Bakersfield Premises Liability Lawyer

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Robert May

Founding Partner

Bakersfield Premises Liability Attorney

 
  • 25 + Years of Experience

    When you hire us, you’re adding unmatched experience to your team, ensuring you get the best possible outcome.

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    Our firm maintains an impressive 99% win rate, even while accepting difficult cases other law firms have turned away.

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    We are not afraid of trial, and insurance companies know this. If it’s in your best interest, we are always trial ready.

Bakersfield has attractions to please all kinds, from restaurants and retail stores to music venues, some featuring the famous local Bakersfield Sound. Some of these places are newer, but Bakersfield has its share of older apartments and businesses, some in areas with higher crime rates. While they vary greatly, there’s one thing that ties all of these venues and buildings together—the potential for premises liability.

Premises liability is an area of personal injury law that involves liability for owners or possessors of residential, commercial, or public property to ensure that their properties are safe for those who are legally on the property.

Read on for more information about the types of premises liability and answers to some of the questions we hear most often about obtaining compensation after premises liability accidents.

For answers to questions about your specific case, trust an experienced Bakersfield premises liability lawyer from The May Firm to help you understand the process of pursuing compensation for your premises liability accident injuries.

What Is Premises Liability?

Those in Bakersfield who own, possess, lease, or otherwise control a property must exercise a duty of care to protect their guests from injury.

This duty requires:

  • Maintaining the property so that it is reasonably safe for visitors
  • Routinely inspecting the property to discover hazards that could cause guests to become injured
  • Promptly repairing any known hazards
  • Providing clear warnings to guests regarding existing hazards, or taking other measures such as cordoning off the hazardous feature so that guests are not in contact with it.

Types of Premises Liability Accidents in Bakersfield

In a city as old as Bakersfield, many buildings contain safety hazards, such as unsafe wiring or staircases. Those responsible for the safety of such buildings most often know or should know of the hazards, but simply fail to address them. Here is a list of some premises liability accidents that are likely to arise in Bakersfield.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Each year in the U.S., more than one million people visit emergency rooms for slip and fall injuries, and slip and fall accidents are the most common type of premises liability claim. Slip and fall accidents are of particular concern for the elderly, whose age and often more vulnerable physical states can involve impaired vision, struggles keeping balanced, or other physical weaknesses that can make slipping and falling more likely.

Slip and fall accidents may result from property conditions including:

  • Loose floorboards, torn carpeting, or damaged floor tile
  • Broken or improperly designed staircases
  • Broken or missing handrails
  • Poor lighting, particularly in stairwells
  • Liquid or debris on the floor
  • Cluttered walkways or staircases
  • Cracked or raised sidewalks
  • Potholes in parking lots

While some stigmatize slip and fall accidents as minor or even frivolous, they can produce life-altering or even life-threatening injuries, such as broken hips, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries.

Swimming Pool Accidents

Whether you’re swimming in a public pool or enjoying a pool party at a friend’s house, the owner or possessor of the pool must implement safety measures that ensure proper pool maintenance, adequate supervision of minors, and warning all guests of potential safety hazards such as at shallow ends of the pool where it isn’t safe to dive. Many accidents can occur in a swimming pool, not the least of which is drowning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), besides birth defects, drowning causes more deaths of children ages one to four than any other cause. However, children aren’t the only ones at risk of drowning in a swimming pool. An average of 11 people die from drowning each day in the U.S., and around 22 people each day experience a non-fatal drowning incident.

Other types of swimming pool accidents that can result in serious injuries or even death include:

  • Slip and fall accidents occurring in a vicinity further away from the pool as a result of wet, slippery surfaces
  • Electrocution from improperly installed or malfunctioning lights or heater
  • Swimming pool disembowelment, also known as a pool suction drain injury, which results when an individual’s buttocks become entrapped by the pool’s drain
  • Other types of pool suction drain injuries, such as those occurring as a result of the swimmer’s jewelry or clothing becoming caught in the drain
  • Traumatic brain injuries resulting from diving into shallow water or striking one’s head against the side of the pool

Elevator/Escalator Accidents

Property owners or possessors who have elevators or escalators in their building must properly maintain and service these apparatuses. Malfunctioning elevators can result in doors that close on an individual’s body, become disjointed and create sudden falls, jerk suddenly and cause riders to lose their balance, or become stuck between floors. Malfunctioning escalators can entrap a person’s clothing or fingers, or can even catch fire or explode.

Fire

The Bakersfield Fire Department has 240 reserve personnel, with 14 fire departments throughout the city. It has an Insurance Services Office rating of Class 2, and is among the top 1.5 percent of fire departments nationwide. California is below the national average for both deaths and injuries from residential structure fires. Even so, Bakersfield fire departments can’t always respond to a fire in time to prevent injuries.

Property owners or possessors can reduce their liability risk by ensuring:

  • All electrical wiring is up to code and in good repair
  • All appliances are in good working order and are safely turned off when not in use
  • That all rooms in the property have clear exits. Business buildings in California must have at least two exits, while buildings or structures designed for human occupancy are required to have at least one exit.
  • That apartments and hotel rooms on higher floors have access to fire escapes
  • Fire extinguishers are in conspicuous locations in the building so that people can access them quickly in a fire
  • That smoke detectors throughout a building can warn people of fires

Flooding

As sea levels rise and changing weather patterns persist, Bakersfield residents and customers face an increased risk of flooding. More than 21,000 properties in Bakersfield are already at risk of flooding, and that number may increase in the coming years.

While at first, it might not seem like flooding is likely to injure people:

  • Merely six inches of water is enough to sweep an adult off their feet.
  • Water can mask hazardous items on the floor that can cause injury and can also increase the risk of someone slipping and falling.
  • Water can quickly become a magnet for bugs, bacteria, and mold growth that can cause sickness.
  • If the flooding stems from a faulty sewer system, an even greater risk of illness can result from bacterial exposure.

Property owners with buildings in the floodplain may need to pay for additional insurance to cover floods, and all property owners must promptly address any issues that could flood the building.

Porch or Stair Collapse

As noted, older buildings and residences in Bakersfield were not properly maintained throughout the years. Failure to perform needed maintenance and repairs can lead to structural issues, such as porches or stairs that are unstable or that decay, creating the possibility of collapse. A stair or porch collapse can lead to serious injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, or damage to the spinal cord, vertebrae, or discs.

Dog Bites

Dogs bite more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. each year, hospitalizing more than 800,000. Dog bites may even result in death, with 48 people being killed in the U.S. each year from a dog bite. California often has the highest number of dog bite-related fatalities and it is also the state with the most dog bite legal claims.

In California, a dog owner is strictly liable for their dog biting someone. In other words, the dog’s owner must pay for injuries incurred by the dog, regardless of whether they knew that the dog was dangerous or had the propensity to bite. Like other residential premises liabilities, a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy generally compensates dog bite injuries.

Negligent Security

Premises liability law gives some property owners a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that their guests are kept safe from criminal violence. This includes schools, where staff members know or have reason to know that bullying is taking place but fail to stop bullying and injure a student.

Property owners can prevent criminal violence on their properties and reduce their risk of liability:

  • Nightclubs and other entertainment venues can hire security personnel (bouncers).
  • Commercial businesses, hotels, and apartment complexes can provide security patrols of parking lots or security personnel to monitor the premises.
  • Install security alarms on doors and windows of hotels or apartment complexes.
  • Install security cameras in public or commercial buildings or outside of residences.
  • Schools can implement and enforce policies that provide consequences for bullies.
  • City bus companies can ensure that they are not dropping passengers off at unsafe locations.
  • Organizers of concerts and sporting events can require guests entering the premises to pass security checks, including searches of backpacks and purses for weapons, alcohol, or other prohibited items.

Seeking Compensation after a Bakersfield Premises Liability Accident

Like other types of personal injury claims, premises liability claims often begin when your attorney submits a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This package details the facts of the case and lays out the expenses and impacts you have incurred because of your injury, and for which you demand compensation.

Upon receiving the demand package from your attorney, the insurance company has three options:

  • Accept liability and pay the amount demanded in the claim.
  • Deny the claim and notify the claimant of the reason for the denial.
  • Make a counteroffer an amount for less than demanded as a proposal to settle the case.

An insurance company’s initial settlement offer is often far too low to be considered fair compensation. However, initial offers provide a starting point in many cases for settlement negotiations to begin.

Because you generally only have two years from the date of a Bakersfield premises liability accident to file a lawsuit in court, you might approach that deadline without having settled with the at-fault party’s insurer. If the insurer fails to offer a fair settlement, you must file a lawsuit to preserve your claim. Settlement negotiations, however, can continue even after you file a lawsuit. Often these negotiations become even more serious once you file the suit. Litigation is expensive and the insurance company wants to avoid the expense of continued litigation and the possibility of paying a court award for more damages than they could have settled for.

Once you file a lawsuit, the litigation process unfolds. One important stage of litigation is discovery. This is when your attorney can demand access to evidence in possession of the defense, require the defense to answer written questions regarding the case, and can also depose witnesses and the defendant. Settlement negotiations are often ongoing at this point. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the case will go to trial and the court will decide whether the defendant is liable and how much they owe you in compensation.

Bakersfield Premises Liability—Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you were injured in a slip and fall accident at a Bakersfield restaurant, you became a victim of crime due to an apartment landlord’s failure to provide adequate building security, or you suffered an injury while swimming at McMurtrey Aquatic Center, you may pursue compensation. There are many steps to take in bringing a premises liability claim, and each case requires a unique approach. Still, there are many commonalities between any of the given premises liability case scenarios. Below are answers to some frequently asked about premises liability cases.

If you were injured by a hazardous feature on a residential, commercial, or public property that the property owner or possessor knew or had reason to know about but failed to repair or warn guests about, you can seek compensation for your injuries 1) by filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer, and/or 2) by bringing a premises liability lawsuit.

However, there are exceptions. For instance, in cases involving children premises liability victims whose parents do not choose to file a claim on their behalf, this statutory deadline can be extended (tolled) until after the child reaches the age of majority can file their own claim.

Sometimes you have a shorter time to bring a claim is, such as in cases involving claims against a governmental agency or government employee in their official capacity. In that case, you must first file a notice of intent to sue. Figuring out the correct deadline in a Bakersfield premises liability claim can be tricky, which is why it is best to contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to find out when your deadline is, given the specific facts of your case.

To prove liability in a Bakersfield premises liability claim, you must show:

  • The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property.
  • The defendant negligently failed to mitigate property hazards they knew about or should have known about, or to warn guests of such hazards.
  • The at-fault party’s negligence harmed the claimant.

Bakersfield premises liability claimants may claim compensation for the expenses and impacts to their quality of life that they have incurred because of their accident injuries.

Some expenses and impacts that you might demand in your Bakersfield premises liability claims include:

  • Medical bills, including the cost of ambulance transport, emergency treatment, physician and surgical services, diagnostic and laboratory testing, hospitalization, prescription medication, medical supplies used to treat the injury, the provision of assistive devices such as a wheelchair or crutches, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages, if you are too injured to return to work.
  • Loss of future earning capacity, if your injuries result in permanent disabilities and you can no longer earn what you did before the accident.
  • Property damage resulting from the accident.
  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life, if your injuries prevent you from engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoyed before becoming injured.
  • Loss of consortium, for loss of physical intimacy and companionship after a serious injury.

Generally, worker’s compensation insurance will compensate you for Bakersfield workplace injuries rather than through a premises liability claim. California law requires most employers to purchase a no-fault insurance policy to cover injuries their employees may sustain on the job. Workers’ compensation policies cover medical expenses and temporary or permanent wage replacement. They also provide a death benefit for the family members of individuals who die in a workplace accident.

If a worker’s compensation policy covers your accident injuries, you typically can’t file a premises liability lawsuit. One exception to this rule pertains to accidents caused by a third party. An example of a premises liability accident in the workplace and that involves a third party might be a slip and fall injury on wet floors that a cleaning services company recently mopped for your employer.

The dog owner’s homeowners or renter’s insurance policy generally covers liability, even if the bite occurs on a public street. In one year, homeowner’s and renter’s policies in the U.S. shelled out around $854 million in dog bite claims, making dog bites one of the most common types of claims against homeowners and renter’s insurance policies.

However, according to the Insurance Information Institute, many insurance companies refuse to cover certain dog breeds. Breeds that insurance policies often restrict include pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, Dobermans, German shepherds, Akitas, chows, Alaskan malamutes, Rottweilers, Siberian huskies, and wolf hybrids. Others do not track the dog by breed, but will likely increase the homeowner’s or renter’s premium if the dog bites someone and they must pay a claim.

In California, dog bites create strict liability for an owner. This makes the dog’s owner liable for the bite even if they did not know the dog had escaped the yard or that it had the propensity to bite someone.

The vast majority of premises liability claims resolve before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. Cases most often settle between the parties. Settlement is normally in both side’s best interests, as it allows everyone to avoid the time and expense of litigation.

However, just because most cases don’t see the inside of a courtroom doesn’t mean yours won’t. Hire an experienced attorney who is as comfortable and confident with obtaining compensation on your behalf, whether through litigation or negotiating a settlement agreement.

Several different premises liability cases occur in Bakersfield, and each case has unique facts, including the degree of a defendant’s negligence and the severity of a victim’s injuries. These will largely determine a case’s value, and there is no average.

Several factors can affect the value of any premises liability case, including:

  • How much insurance the at-fault party has. While you can sue an uninsured person, and even go to court and obtain a decision in your favor, collecting compensation from an uninsured person is often difficult, as most people cannot afford to compensate someone else’s injury expenses and impacts out-of-pocket. On the other hand, some defendants have insurance with high limits, such as major corporations, increasing the potential amount you can recover.
  • The severity of your injury. More severe injuries generally result in higher medical expenses, more pain and suffering, more time away from work, and a higher likelihood of incurring permanent deficits that create devastating impacts on your life. All of these are major damage categories that generally increase your case’s value.
  • Your patience during settlement negotiations. It is not necessarily difficult to get a settlement offer. Injured individuals might receive a settlement offer from the at-fault party’s insurance provider when they’re still in the hospital and before they’ve even had a chance to speak with an attorney. However, getting a settlement offer that fairly compensates you for the expenses and impacts usually takes more time. Settlement offers can be made at any time before a final court decision, even as the trial is taking place. As you get closer to a court decision, a defendant and their insurer are more likely to up their offer to avoid a potentially higher court award. Patience can pay off.

The loss of a child is an agonizing event. California law allows the family members of individuals who die from someone else’s negligence to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. Like a premises liability claim involving personal injury, a wrongful death claim based on premises liability seeks to prove that the property owner/possessor’s negligence caused the accident and the injurious outcome.

Family members of a deceased child can obtain compensation for:

  • Medical expenses related to the treatment of the child’s final injury.
  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Loss of love and companionship.

Generally, no. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the proceeds obtained as compensation for a personal injury are not considered income, should not be claimed as income, and are not subject to tax.

There are some exceptions, however:

  • If you claim your medical expenses as a deduction and then later obtain compensation for medical expenses, you must pay back the amount you deducted from your income.
  • If you obtained punitive damages, the IRS may subject that portion of your award to tax. Courts don’t award punitive damages to compensate for the injury itself, but rather to punish a defendant for particularly reckless behavior. Thus, the IRS considers them income.

If you needed brain surgery, you would probably hire a brain surgeon. You would hire a surgeon because you want the most experienced and knowledgeable professional possible for the job. Hiring an attorney to assist you with your premises liability claim is analogous to hiring a medical expert for medical treatment—you want a professional to handle matters that put your life and livelihood on the line.

Personal injury attorneys spend many years obtaining the education and training necessary to handle legal claims. A Bakersfield premises liability attorney from The May Firm understands the claims process and how to obtain all the compensation their client needs, not only to cover the expenses and impacts that they have already experienced from the injury, but also those they will likely face. With their knowledge and experience, an attorney with The May Firm can provide services that you can’t easily provide yourself.

Further, because having an experienced attorney on your side is so important to your ability to have a successful outcome to your premises liability case, The May Firm is pleased to provide:

  • A free case evaluation, which is time for you to meet with an attorney and get answers to the legal questions about your specific case and decide whether to pursue a claim.
  • A contingency-fee arrangement that allows you to put off payment for your attorney’s services until they obtain a positive outcome in your case.

Let our experienced attorneys help you understand your legal options for obtaining compensation in your Bakersfield premises liability case. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (844) 629-3476.

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