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Injured on Someone Else’s Property in California? Be Ready for These Common Defenses

When you step on someone’s property, you have the fair expectation that you will be kept from dangerous safety hazards. Under California law, businesses and property owners have a duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe conditions for guests. When an accident occurs, the injured victim may be entitled to recover financial compensation through a premises liability claim. 

Of course, businesses, property owners, and the insurance companies that represent them are never eager to pay out full and fair settlements. In this article, our Stockton premises liability attorneys highlight some of the most common defenses you need to be ready for if you are preparing to file a personal injury claim after being hurt on someone else’s property. 

Premises Liability: Know the Basics

Premises liability is a legal principle that governs most cases in which someone is injured while on another person’s property. You can bring a premises liability claim against a business, organization, or other property owners. The general concept is relatively straightforward: Property owners and property occupiers have a basic legal responsibility to provide reasonably safe conditions for customers and other invited guests. 

To hold a defendant liable in a premises liability claim in California, a plaintiff must prove negligence. As described in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, a business or property owner is negligent if they “fail to use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition.” What constitutes “reasonable care” and “reasonably safe condition” depends entirely on the specific circumstances of the case. 

Four Common Defenses in Premises Liability Claims

When filing a premises liability claim in Stockton, an injured victim should be prepared to demonstrate exactly how the business/property owner failed to live up to their obligation to provide reasonably safe conditions. Of course, defendants and insurance carriers rarely give up without a fight. They may try to raise a defense to deny liability or limit the victim’s compensation. Here are four of the most common defenses raises in premises liability claims: 

  1. Trespassing: In California, businesses and property owners owe certain duties to customers and other permitted guests. They owe far lower duties to trespassers and other people who were not supposed to be on the property. A property owner or insurer may defend a premises liability claim on the grounds that the injured victim was trespassing at the time of the accident. To be clear, trespassers are not necessarily barred from filing a premises liability lawsuit in California. That being said, it is far more challenging for a “trespasser” to bring a successful premises liability claim. If you or your loved one was hurt on another person’s property and you believe that they are going to raise a trespassing defense, an experienced Stockton, CA premises liability attorney can help. 
  2. Assumption of Risk: Another relatively common defense in premises liability lawsuits is assumption of risk. In personal injury law, assumption of risk is a legal doctrine that limits an injured victim’s right to pursue financial compensation for injuries/accidents that they knew and understood were a reasonable risk of engaging in a certain activity. One of the most straightforward examples of how the assumption of risk doctrine works is organized sports. Imagine that you joined a recreational basketball league in Stockton, CA. While playing in a game you sustained a significant knee injury after stepping on another player’s foot. In general, that is simply a “risk” of playing basketball. You would likely not have a viable premises liability claim against the property owner because of the assumption of risk doctrine. 
  3. No Actual/Constructive Knowledge: In California, businesses and property owners are typically only liable for risks that they knew or should have known about. A property owner that does not have actual knowledge (knew) or constructive knowledge (should have known) about a particular safety hazard may not be liable for accidents caused by that safety hazard. Many premises liability lawsuits in California are defended on the grounds that the defendant did not know and could not have reasonably known about the safety hazard in question. 
  4. Comparative Fault: Finally, California businesses/property owners may try to defend a premises liability claim using contributory negligence. In California, premises liability cases fall under a comparative fault standard. An injured victim’s ability to recover compensation will be reduced—potentially even prevented—if they were fully or partially responsible for their own accident. As an example, imagine that person suffered a serious leg injury after slipping and falling at a retail store in Stockton. The store owner may try to defend the claim on the grounds that the victim caused or contributed to their own fall accident. If they were sprinting down the aisles of a busy department store, they might have a valid defense. If you have any questions about comparative negligence and premises liability, an experienced Stockton, CA personal injury attorney can help. 

A California Personal Injury Lawyer Will Protect Your Rights 

Were you hurt while on another person’s property? If so, it is imperative that you take immediate action to protect your rights. Big businesses and large insurance companies waste little time in building their defense. All serious accidents should be comprehensively investigated by an experienced Stockton, CA premises liability attorney. Not only can your lawyer anticipate the potential defenses that the other side will raise, but your premises liability attorney will also ensure that you have access to all of the evidence and information that you need to build a strong case. 

Contact Our Stockton, CA Premises Liability Attorney for Immediate Assistance

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in premises liability claims. If you were hurt on another person’s property, we are here to help you get justice and full financial support. Contact us by calling 209-267-4589 or sending us a message directly online. Initial consultations are free and always fully confidential. With an office in Stockton, we handle premises liability claims throughout the region, including in San Joaquin County, Sacramento County, Amador County, and Stanislaus County.