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Comparative fault in premises liability cases

According to the legal theory called premises liability, a property owner can be held liable for any accidents and injuries that occur on the property. In California, a property owner's liability can be limited if the injured person was partially to blame for what happened. This is known as comparative fault.

If a property owner is found legally responsible for an accident on the property, he or she may be required to pay damages to the injured person. Generally speaking, damages is a monetary award designed to compensate an injured person for things like medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage, and mental anguish. A property owner may also be required to pay punitive damages, which are intended as a punishment.  

Under California law, an injured person's damages can be reduced if he or she was also at fault for the accident or injury. The reason for this is that California law follows a rule called pure comparative fault. Pure comparative fault means that an amount of damages is limited by a person's actual degree of fault. This rule requires a jury to assign a value or percentage to each party's responsibility in the incident.

Because this is a very confusing concept, an example may be helpful. Let's say that a store owner failed to mop up a spill. A customer is distracted by her phone and does not look where she is walking. She slips and falls on the spill. She then sues the store owner for her injuries. At trial, a jury finds that the store owner is 80 percent to blame for the accident and that the customer is 20 percent to blame. The jury awards the customer $10,000 in damages. Under the pure comparative fault rule, the customer's damages will be reduced by 20 percent--her degree of fault. As a result, she will receive only $8,000 in damages.

As this post suggests, premises liability law can be very complicated. If you were injured while on someone else's property, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer can help you understand how California's laws could affect you and your case.   

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Law Offices of William W. Green & Associates
505 S. Villa Real
Anaheim, CA 92807

Phone: 714-464-6903
Toll Free: 866-543-7598
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