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What damages are recoverable in a premises liability suit?

Imagine you are shopping in a store when you slip on a puddle of spilled milk you didn't see, and you slip and fall, breaking your wrist. You must go to the hospital and have your wrist placed in a cast, and the cast prevents you from returning to work for two weeks. Who is responsible for your medical expenses and lost wages?

The law of premises liability seeks to resolve this question.

Under California law, property owners have a duty to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition, so as to help prevent accidents. This duty means they must inspect their property to find any hazardous conditions, and if they find any unsafe conditions, they must repair them and warn others about the potential for injury.

If they fail to exercise this duty, and someone is injured as a result, the property owner can be held liable for the injured person's damages.

These damages can include past and future medical expenses, lost wages and lost earning capacity, and loss of household services. The property owner may also be liable for general damages, which can include pain and suffering and more.

Under premises liability, property owners should keep their property up to all safety codes. If an injury results from a code violation, the court will find the owner presumptively negligent. Owners can't legally delegate their duty to a property manager or other third party. If the property owner is a landlord, he or she has a duty to inspect the property at the beginning of the lease and make periodic inspections during the lease to discover any hazards.

All of this makes the law of premises liability sound like it is highly favorable to the injured. Most property owners try their best to keep their property safe. However, property owners also carry insurance. When an injured person tries to recover compensation, the injured must often go against highly skilled and highly paid insurance company lawyers who have a strong motivation to avoid accepting liability or paying the injured party what he or she deserves. For that reason, it can be crucial for the injured to have representation by a skilled lawyer with experience in premises liability law.

Source: California Lawyer, "A Primer On Premises Liability," Kimberly Wong, March 9, 2017

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