. For example, if there is a spill at the grocery store, the employees should put up a sign warning customers of the wet floor until they can get it both clean and dry.

Common Types of Premises Liability Cases

Accidents on someone else’s property can occur just about anywhere and can happen in any number of ways. You could be at the mall when you slip and fall on a piece of loose carpeting or uneven floors. Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common types of premises liability cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of people suffer injuries from slip and falls each year.

Other types of common premises liability cases include:

If the accident happened in someone else’s home or business, the owner or tenant may be responsible for whatever injuries result if they failed to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

Depending on how the accident occurred, a person may suffer a range of serious injuries. If they are bitten by a dog, they may have extensive scarring, nerve damage, or even broken bones. If they slip and fall, they may suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), internal organ damage, or spinal cord injuries. In some cases, the injuries are even fatal. 

Can I File a Lawsuit If I Am Hurt on Someone Else’s Property?

If you are injured on someone else’s property, you may be able to file a lawsuit against a person or company that owns, leases, occupies, or controls the property. The property owner or defendant could be a tenant, business owner, property management company, restaurant, store, homeowner, government agency (like a school district), or another person or entity.

In some cases, more than one person may be held responsible. For example, if you are hurt at an apartment complex after falling on an uneven sidewalk, then both the owner of the apartment building and the property manager may be held responsible for their failure to maintain the sidewalk in a safe condition.

Generally, you can file a premises liability lawsuit against a property owner if you are not a trespasser. In other words, property owners don’t necessarily owe a duty of care to people who come onto their property without permission. However, you may still be able to file a claim even if you were trespassing.

This may be the case if the hazard on the property is considered an attractive nuisance.

An attractive nuisance includes things that may be dangerous, but that children (in particular) would want to play on or see. A swimming pool is a classic example of an attractive nuisance. If you fail to take steps to prevent children and others from accessing it — such as a fence with a lock — then you could be held liable if someone trespasses on your property to use the pool.

In a premises liability lawsuit, you may be able to recover financial compensation for all of your losses. This may include economic damages, such as medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, reduced earning capacity and property damage, as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or scarring. In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded when the property owner acted recklessly or intentionally.

In most cases, homeowner’s insurance policies (or renter’s insurance) will cover injuries that occur on the owner or renter’s property. This means that if you are hurt by a friend or family, you could still seek compensation without worrying that you will harm your friend. These policies exist — and your loved one pays premiums every month — to protect against these kinds of hazardous conditions.

We’re Here for You

Accidents on someone else’s property can happen in any number of ways, from dog bites to slip and falls to tripping on a loose tile. Premises liability claims can often be difficult to prove because they are so dependent on the facts of the case. At Kuvara Law, we have significant experience helping people throughout Northern California get the compensation that they deserve for their personal injury claims.

Based in San Rafael, our law firm represents people in Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and beyond with their personal injury cases. We offer free case evaluations and work on a contingency fee basis — which means that you don’t pay a penny unless we recover money for you.

To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a San Rafael premises liability attorney, contact us today at 1-800-4-INJURY or email us at any time.