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California Premises Liability Laws: Understanding the Implications of a Reasonable Duty of Care 

State of California law requires that property owners take reasonable care in ensuring that individuals who enter the premises are kept safe from injury. A property owner’s duty of care may include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Making sure that there is sufficient lighting throughout the property
  • In the event that there is a hazard, ensuring that there is a sufficient warning about the hazard or steps taken to correct it

Since there are many factors that could involve a premises liability claim, it is imperative to seek the guidance and support of a qualified attorney. A premises liability attorney will analyze the specifics of your particular injury and help you to determine if you have a viable case. In the event that you have a valid premises liability case, a practiced attorney will help you strategize a strong case. 

Who is Owed a Duty of Care: Legislative Background

Traditionally, in California, a duty of care was owed to individuals considering their status in accordance to the property owner. These sets of people were classified as follows:

  • Licensees
  • Invitees
  • Trespassers

In these cases, an invitee was owed an elevated duty of care as opposed to the two other categories. Invitees were individuals who were invited in the property for business purposes. Here, the property owner had to actively exercise caution and care to avoid an invitee from being injured or harmed while in the property.

This was dissimilar to the other categories. For the two other categories, property owners simply had to refrain from intentionally harming the individuals. Those who belonged to the other two categories had to enter the premises not expecting a particular sense of all-inclusive safety. Further, they also assumed more responsibility for their own wellbeing.

The Current Standard

Premises liability legislation has drastically changed. Current law mandates that property owners take a responsibility in preventing or protecting from known hazards in the property to avoid injury to all people. In current state law, the injured party has the burden to demonstrate that the property owner acted negligently in regard to the safety of those in the property. Depending on the particular circumstances, the injured party may also have the responsibility to demonstrate that the property owner did not take a reasonable care for the following conditions of their property:

  • Discovery and repair of dangerous conditions
  • Replacement
  • Provide the proper notice or warning

Considerable Elements of a Premises Liability Claim

When deciding if a property owner took a reasonable care to avoid injuries, courts will consider the case as a whole and consider the following elements:

  • The location of the property
  • The likelihood of injury
  • The seriousness of the injury
  • Did the owner have knowledge of the hazardous condition?
  • Was there any difficulty the deterring of injury?
  • The open and obvious nature of the dangerous condition.

In most cases, a property owner needs to have knowledge of, or notice of, the hazard in order to be held liable for the injury. That said, if the owner is negligent in inspecting the property, he or she nonetheless faces being held responsible for a victim’s injuries for the hazard that as an owner, he should have known about or would have discovered through diligence. 

The Bottom Line

If you or someone you know has been injured due to a hazardous condition on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries sustained. Contact a dedicated attorney who can champion for your rights.

The attorneys at Heiting & Irwin are experienced in the field of premises liability claims and can guide you through your available options. If you have been injured due to the hazardous conditions of someone else’s property, speak to a knowledgeable and qualified attorney.

James Heiting

The only past President of the State Bar of California ever elected from the Inland Empire, James Heiting handles civil litigation matters throughout California, recovering over $300 million for clients, dealing with wrongful death, serious injury, professional malpractice and transportation accidents. Also past President of Riverside’s County Bar, his firm has served the Inland Empire for over 30 years. View Attorney James Otto Heiting's Attorney Bio Here.

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