Premises Liabilty

Premises Liability in California: What You Should Know

Close up of a persona wrapping bandage on another one's injury.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. The Obligation to Remove Hazards and Warn Guests

III. Premises Liability in California

A. Key Elements of Premises Liability in California

B. Defenses Against Premises Liability Claims

IV. Typical Premises Liability Accident Types

V. Common Injuries from Slip and Fall Accidents

VI. Cost of Recovery for Slip and Fall Injuries

VII. Settlement for Premises Liability Accidents

VIII. Conclusion



Ensuring the safety of individuals entering another person's property is of utmost importance. Property owners and occupants bear a significant responsibility in maintaining a secure environment for guests. However, they may not always be liable for any accidents that occur on their premises. When hazardous situations lead to mishaps, those in charge may find themselves legally accountable for resulting damages, under the legal concept of premises liability.

Fortunately, there are experienced attorneys who specialize in premises liability cases. These legal professionals have amassed years of expertise in passionately advocating for the rights of those injured while visiting someone else's property. They possess a deep understanding of the intricate nuances within premises liability law, which can significantly impact the outcome of your claim.

In the following sections, we will delve into the various factors surrounding premises liability, providing you with valuable insights and information.

warning sign of a man slipping
Image by OpenIcons from Pixabay

The Obligation to Remove Hazards and Warn Guests

Property owners and occupants bear a legal obligation, known as premises liability, to consistently assess their property for potential hazards that could jeopardize the safety of guests. This duty extends to both residential and commercial properties.

To fulfill this obligation effectively, property owners must take measures to warn guests appropriately and, when possible, eliminate the hazards.

  1. Warning Guests: Property owners should communicate any existing hazards or risks to their guests. This can be achieved through clear signage, verbal warnings, or written notices. The goal is to ensure that visitors are aware of potential dangers and can exercise caution accordingly.
  2. Removing Hazards: When a hazardous condition is identified, property owners must take prompt action to rectify it. The time frame for hazard removal may vary depending on the nature and severity of the risk. In cases where immediate correction is not possible, interim precautions should be implemented to mitigate the danger.
  3. Exercise of Ordinary Care: Property owners cannot evade their responsibility by claiming ignorance of a hazardous condition on their premises. The law considers whether the exercise of ordinary care would have led to the discovery of the hazard. If it can be reasonably argued that a diligent property owner would have identified and addressed the risk, premises liability still applies, even if the owner claims lack of awareness.

When determining whether a property owner should have known about a dangerous condition, several factors are considered, including:

  • Blatancy: How obvious or apparent the hazard is.
  • Complaints: Whether there were any prior complaints or reports about the hazard.
  • Duration: The length of time the hazard has existed without correction.
  • Injuries: If any injuries have already occurred as a result of the hazard.
  • Efforts to Correct: Whether reasonable efforts were made to rectify the dangerous condition.

In cases involving public property, such as city-owned spaces or municipal buildings, the same principles apply. City authorities have a duty to maintain public areas in a safe condition, regularly inspect them for potential hazards, and take appropriate actions to either remove or mitigate those hazards. The timeline for addressing public hazards may depend on local regulations and the severity of the danger, but the duty of care remains consistent.

Woman and man sweeping their backyard.
Image by prostooleh on Freepik

Premises Liability

Premises liability in California, as in most jurisdictions, is a legal concept that holds property owners and occupants responsible for injuries that occur on their premises due to dangerous conditions or negligence. It is essential to understand the key elements of premises liability in California, including the legal principles, types of cases, and potential defenses.

Key Elements of Premises Liability in California:

1. Duty of Care

Property owners and occupants owe a duty of care to ensure their premises are reasonably safe for all lawful visitors. This includes maintaining the property in a reasonably safe condition, inspecting it regularly, and warning guests about any known hazards.

Example: If a store owner in California fails to fix a broken floor tile promptly and a customer slips and falls, the owner may be held liable for the resulting injuries.

2. Invitee, Licensee, and Trespasser

California law distinguishes between different categories of visitors. Invitees, such as customers or business guests, are owed the highest duty of care. Licensees, who enter a property with permission but not for business purposes, also receive a duty of care. Trespassers have the least protection but are still owed a duty to avoid intentionally harming them.

Example: If a homeowner knows about a dangerous condition on their property and invites a friend over without warning them, they may be liable if their friend gets injured due to that condition.

Warning no trespassing sign.
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

3. Dangerous Conditions

Property owners are responsible for identifying and addressing dangerous conditions on their premises. These conditions can include slippery floors, uneven sidewalks, poorly maintained staircases, and more.

Example: If a hotel in California fails to repair a malfunctioning elevator promptly, and a guest is injured as a result, the hotel may be held responsible.

4. Notice

Property owners must have notice of a dangerous condition to be held liable. This notice can be actual (they knew about the condition) or constructive (they should have known about it through reasonable inspections).

Example: If a grocery store in California receives multiple complaints from customers about a wet floor but does not investigate or address the issue, they may be found liable if a customer slips and falls.

5. Causation

To establish a premises liability claim in California, the injured party must demonstrate that the dangerous condition was the direct cause of their injuries.

Example: If a shopping mall has a loose railing, and a shopper leans on it, causing it to collapse and injure them, they must show that the loose railing was the cause of their injuries.

The Defense

Property owners in California may raise several defenses to counter premises liability claims, including:

1. Lack of Notice: If the property owner was unaware of the dangerous condition and had no reason to be aware, they may argue that they lacked notice.

2. Comparative Negligence: If the injured party's actions contributed to their own injuries, California's comparative negligence law may reduce the property owner's liability proportionately.

3. Assumption of Risk: In some cases, property owners may argue that the injured party knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk associated with a dangerous condition.

Example: If a visitor enters an amusement park ride with clear warnings of the risks involved and gets injured, the park may argue that the visitor assumed those risks.

4. Statute of Limitations: California has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If the injured party fails to file a lawsuit within the specified time frame, the property owner may use this as a defense.

Example: If someone is injured on a property but waits several years before filing a lawsuit, the property owner may assert the statute of limitations defense.

5. Government Immunity: In cases involving government-owned properties, certain immunities may apply, limiting the government's liability. However, these immunities are subject to exceptions.

Example: If someone is injured in a public park in California, the government entity may assert immunity, but exceptions may apply if the injury was due to a dangerous condition that should have been addressed.

In summary, premises liability in California is a complex area of law that places specific duties on property owners and occupants. Understanding the legal principles, types of cases, and potential defenses is crucial for both those who may have suffered injuries on someone else's property and property owners seeking to avoid liability. Consulting with an experienced attorney in California is advisable for a comprehensive evaluation of any premises liability case.

Man blocking jenga blocks with his hand from toppling others down.
Image by mindandi on Freepik

Typical Premises Liability Accident Types

Shedding light on the startling statistics provided by the National Floor Safety Institute, it becomes evident that slip and fall accidents pose a significant threat to public safety. Astonishingly, a staggering 50% of all accidental deaths that occur at home are attributed to fall injuries, with more than 8 million emergency room visits annually resulting from such incidents. Furthermore, while it may come as a surprise, women are more susceptible to slip and fall accidents than men, and an equal number of both genders tragically succumb to these accidents. Alarmingly, 5% of all slip and fall incidents result in fractures, underscoring the severity of these accidents. Equally concerning is the fact that falls are the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 64-85, and for those aged 85 or older, it claims the unenviable position of being the leading cause of death. As if these statistics weren't distressing enough, it's estimated that by the age of 65, one in three individuals will have experienced a fall. These statistics, courtesy of the National Floor Safety Institute, serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for heightened awareness and preventive measures.

Moving on to the most common locations where slip and fall accidents occur, according to the National Safety Council, these incidents tend to happen in various settings, such as:

  • Parking Lots: These areas are often prone to hazardous conditions like wet surfaces or debris, making them the most common location for slip and fall accidents.
  • Slippery Floors: Businesses, supermarkets, or public buildings with slippery floors pose significant risks to individuals.
  • Sidewalks: Particularly during adverse weather conditions, sidewalks can become perilous and contribute to slip and fall accidents.
  • Stairs: Accidents frequently occur on stairs, especially when they are not properly maintained or illuminated.
  • Collisions with Objects: Accidents can happen when individuals collide with objects like light posts or merchandise displays, leading to falls.
  • Tripping Over Uneven Carpeting: Uneven carpeting is another common scenario that often results in slip and fall accidents.
  • Work Settings: In workplace environments, falls from ladders, forklifts, or other equipment are prevalent causes of injuries, underscoring the importance of implementing robust workplace safety measures.

Regrettably, slip and fall accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, each potentially incurring significant costs for treatment and recovery. These injuries encompass:

  1. Broken Hips: This injury can be particularly devastating, often requiring extensive medical care and rehabilitation.
  2. Broken Pelvic Bones: Slip and fall accidents can lead to broken pelvic bones, resulting in considerable medical expenses.
  3. Back and Spinal Cord Injuries: These injuries can have lifelong implications, necessitating ongoing medical attention and therapy.
  4. Head Injuries: Slip and fall accidents can cause head injuries that are not only painful but also lead to prolonged medical treatment and rehabilitation.
  5. Neck Injuries: Injuries to the neck can be severe, requiring medical care and rehabilitation.
  6. Torn Ligaments: Torn ligaments in the wrist, foot, or leg can cause persistent discomfort and disability, often necessitating medical intervention and therapy.

The cost of recovery for slip and fall injuries can vary significantly based on the severity of the injury, the duration of treatment, and individual circumstances. On average, the expenses associated with medical bills, therapy, and potential lost wages can range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. However, for more severe injuries or long-term rehabilitation needs, the costs can escalate into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even exceed a million dollars over time.

It's crucial to emphasize that these are general estimates, and the actual cost can vary widely depending on factors such as the extent of medical intervention required, the type of injury sustained, the location of the incident, and the quality of health insurance coverage. Seeking legal counsel to assess the specific circumstances of the case and explore avenues for compensation is essential to ensure that victims receive the appropriate financial support to cover these expenses.

Settlement for Premises Liability Accidents

The accident victim may file a premises liability claim to recover monetary and non-monetary damages for the harm brought on by the hazardous and dangerous conditions.

Economic damages are the actual money losses brought on by the injuries. This covers past, present, and foreseeable medical expenses, property damage, missed wages, and lost benefits and income in the future.

Compensation for less obvious harms, including pain and suffering, emotional anguish, scarring, disfigurement, and the loss of enjoyment of life, is known as noneconomic damages. The court may even give the victim punitive damages in the most severe premises liability cases. 

In addition to economic and noneconomic losses, this award is significant. Punitive damages are intended to hold the perpetrator accountable for their acts and discourage others from taking similar steps to protect and maintain their property.

However, in California, a victim must often demonstrate that the defendant's acts caused catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, intentionally destroyed proof of liability, or caused the accident or injury to receive punitive damages.

The victim's family may potentially seek additional damages for wrongful death if the premises liability accident resulted in death. Payment for final accident-related medical expenditures, burial and funeral expenses, lost financial assistance, and the loss of a loved one's love, security, and company are all possible damages for wrongful death.

A knowledgeable premises liability lawyer will be able to examine your situation's facts and provide advice on what constitutes full and reasonable payment for your injuries.

Woman in desk with checks and money on her hand.
Image by Freepik


You could require a victim's advocate in a premises liability action. You might also need an experienced lawyer to analyze your case or have additional queries concerning California's premises liability laws.

You can discuss your claims with a knowledgeable attorney for premises liability. The law firms that take on these matters typically provide a free and private case assessment with an experienced lawyer who will outline your legal alternatives for compensation.

If you need legal advice on premises liability in California, Mendez & Sanchez Law is here for you. Our attorneys will help you through the difficult legal landscape as we pursue the compensation you deserve. 

Contact us right away for personal injury, auto accident, workers compensation, slip and fall, or other legal needs.

Two attorneys in suit ready to defend their client.
Image by pressfoto on Freepik


Premises liability is a legal concept that holds property owners and occupants responsible for injuries that occur on their premises due to dangerous conditions or negligence.

The key elements include the duty of care owed to visitors, distinctions between types of visitors, identification and addressing of dangerous conditions, notice of hazards, and causation.

Common defenses include lack of notice of the dangerous condition, comparative negligence, assumption of risk, statute of limitations, and government immunity in certain cases.

Slip and fall accidents frequently happen in locations such as parking lots, slippery floors in businesses, sidewalks, stairs, collisions with objects, tripping over uneven carpeting, and in work settings.

Common injuries include broken hips, broken pelvic bones, back and spinal cord injuries, head injuries, neck injuries, and torn ligaments in the wrist, foot, or leg.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Tell Mendez & Sanchez About Your Case.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Let's Get
in Touch
8am - 5pm
Personal Injury California
Personal Injury
Compensation California

Thank you for choosing our personal injury website. To address your legal inquiry effectively, please provide detailed information about your case in the form below. Expect a prompt response within one business day. We appreciate your cooperation and look forward to assisting you.

Thank you! Your submission has been received.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
TEXT USCALL USUpload your case
Text UsCall Us
Available 24/7  |  Hablamos Español
Chamber of Commerce Badge