Q I’ve been told by friends that if someone slips and falls on my sidewalk, I can be held responsible for thousands of dollars in fees and damages. What is my liability in such a situation? How can I protect myself?

A There are many situations where a homeowner may have a potential “Premises Liability” issue.
Generally speaking, Premises Liability is a type of Personal Injury law which holds owners or occupants of property responsible for individuals that are seriously injured while on their premises. Other examples are: liability for violation of local building and plumbing code, Fire Code violation, damage from defective water heaters and slip and fall accidents.

A homeowner has a duty to use reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition and a duty to use reasonable care to learn of the existence of any dangerous or unsafe conditions on his premises that could cause harm to anyone.

This does not mean the possessor is automatically liable just because someone was injured on his or her property.  Rather, the injured party has to prove:

•The risk of harm was unreasonable,

•The possessor knew or, in the exercise of ordinary care should have known, of the condition, and should have realized that it involved an unreasonable risk of harm,

•There is damage to the injured party, and

•The condition caused the damage.

So if you, as the homeowner, knew about the problem or should have known, then you will be responsible.
Make sure you have homeowner insurance or umbrella insurance coverage to pay for these kinds of legal issues. A money judgment for such legal cause can wipe your life savings.

Also if injury happens, then the damaged party can recover compensatory damages (to make someone whole) or damages for emotional distress.Maintain your property in a condition so as to not cause damage.

And if the shoe is on the other foot, and you are the someone who has been victim of such negligence and suffered injuries (physical injuries, loss of work, etc.), contact a lawyer to understand your rights.

Madan Ahluwalia, also known as Attorney on Radio, is a California Attorney. He can be reached at (650) 331-1968. His radio talk show can be heard on KLOK 1170AM every Saturday from 9am-10am. His website is www.attorneyonradio.com, where podcast for previous shows can also be heard.

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