Attorney David Azizi has helped many Los Angeles area residents who have fallen on private property due to the failure of property owners, possessors, or landlords/rental management companies to maintain, inspect and rid the property of hazards. In fact, the Law Offices of David Azizi are known as the go-to place for slip and fall or trip and fall injuries.
If you or a family member have been injured due to a slip, trip and fall on private property, call David today at (800) 991-5292. You can call anytime of the day, any day of the week because we know accidents don’t happen exclusively during business hours. We are happy to set up a free, no-obligation review of your case. During this evaluation, David can tell you what your case may be worth, answer your questions and do preliminary research. David has won 98-percent of his cases due to his fervor in helping clients obtain the maximum compensation they deserve.
Private Property Slips, Trips and Falls: An Overview
While trips and falls and slips and falls happen routinely on commercial properties, such as Ralphs, Vons Food 4 Less, Stater Bros, Smart & Final, Safeway, and other grocery stores or Walmart, Target, Costco they also occur on residential properties, including private, owner-occupied homes and multi-family rental units or single family rental homes.
The duty of care held by the property owner/possessor in rental properties or private owner-occupied homes and commercial buildings is to keep the property safe for those who either live there or shop there. If that duty is breached, a claim may be made by the injured party to recover damages, providing certain criteria are met.
Landlords have certain obligations they must fulfill to ensure premises are safe. In order to decide if the injuries a tenant or visitor experienced on private property are due to landlord/owner negligence, it is important to note if:
- A dangerous condition existed
- Whether the dangerous condition was a risk to anyone who entered
- It was reasonable to expect a guest would anticipate the dangerous condition
- The dangerous condition caused the visitor/tenant’s injury
- The landlord/owner knew a dangerous condition existed
- The dangerous condition was remedied immediately or if warning signs were used or visitors/tenants were made aware the condition was present
Knowledge of a Hazardous Condition on Private Property
Rental units are often inspected on a recurring basis. This provides the landlord or rental management company a chance to see if conditions within the unit have become hazardous or if the property is being maintained according to the renter’s lease agreement. In between inspections, the renter is obligated to report any dangerous conditions that may have developed. Unless the owner/rental management company knows about the existence of a hazard, they may not be held liable for the tenant’s injuries.
Example of the Shared Responsibility Between Landlords and Tenants
Suppose the following situations existed:
- A leak from the bathroom ceiling in the rented house started after the last heavy rain. The bathroom had a tile floor that became slippery when wet. The leak persisted each time it rained, but the tenant failed to inform the landlord. On one occasion, the tenant did not realize the floor was wet and slipped and fell, injuring his back. In this case, it is unlikely that the tenant would be able to prove that the landlord was negligent since the defect was unknown to the landlord.
- In the second scenario, the tenant told the landlord immediately that the ceiling was leaking. Time passed and the landlord failed to repair the leak. The tenant walked into his bathroom, unaware that it was raining. He slipped on the wet surface and injured himself. In this case, the landlord would most likely be held liable for the injuries suffered by the tenant.
Generally speaking, other than injuries due to faulty repair or lack of repair, landlords are not responsible for slips and falls inside of a rental unit unless the landlord knew or should have known of the dangerous/defective condition.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
This is one of the most common questions a personal injury lawyer hears. After learning the facts of the case, it is possible to present clients with options. An injured person can get a rough estimate by going to the Azizi slip and fall settlement calculator. There, he or she can enter their information, and David will review it during the free case evaluation.
Owner/Possessor Responsibility for Common Areas
The owner/landlord is responsible for the maintenance of common areas of multi-family rental properties and removal of hazards. The landlord/rental management company must do the following among other responsibilities and duties:
- Maintain and keep common areas safe. This includes sidewalks, stairs outside of the rental unit and laundry areas. In some areas, security patrols may be necessary.
- Keep the grounds clear of dangerous conditions such as uneven surfaces.
- Clear the effects of inclement weather on pathways and in parking areas, including water and mud.
- Making sure there is ample light in stairwells, outdoor pathways and in parking areas.
In some cases, particularly in rented homes, the tenant’s responsibilities may include keeping sidewalks clear of conditions that could lead to slip, trip and fall accidents and removing other exterior hazards. The details should be clearly delineated in the rental contract.
Risk of Injury: Slip and Fall and Trip and Fall Hazards
The risk of injury is increased when a rental company/owner/landlord fails to maintain the property or chooses not to. Such risks are often unknown to the tenant or visitor until an accident occurs. Some examples are:
- A depression or a hole in the yard that can lead to trips and falls
- Debris in the common areas or on sidewalks
- Staircase clutter
- Inadequate lighting
- Torn or wrinkled carpeting
- Loose floor tiles
- Damaged floor boards, warped linoleum
- Damaged handrails
- Torn or loose treads on stairs
- Damaged sidewalks on the private property
- Exposed tree roots on the private property
- Uneven levels in walkways
- Contamination of surfaces
- Wet floors in lobby areas
- Elevator not aligned with floor, enabling trips and falls
Who Is Responsible for Sidewalk Negligence
The owner of the house or rental management company is responsible for sidewalks on the property or immediately in front of their property. There is a new city initiative in Los Angeles* as a result of a recent lawsuit to make business owners and homeowners responsible for the city’s sidewalks. Many sidewalks are being repaired by the city. However, once this is done the business or homeowner will be responsible for upkeep in the future.
What to Do When You Fall on Private Property
Immediately after an accident, seek emergency medical care if needed. If you can, there are things that you should do such as:
- Ask to see the person in charge or the homeowner immediately.
- Ask for insurance information from a homeowner or the landlord/rental management company.
- Photograph what caused your fall. Get multiple views if possible and measure the trip hazard.
- If you are in a common area in a multifamily residential building, look to see if anyone witnessed your accident. If so, obtain their contact information, and ask if they will write down what they saw.
- Ask witnesses if they saw anyone else fall due to the same dangerous condition. If they say yes, get details, particularly when it happened.
- Ask if the witness or anyone else reported the dangerous condition to the owner/landlord.
- Many residential buildings have video cameras in common areas and the entrance/exit area. Obtain footage detailing your accident. If possible, obtain footage from previous days or weeks to see if the condition existed.
- See your doctor as soon as possible if you do not go to the emergency room. Tell him or her that you were in an accident. The medical notes your doctor makes can be used to document the injuries you received. In addition, some injuries do not show up until days after the accident. Your doctor will tell you what to watch for. Ask for a copy of the doctor’s notes and any tests for your own records.
- As soon as you get home, it is a good idea to take a picture of any lacerations, bruises or abrasions you may have from the accident.
- Start a daily diary, beginning with the accident. Some cases take awhile to resolve, and it is difficult to remember everything.
- The clothes you wore may contain tangible evidence of your injury. The shoes you wore the day you fell are important too. Both should be set aside.
How to Prove the Landlord/Owner Is Liable
As you can see from the two scenarios above, the tenant must prove that
- the landlord/owner failed in his or her duty of care to the tenant if the landlord knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed and did not fix it within a reasonable amount of time.
- not fixing the dangerous condition resulted in the tenant’s injuries.
- the injury was reasonably foreseeable given the nature of the damage.
- the injury was a direct result of the landlord/owner’s negligence.
What Are Recoverable Expenses?
- Medical Expenses: Such expenses include ambulance service, hospital costs, medication, tests such as blood tests and X-rays, doctor visits and nursing services at home. If the injury causes you to accumulate medical expenses in the future, they can also be recovered.
- Lost Wages: If you are out of work due to the accident, you can recover the wages you would have earned had it not been for the accident. In the event that you cannot return to the job you had, you may be able to recover lost future income.
- Pain and Suffering: This is a non-tangible loss that is different for every person. It includes emotional and mental anguish such as depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
Falls on Private Property: Statistics You Won’t Believe
Accidents in residential units are common. In fact, 20,000 deaths and millions of disabling injuries are attributed to such accidents annually. Of all types of accidents, falls are the most common and account for a proportionately high level of lost time from work and 50 percent of fatalities. Of all emergency room visits, falls alone account for over 8 million or 21.3 percent.
Falls on private property are equally divided between tripping over an obstacle or uneven surface and slipping. Older individuals have a greater rate of fall injuries at about 33 percent, and approximately 15,000 die each year from falls. Half of them are unable to return to an independent lifestyle, and this accounts for 40 percent of nursing home admissions.
Personal Injury on Homeowners Insurance
If the property owner has homeowner’s insurance accident coverage, chances are a visitor will be covered if something happens. In fact, homeowners insurance is required if the owner has a mortgage on the property.
If the homeowner has paid off his or her mortgage, and homeowner’s insurance is no longer required, it is necessary to ask the homeowner if they carry insurance. Since there is no central registration, an injured party has little ability to find out on their own. However, investigative companies that a lawyer has access to can be used for this purpose.
It is important to report the injury to the insurance company as soon as possible. The homeowner may refuse to provide information about their policy, fearing their insurer may cancel coverage. Without the homeowner’s cooperation, the visitor may need to file a lawsuit to obtain the necessary information.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
Aside from being covered for injuries in the home, homeowners insurance may cover damages you caused outside the home. For example, a person walking in a grocery store is carrying an open bottle of water and drops the bottle, splashing water all over the floor. Another person comes along and falls after slipping in the spilled water. The grocery store may not be liable for the injuries the person experienced. However, the person who spilled the water may be covered by their homeowners insurance.
Under these circumstances, consulting a personal injury attorney would be beneficial. The attorney would be able to check to see if the homeowners insurance covers the person’s injuries, depending on the policy.
Dog bites, both on the property of the person who is insured and off the property, may be covered by homeowners insurance. Again, an attorney would be able to determine if an injury is covered in both circumstances.
How to File a Claim Against the Homeowner
Making a claim against the homeowner proceeds in a similar fashion to that of a car accident. An adjuster is assigned to the case and makes contact with the homeowner and the injured party. The adjuster may ask you to make a recorded statement about your accident and injuries. If you lack legal representation, it is important to decline this. Other items the adjuster might request are medical records and employment records to verify wage loss.
Once the adjuster gathers the facts of the case, he or she will offer a settlement amount. Such first offers are generally low. In many cases, the amount may not cover your loses. If you accept the offer, the homeowners insurance company will ask that you sign a release that specifies that you will be unable to ask for additional recovery in the future. It is important to discuss settlement with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
Homeowners insurance covers liability due to negligence and medical costs related to the injury. In order for liability coverage to be paid, the homeowner must be negligent in his or her duty to keep the property safe. Medical coverage covers the victim’s medical bills, up to a certain amount. The medical payment coverage commonly held by homeowners is in the range of $5,000 to $10,000. If you are injured on your own property, homeowners will probably not provide compensation.
Common Injuries on Private Property
As with any slip and fall or trip and fall accident, there are a number of common injuries. They are:
Head Injury: This can range from lacerations of the scalp to skull fractures and penetrating injuries.
Brain Injury: This involves specific damage to the brain and structurally differs from head injury. Brain injuries can include:
- Concussion: This is where the brain “bounces” around within the skull. This can cause a temporary loss of function and the feeling of being disoriented. In most cases, it passes after a few months. It may or may not be visible on a CT scan and often is a diagnosis of exclusion. It may cause axonal injury or diffuse lesions in the white matter of the brain (see below).
- Brain Contusions: These are bruises on the brain. Generally, they heal on their own but, if large, may require surgical intervention.
- Coup-Contrecoup Injury: This injury involves bruises on opposite sides of the brain. This happens when the brain suffers an impact that not only bruises the brain on the side of impact but causes the brain to “bounce” off of the skull on the opposite side with sufficient force to bruise the other side of the brain.
- Diffuse Axonal Injury: This involves tearing of brain tissue when the skull moves due to impact. The brain moves somewhat more slowly than the skull, causing the tears. Since brain tissue transmits nerve impulses and chemicals within the brain, disruption interferes with normal communicative functions of the brain and chemical release, resulting in coma or brain damage. In some instances, diffuse axonal injury can result in death. This type of brain damage largely depends on the part of the brain where tissue is torn.
- Subdural Hematoma: This involves pooling of blood between the brain and the dura, an outer tissue layer that covers the brain and spinal cord. An impact can cause small veins between the brain and the dura to tear. Bleeding can be fast, and the pooled blood quickly puts pressure on the brain, which can result in brain injury or death. While significant force usually is involved in a subdural hematoma, even a lesser injury can cause a subdural. This is most often seen in older individuals, whose veins are already stretched and easier to tear. It may take longer for symptoms to appear in the elderly. Common symptoms are confusion, weakness, nausea and vomiting, headache and loss of balance among others.
Facial Trauma: This can involve a fracture of the nose or facial bones. It also includes dental trauma. Facial trauma is often seen when the person falls forward and is unable to use their arms to block the fall.
Shoulder Injuries: Such injuries include:
- Dislocated Shoulder: This happens when the arm is pulled away from the rest of the body and rotated in an external direction. The ball of the upper arm bone or humerus is torn from its socket. By doing this, the ligaments, cartilage and tendons of the rotator cuff are torn. In order to stop the severe pain associated with a dislocated shoulder without fractures, the dislocation must be reduced or put back in place. This commonly takes anesthesia.
- Brachial Plexus Injury: This involves injury to the group of nerves that controls movement in the arm and hand. Sudden damage results in impaired use of the arm and hand.
Fractures: Broken bones can happen anywhere on the body. Two common areas are:
- Patellar or Kneecap Fractures: This fracture happens often, particularly when the person falls directly on their knee(s). Casting is often successful if the fragments are not displaced. However, the pieces often move, and surgery may be needed to realign the pieces.
- Hip Fractures: This type of fracture is serious, particularly in older individuals. It often requires surgery and possibly hip replacement.
Knee Injuries: Other than fractures, the knee has tendons, ligaments and menisci that can be damaged.
- Meniscus Injuries: The knee has two flat discs made up of cartilage on either side of the knee (lateral and medial). They provide cushioning between the upper and lower leg bones. Tears occur when the knee is twisted while bent. Minor tears may heal, but severe tears with pieces of the meniscus in the joint space require surgery.
- Ligament Injury: There are four ligaments: one on each side of the knee and one in the front and posterior knee. The medial and lateral collateral ligaments may heal without surgery. However, when the anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments are torn, knee reconstructive surgery may be needed.
- Tendon Tear: The patellar tendon, which connects the tibial bone of the lower leg to the bottom of the patella, can rupture. This is serious and requires surgery and rehabilitation therapy.
Spinal Injuries: Spinal injuries occur to the cervical/neck, thoracic/mid-back or lumbar/low back. The vertebra that make up the spine can be damaged.
- Vertebral Herniation: The spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae separated by cushions called disks. The softer inner part of the disk can leak out of the harder disk exterior. When this happens, spinal nerves are irritated. The irritation can result in arm or leg pain, tingling, numbness and weakness. If medication and alternate therapy is not successful, surgery is needed. Sometimes, just the part of the disc that is protruding is removed, or the entire disk may be removed (diskectomy) and the vertebrae fused. In some cases, an artificial disk may be implanted.
- Spinal Cord Injury: On occasion, the spinal cord itself is injured. When that happens, depending on the level of the spinal cord at which the injury occurs, paraplegia or quadriplegia may result.
Aggravation of Non-Symptomatic Degenerative Injury: Trauma to any joint or the vertebral spine may aggravate a pre-existing, non-symptomatic degenerative condition. In all likelihood, this condition would not have been symptomatic for many years, if at all. However, after the trauma, the individual will experience chronic pain.
The Law Offices of David Azizi: We Are Here When You Need Us
When you’ve been injured in a private home or a residential rental unit, you may not be aware of the homeowner’s or landlord’s responsibility. David Azizi has practiced personal injury law for 22 years and has dealt with slip and fall and trip and fall accidents in the home as well as landlord negligence.
David works hard to make sure you recover the compensation you need to move on after an accident. It is this tenacity combined with experience that has helped him win 98-percent of his cases. It is his empathy that lets clients know he cares how they feel.
Call the Law Offices of David Azizi today at (800) 991-5292. We are available 24/7 to take your call. If you cannot come to the office due to your injuries, other arrangements can be made.
* = Los Angeles