Can I Sue My Landlord for Premises Liability?

When you live on someone else’s property, you have certain expectations for how it will be managed and maintained. As a renter, you have every right to expect your landlord will keep the property reasonably safe from hazards that could cause you and your family harm.

However, whether through neglect or intentional disregard, many landlords fail to uphold their duties to their tenants. This can easily lead to a serious accident if dangerous hazards on a property are left unaddressed.

If you’ve been injured as a result of negligence by a landlord, the California premises liability lawyers at Custodio & Dubey LLP can help you recover compensation for your injuries. We have more than 40 years of experience handling these sorts of cases, and we’ve recovered more than $25 million for our clients since opening our firm.

When we take someone on as a client, we commit ourselves to helping in any way we can. This includes everything from representing them in court to helping them arrange transportation to a doctor’s office. When you hire our firm, you won’t owe us any fees unless we get you the compensation you deserve.

Questions about your premises liability case? We can answer them in a free consultation. Call our office in Los Angeles or visit our contact page to get started.

Premises Liability Laws in California

Premises liability law covers a landlord’s responsibilities to individuals who are on their property for various purposes. The degree of liability that a landlord has if someone is injured on their property depends on why the person was on the property, their relationship to the landlord, and other factors.

There are three broad categories of visitors or guests to someone’s property. These are:

Invitees

An invitee is a person who has been specifically invited onto a property by a landlord. This includes tenants of apartment buildings and other rental properties, as well as hotel guests. It also includes anyone invited onto a property to conduct business, such as contractors or maintenance workers.

California law states landlords have the highest level of duty toward invitees on their property, which includes checking the property for dangerous conditions, posting warning signs near hazards on the property, and taking action to address any dangerous conditions on the grounds.

Licensees

A licensee is an individual who is allowed to enter a property and is visiting for their own purposes. Examples of licensees include family members or friends at someone’s apartment or other rental property. Landlords are required to provide warnings about known hazards to minimize the chance of harm to licensees, but they are not required to conduct active checks to protect licensees from dangerous conditions.

Trespassers

If someone is on another person’s property illegally or without permission, the landlord has no legal responsibility to prevent the trespasser from being injured (though landlords should avoid intentionally injuring anyone, including trespassers). The sole major exception to this rule is if the trespasser is a child, in which case the landlord can sometimes be held liable for a child’s injuries.

When Is the Landlord Liable for Accidents?

A landlord’s liability for an accident will depend on where and how the accident occurred, as well as the nature of the relationship between the landlord and the person who was injured.

For instance, licensees can only hold a landlord liable for their injuries if the hazard was known to the landlord and the landlord failed to provide adequate warning about the dangerous conditions. One example would be if the landlord knew about a dangerous patch of ice on a common walkway but failed to post any warning signs about the hazard. If someone slipped on the ice and sustained an injury — even if they did not live on the property — the landlord would likely be liable for the injury.

Invitees, such as the tenants of an apartment building, have more protection under California premises liability law. Landlords owe a higher duty of care to invitees and are required to conduct reasonable checks to make sure there are no dangerous conditions on the property that could harm the invitee. If a tenant were to slip on the same patch of ice that we used in the above example, the landlord would likely be liable for the tenant’s injuries.

However, landlords are not necessarily liable for all injuries sustained by invitees. Landlords are required to inspect a dwelling for hazards before a tenant takes possession, but once the tenant has moved in, the landlord is generally only responsible for maintaining common areas. This means that if a tenant is injured within the confines of their own home — for example, if they trip over clutter they left in their own living room — the landlord is usually not liable for those injuries.
If you have questions about whether you have a valid premises liability claim in California, you should speak to a Los Angeles premises liability lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can review the facts to determine what legal options you may have.

Evidence to Use in a Premises Liability Case

A key element in any premises liability case is demonstrating how the specific actions or inactions of a landlord led to your injuries. To give yourself the best shot at winning your case, you’ll want to gather as much evidence as possible. Here’s some of the evidence that can be used in a premises liability case:

  • Witness testimony: Third-party witnesses are extremely valuable in a premises liability case. They can testify about the hazards on a property as well as how you sustained your injuries.
  • Photographs: If possible, take pictures of what caused the accident. Include photos of your injuries. Visual evidence helps corroborate the details of your claim while refuting any disputes that may come from the landlord.
  • Property records: To hold the landlord liable in a premises liability case, you need to first identify who the real property owner is. You can find this information in property records. You may also find information about any prior accidents at the property and when any major work was done.
  • Accident reports: If you sustain a serious injury on someone else’s property, it’s generally a good idea to report the incident to the authorities. Even if they choose not to investigate your case, you’ll have a written record of what happened taken just after the accident itself, which is a strong piece of evidence.
  • Medical records: Your medical records serve a twofold purpose in a premises liability case. First, they document your injuries, which is important when it comes to establishing the value of your claim. Second, these records help establish how your injuries occurred, which is an important piece of demonstrating fault for an accident.

What Is a Liability Waiver?

Many landlords will include a clause in your rental agreement stating that you agree not to sue them in the event of an injury on the premises. This is commonly known as a liability waiver. However, most liability waivers are non-enforceable, as a landlord cannot use a waiver to excuse themselves for liability from future injuries sustained on his or her property.

If a landlord tries to use a liability waiver against you after an injury, don’t fall for their threats. A premises liability lawyer can help you hold a landlord accountable for your injuries.

How to File a Premises Liability Claim

Here are the basic steps for filing a premises liability claim:

  • Notify the landlord and their insurance company of your injuries: This is usually done through a demand letter, which will include a basic account of what happened as well as what you’re seeking in compensation.
  • Open settlement negotiations: Once you’ve let the landlord and their insurance carrier know about your injury, settlement negotiations will begin. Both sides will get a chance to submit evidence, and the insurance company will make an initial offer based on the available evidence. As more evidence accumulates, negotiations will continue, and both sides will get the opportunity to make additional offers.
  • Collect compensation or file a lawsuit: If you get a fair compensation offer for your injuries, you’ll agree to a settlement and the case will be over. However, if a fair settlement can’t be reached in negotiations, then it’s time to file a lawsuit. You’ll then take your case before a jury or a judge, depending on what your lawyer thinks is the best move to win your case.

Benefits of Hiring a Premises Liability Lawyer

It can be a significant challenge to hold a landlord liable for your injuries in a premises liability case. The burden of proof is on you to show how the landlord was negligent, and it can be difficult to find enough evidence to back up your claim.

With a premises liability lawyer at your side, you have a much stronger chance of prevailing in your case. A premises liability attorney has specialized training and knowledge to find the necessary evidence to prove your claim.

An attorney can also assist in settlement negotiations by making sure you don’t say or do anything that might jeopardize your claim or lower the potential value of your settlement. Finally, you will definitely want a lawyer’s help if your case ends up going to trial, as leading a court case requires a specific skill set.

If you want to know more about premises liability issues in California, the legal team at Custodio & Dubey LLP can help. Call or contact us today to speak with a proven Los Angeles premises liability lawyer. The consultation is free.