How to Establish Negligence in a Premises Liability Case

Premises liability accidents occur when a property owner’s negligence leads to a visitor’s injuries. Before you can hold a property owner liable, you need to establish their negligence, or failure to take the proper care to prevent injuries. 

Establishing negligence in a premises liability case involves understanding a property owner’s duty of care and collecting sufficient evidence to support your case. Working with a premises liability attorney can help you approach this process strategically and improve your chances of collecting compensation. 

Tenets of Negligence in Premises Liability Cases

California law recognizes four general elements your case must meet for the property owner or manager (the defendant) to be negligent:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care. 
  • The defendant breached that duty of care. 
  • The breach led to an accident. 
  • You suffered injuries or property damage from the accident. 

You and your attorney will need to provide evidence that supports all four of these tenets within your premises liability case. Read below to learn about proving each element in your case. 

Duty of Care

Property owners owe different levels of care to different types of visitors to their properties:

  • Highest level of careInvitees, or people the property owner directly or indirectly invited to the property
  • Lower level of care: Licensees, or people who lawfully enter a property for their personal gain
  • No level of careTrespassers, or who enter the property unlawfully or without the property owner’s permission

If you can establish that you were an invitee, you should have no problem proving that the property owner owed you a duty of care. Examples of invitees include:

  • Friends, family members, and neighbors a person invites into their home
  • A customer at a store
  • A person performing repairs on a residential property

Property owners still owe licensees a duty of care, but the level of care may be lower. Licensees may include:

  • People who enter a store to use the restroom without buying anything
  • Utility workers performing maintenance on city utility lines in a residential yard
  • Friends or neighbors who stop by a person’s house unannounced

Property owners owe very little duty of care to trespassers, even if a trespasser did not know they were unlawfully on the property. Children are some of the only exceptions to this rule. Property owners should take reasonable measures to keep children safe, such as by installing fences around pools. 

Breaching the Duty of Care

After establishing that a property owner owed you a duty of care, you must show that they breached that duty. In other words, the property owner did not take the necessary measures to prevent your accident on their premises. 

A property owner may have breached the duty of care if any of the following are true:

  • The owner was aware of a hazard yet did not take reasonable care to mitigate it. 
  • The owner had enough time to become aware of the hazard, yet did not. 

For example, a grocery store owner may have breached their duty of care if they were aware of a loose floorboard that created a tripping hazard but did not take any steps to secure the floorboard. They also may have breached their duty if a patron spilled a carton of milk in a high-traffic area three hours ago and they did not become aware of the hazard before someone slipped. 

Causation

You’ll also need to prove causation when establishing negligence in a premises liability case. Just because an accident occurred does not mean the property owner’s negligence directly caused the accident. 

For example, you can’t exactly blame a property owner when you trip over your own feet in their retail store. But if you tripped over a hazard in the aisle or slipped on a puddle of water, you may be able to establish causation. 

Similarly, a store owner failing to clean up a spill is only in the wrong if an accident actually occurs. You can’t expect financial compensation simply for pointing out a spill. 

You and your premises liability attorney will need to gather evidence that supports a direct link between the property owner’s breach of duty of care and your accident. This evidence may include photos of the accident scene, testimony from other visitors, and security camera footage.

Injuries or Damage

Finally, you will need to establish that the aforementioned accident led to an injury or other damage that cost you money. The hardest aspect of proving injuries is showing that they were not pre-existing and that the accident directly caused them.

You can gather medical records, medical bills, and statements from your doctor to show that your injuries were a direct effect of the accident. If any of your property became damaged in the accident, you can provide photos of the damage and appraisals that show their value.

Examples of Negligence in Common Types of Premises Liability Cases

You and your attorney can also point to previous premises liability cases and their outcomes to highlight a property owner’s negligence in your case. Here are a few examples of negligence in past premises liability claims:

  • Dog bite claims: A dog’s owner is typically liable for dog bites in California as long as the injured person was lawfully on the property and did not provoke the dog. 
  • Swimming pool accidents: A property owner who failed to install fencing around a pool, leading a child to fall in and drown, is often liable for the accident. 
  • Slip and fall accidents: Business owners are often liable when customers slip and fall on icy sidewalks or wet floors. But when a “wet floor” sign is present, they may not be liable for accidents that occur. 

Seek Assistance from Qualified Personal Injury Lawyers in Newport Beach

Establishing negligence in a premises liability case may feel intimidating. You don’t need to navigate this process alone; instead, partner with an experienced premises liability attorney who can guide you through your insurance claim or lawsuit. 

Contact Khalil Law Group today at 714-617-7870 to schedule your free consultation.

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