California businesses and property owners have a duty to keep their premises in safe condition. If they fail to do so, they can be held liable for any resulting injuries. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge for victims to recover full and fair financial compensation through a premises liability claim.
Plaintiffs must present a strong and well-documented case and be ready for any defense a negligent property owner or insurance company may throw at them. In this article, our San Francisco premises liability lawyers highlight three of the most common legal defenses in premises liability claims.
As explained in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, businesses and property owners owe a far lower duty of care to ‘trespassers.’ While trespassers are not necessarily prohibited from filing a premises liability claim in California, it is far more difficult for a ‘trespasser’ to prevail in this type of case. In defending a premises liability claim, a property owner or property occupier may try to assert the plaintiff did not have permission to be on the premises at the time an accident occurred.
One of the most common defenses raised in a premises liability claims is lack of actual or constructive knowledge of the underlying safety hazard. In a California premises liability claim, plaintiffs are typically required to prove the defendant knew or should have known about the danger. To be clear, ignorance is not a valid legal defense. If a business or property owner should have known about the safety issue on their premises, they can still be held liable.
Defendants may try to escape or reduce their liability by pushing some or all the blame for an accident back onto the plaintiff. In California, these cases are handled under the state’s comparative negligence rules. Essentially, each party will be held liable in direct proportion to their share of the ‘fault’ for an accident.
As an example, imagine you suffered $15,000 damages in a slip and fall accident, which occurred at a San Francisco store. If the property owner/occupier is found to be liable for 100 percent of that accident, they will be responsible for 100 percent of your damages, or $15,000.
However, if the defendant can successfully argue you were also negligent and that you should be held responsible for 50 percent of the accident, their negligence would be reduced accordingly — by 50 percent, or $7,500. You would be liable for the remainder of your own accident.
Contact Our San Francisco Premises Liability Attorneys Right Away
At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our California premises liability lawyers are strong advocates for justice. If you or your loved one was injured due to the negligence of a business or property owner, we are here to help. For a free, no commitment consultation, please call us at 415-835-6777 or contact our law firm directly through our website. With a conveniently located office location in San Francisco, we represent plaintiffs throughout the Bay Area.