Property owners can be found liable for injuries that occur because of hazards on their property if those accidents happen under specific circumstances. This can only happen when the property owner is negligent in dealing with hazards on their property.
As it stands, there is no set time limit for how long a hazard needs to be present for a property owner to be found liable. Instead, the judgment is based on the property owner having a “reasonable” amount of time to address the problem.
For example, a grocery store that has a spill in one of the aisles has a reasonable amount of time to clean up before it can be held liable for any slip and fall accident. In this case, a reasonable amount of time is relatively short, being that it only encompasses the amount of time that it takes to be notified about the spill and the time it takes to send someone to clean it up.
In a more severe case, like an earthquake that cracks a floor tile, it is not reasonable for the store to have that crack repaired in one day. It will take time to have someone come out and repair the damage. A reasonable amount of time is subjective based on the situation.
Property Owner Rights and Obligations
According to California Civil Code (CIV) §846, property owners have some leeway in dealing with hazards. This can be a good thing, as dealing with these situations can be complicated. Property owners cannot always be held responsible for accidents. It only happened under specific circumstances.
Property owners can only be sued when they are negligent in dealing with hazards. To prove negligence, the property owner must meet these three criteria:
- Knowledge of the hazard: The property owner must know about the hazard in advance. Liability can also be applied if the property owner should have known about the hazard by doing standard maintenance or monitoring of their property.
- Reasonable time has passed: Given the extent of what the hazard is, a reasonable amount of time for the property owner to fix the hazard must have passed. This keeps the property owner from being immediately responsible for any hazards that developed and gives them a chance to address them in an appropriate amount of time.
- Failed to address the problem: After a reasonable amount of time has passed, failing to address the hazard in a meaningful way can make the property owner liable for any injuries or damages that it causes.
By meeting these criteria, a property owner is liable for any problems caused by the hazard. This is a type of negligence since the property owner failed to meet their basic responsibilities. When you file your lawsuit, this is one of the first things that your lawyer will look at to determine if the lawsuit is viable.
If your injuries result in expenses, and the property owner was negligent in maintaining the property, you can file a lawsuit to claim compensation. According to the California Courts, it is possible to sue any recognized entity that could be liable for your expenses. Each of your expenses can be claimed in the lawsuit as a part of a larger claim for a specific type of compensation.
For example, the medical expenses that you have can be claimed under the personal injury statute. Most civil lawsuits involve some type of personal injury claim because of medical expenses. They also tend to be the largest segment of expenses that anyone has related to an injury.
Reasons to Hire a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer may be in your best interest if you are filing a lawsuit. The legal process can be complicated, especially given how hazards and premises liability work. Many people find it confusing to try to manage one of these lawsuits on their own.
On top of that, there may be negotiations in your lawsuit if you are offered a settlement agreement. How well you can negotiate will determine the outcome of your case. Having a lawyer represent you means you have somebody who is trained in negotiations and has experience with the legal process that can help you avoid problems and get you compensation.
Hire a Lawyer to Help with Your Case
Although there is no set limit for how long a hazard has to be present for a property owner to be found liable, you may still have a case in your specific situation. The best way to find out if your case is viable is to seek legal advice. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 223-5115 for a free consultation about your case.