Owners of apartment complexes, restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and other for-profit and nonprofit businesses owe their visitors and patreons a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe — even their parking lots. Similarly, commercial parking lots also have legal duties to abide.
Anyone who rightfully parks in these lots, commercial or not, can be seen as expected “invitees,” or people who are invited to conduct business in benefit of the owner of the property. A duty of care for a property owner essentially encompasses any actions that a reasonable property owner should take or should have taken in similar circumstances. Therefore, a property owner may be held liable for failing to maintain their premises in safe conditions if someone is injured, sexually assaulted, or killed because of their negligence.
An individual who was hurt on another person’s property can typically file a premises liability claim for damages against any person or company that owns, leases, occupies, or controls the property where the accident took place. Property owners or managers cannot completely shield themselves from liability by purchasing premises liability insurance or by delegating the important task of maintaining their property in safe conditions.
In essence, a property owner or manager is always responsible for the safety of their premises, even if they delegate maintenance tasks to an employee or hire an independent party who is then found guilty of negligence. This includes maintenance or repairs. As a customer or “visitor,” the last thing on their minds should be whether they can safely get from their home, to the grocery store’s parking lot, and back.
Our experienced team of premises liability attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers put some examples of risks that a person who parks their vehicle or walks through the property that could result in a parking lot owner being liable for any damages incurred:
- Negligent security. An owner must be aware of important factors like the services they provide and the neighborhoods they offer them in in order to prevent risks. For example, if a bank opens a branch in a part of town that’s notorious for crime, security measures need to be appropriate. Not to mention most users will be carrying money en route to enter their premises, so video cameras, alarms, locks, fencing, gates, etc. should be installed to ensure their patrons' well being.
- Bad lighting. This factor can also be seen as a negligent security issue. Whether the business opens before the sun is out, or is open after it gets dark, insufficient or poor lighting can cause accidents like slips and falls. Some parking lots can have uneven or cracked surfaces, which make it easy to stumble. Dark settings also increase the risk for criminals and attackers to strike visitors. Though lighting will not single-handedly stop the aforementioned scenarios, it definitely helps.
- Damaged surfaces. As mentioned earlier, the constant use of cars and the carrying of merchandise can lead to uneven, cracked asphalt full of potholes. Property owners should anticipate that visitors will not all be mindful of this, and should schedule routine inspections and repairs in order to prevent falls and other accidents that can lead to injuries.
- Proper signage. Property owners must make it clear and visible where visitors can and can’t park, as well as provide lanes that allow travel in both directions.
California law dictates that individuals may be entitled to compensation if they are injured due to a property manager or owner’s negligence of maintaining their facility, including parking lots. When potential safety hazards or areas that could cause injuries are ignored, the door for risks and costly expenses for a business opens widely. A parking lot owner will not only have to pay for maintenance updates, but also the costs associated with a lawsuit.