Premises Liability

The Zinn Law Firm represents individuals hurt due to dangerous conditions of property owned by others. These cases include trip and fall and slip and fall accidents, as well as bicycle and car accidents that occur on publicly owned roads that are either dangerously designed, or maintained in a dangerous condition. As our settlement and trial results summarized on the site attest, we are widely regarded as the pre-eminent law firm in Northern California in handling bicycle accidents that are caused due to dangerous roadway conditions. We have successfully handled bicycle accidents that were caused by dangerous potholes or other roadway maintenance or design defects.

Fighting Against the Primary Assumption of the Risk Doctrine When Bicyclists are Injured by Defective Roadway Conditions

For example, one of our most interesting cases involved a bicyclist injured when riding his road bicycle on a training ride on Highway 4 in Alpine County, part of the famous Death Ride Course. Our client fell off his bike suffering serious internal injuries when he hit a hole in the roadway that was created by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to anchor a gate that is used to close Highway 4 over Ebbetts Pass in the winter. Caltrans recently moved for summary judgment (an order that would dismiss our client’s claims before they could be heard by a jury) under a doctrine called “primary assumption of the risk.” Caltrans argued that road cyclists assume the risk that they will hit holes in the roadway, thereby causing falls and injury, similar to how a downhill skier assumes the risk of falling on a big mogul or expose rock at a ski resort.

Had Caltrans’ motion been successful, it may have barred every cyclist in the state of California who is injured when they hit a hole in the roadway from a fair recovery. However, The Zinn Law Firm took 17 depositions in less than three weeks, spent time and money on expert research and declarations, and worked tirelessly in opposing this motion. We presented a vigorous opposition, arguing that a hole that Caltrans made on purpose is not a risk a bicyclist assumes. The trial judge the Alpine County Superior Court agreed with this argument, denying Caltrans summary judgment, and leaving the door open for our client and other California bicyclists to obtain a fair recovery when injured by defective roadway conditions. The case is set to go to trial in February 2018.

We have also achieved tremendous results for our clients injured in car crashes caused by unsafe roadway design or signage, including cases involving the failure to use median barriers, defectively installed guardrails, and roadway design that does not otherwise comply with safety and design standards of Caltrans Highway Design Manual and Caltrans’ Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Injuries Caused by Uneven Sidewalk Surfaces, Potholes in Parking Lots, and Slippery Floors

In addition to accidents caused by dangerous roadways, the attorneys at The Zinn Law Firm also specialize in trip and fall and slip and fall cases. We have handled over one dozen cases where our clients have tripped and fell over uneven sidewalk surfaces. Especially in areas where large trees are planted near sidewalks, it is very common in the Bay Area to see uplifted sidewalk slabs. The biomechanical experts we work with can show that a person exercising due care can still trip on a sidewalk defect as small as ½ inch when walking in a normal manner. When taking on a sidewalk trip and fall case, it is essential to research the local ordinances of the city where the incident occurred. Many cities in the Bay Area have passed local laws stating that the landowners adjacent to public sidewalks are legally liable for injuries caused by defects in the sidewalks in front of their homes or stores. A skilled trip and fall attorney must make sure to name both the property owner and the public entity in towns that have such rules.

We have also successfully represented a number of individuals who have fallen on slippery or uneven surfaces at commercial properties. For example, we represented a woman who tripped and fell on a hose carelessly left in front of a popular home improvement store, thereby breaking her ankle and placing her in a boot for three months. We currently represent a woman who fell in the parking lot of a strip mall alongside Highway 5 while walking out of a Starbucks. In a case like that, California law holds both the landlord owner of the parking lot and the retail tenant, Starbucks, liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition in the parking lot of a commercial establishment open the public.

Plaintiff Must Prove Public Entities Had Notice of Defective Conditions that Cause Injuries

It is also important to be aware that special rules and time limits apply when pursuing a premises liability case for injury occurring on a public roadway or public land. For example, while persons injured in California normally have two years from the date of an accident to file legal claims against the responsible party, if a public entity owns the land where an accident occurred, the injured person needs to send a notice of claim to the public entity within six months of the incident, or risk having the claims forever barred. See Cal. Government Code section 911.2. Further, to prove a premises liability case against a public entity, the injured person must not only prove that the condition that caused the accident was dangerous. The plaintiff must also prove that the public entity had notice of the condition before the incident occurred (actual notice) or at least should have noticed the dangerous condition had it been exercising reasonable care (constructive notice). See Cal Government Code section 835(b).

At The Zinn Law Firm, we have handled every kind of premises liability case. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a dangerous condition of another’s property, we hope you will contact us.