Parking Structure Incident Attorney

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Parking lot accident structure

Table of Contents:

Ehline Law Firm personal injury attorneys specialize in these types of scenarios. So we created this page to assist individuals. We hope it helps in educating them about their rights under tort and contract law.

  • First, the owner of a parking structure or garage has the responsibility to keep it safe for users.
  • So they cannot delegate their duty to maintain the property in a reasonable, safe condition.

This is despite the fact people storing their car receive a ticket that says: “We assume no responsibility,” etc. When keepers don't keep the parking structure in a safe condition, they are accountable. So now they can get named in a premises liability lawsuit.

These incidents can be caused by:

  • Defective concrete barricades
  • Poor architectural design.

Also, there are many ways they can happen. But you will need a parking structure injury attorney by your side eventually. Ehline Law Firm has recovered tens upon millions of dollars for wounded victims and their families in cases like this.

What are Some Theories of Liability and for Overcoming Defenses?

First of all, these cases remain covered under the same law as any other premises liability case (See Column 2.)

  • Premises liability law pins down liability against the wrongdoer landowner for harm by the landowner to another person(s).
  • But they must have that property or a structure on the premises itself for liability to apply. 
  • The law holds responsible those who by misfeasance, non-feasance, or malfeasance, violated your safety.

So the well being of others became harmed when they entered the premises in question. The law and definition of premises liability can vary between jurisdictions.

  • But there is one constant in most jurisdictions and venues. Most of all, property owners must keep visitors and invitees safe from certain dangers.

What is the Confusion Over The Liability Waiver?

As discussed above, there seems to be a lot of confusion over these pieces of paper. These get chugged out of the parking voucher dispensers at airports. Also, they come out of other storage houses for cars, containers, and other vehicles.

  • Several potential legal theories light up in any lawyer’s mind. And whenever we hear that a parking facility has disclaimed its wrongdoing, we shake our head. Lawyers look at these as unassuming, one-sided “contracts.”

What About Liability for Construction/Design Defect?

  • In some cases, the design-build process could be the cause of a building collapse.

And this usually happens when the structure is full of vehicles. Obviously, its heavier weight when fully laden sees the plethora of problems that can arise.

Imagine a heavier vehicle beginning to navigate up and down the successive stories.

  • In poorly built structures the swaying momentum displaced into the winding structure could collapse the whole building.

In other cases, a building could collapse during a low magnitude earthquake.

  • And supposedly it had been hardened to withstand quakes.

In all cases, there is definitely property damage and tort claim. And this is typical of the legal action that could arise out of these types of cataclysms. Anytime the structure itself, or part of it, has failed or imploded there is a potential case.

What About Liability for Negligent Maintenance?

The property owner, or landlord, is legally responsible for proper maintenance of parking areas.

Same goes for:

  • Stairwells
  • Handrails
  • Elevators
  • Curbs
  • Oily surfaces
  • Wet areas

And they should also place parking barricades and safety barriers.

When there is a lack of proper care taken, there can be severe injuries or wrongful fatalities. Mostly there are due to the negligence, misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance of another.

What About Negligent Security Cases?

Certain cases, like when a woman gets raped or assaulted going to or from her car, are tort scenarios. Bad security may also mean a man gets mugged. Also, these are well known to the public at large from movies and news stories. So yes, you can sue the landlords in many cases. But you need to call Ehline Law Firm and learn more.

What About Suing the Parking Facility for Negligent Supervision?

This raises the above issue of negligent provision of security.

  • These cases often revolve around action and inaction taken in and around “pay to park.” So these are generally parking structures and parking lots.

But they are in a dangerous area. And no, there is no way a person can waive their right to a safe ingress or ingress.

  • Liability attaches if it happens at a structure or lot that is a known danger.
  • If the manager or owner in California knows about it, they are liable if you get hurt by it.

But none the less, defenses as follows are available:

  • No known danger to the landlord excuses culpability
  • Adequate safeguards also mean that no suit shall lie. But it entails the landlord helped keep users and licensees somewhat reasonably protected. This is all typically a question of fact.

What About Breach of Bailments and Theft/Damage?

A Bailment is Defined as:

The temporary placement of control over, or possession of Personal Property by one person, the bailor, into the hands of another, the bailee, for a designated purpose upon which the parties have agreed.The term bailment is derived from the French bailor, “to deliver.” It is generally considered to be a contractual relationship since the bailor and bailee, either expressly or impliedly, bind themselves to act according to particular terms… (Source.)

In California, especially in LA, this happens a lot as follows:

  • Almost every time you use valet parking, or self-parking service, of leave keys attendants, a bailment gets created.
  • The bailee gets handed vehicle keys by its owner (“Bailor.”)
  • The car’s owner, you, are also technically renting storage space.
  • So you have temporarily transferred possession and control of the conveyance.
  • You gave up the keys and therefore control, to the garage attendant.
  • But in most cases, if you kept keys to a secured vehicle, the contract could be a lease to rent space. And in that case, no rights to the vehicle itself get given over.

But What About the Disclaimer on the Parking Slip?

Ok. That's an often asked question. Let's address this like a lawyer.

Enter the disclaimer.

dis·claim·er disˈklāmər/ noun noun: disclaimer; plural noun: disclaimers

1. a statement that denies something, esp. responsibility.

“the novel carries the usual disclaimer about the characters bearing no relation to living persons”
denial, refusal, rejection More

As you can see above, this language of "disclaimer" is a wrench thrown into a successful property damage claim.

  • Typically it involves a denial of legal responsibility or control.
  • Often this gets done over the place itself with a printed disclaimer. The parking slip invariably has this nasty little disclaimer upon it.
  • And it claims the garage, or parking company is not responsible in any way for damages or theft.

But what about the theory of bailment above? How about that it goes against California public policy? Courts don't allow people to disclaim their negligence right.

  • And if the parking attendant ruins the car's suspension on speed bumps, how is he not responsible?
  • What if the parking attendant damages or scratches the wheels, paint, or another part of the car?

So while moving it back and forth during parking it, how can they not become held legally liable?

  • What if your cell phone or spare change, or wallet gets stolen?

What do the CA Courts Say About Disclaimers Generally?

  • Remarkably, some courts have found that preprinted passes are an express waiver of liability.

So they say it may impart adequate notification to patrons. Hence, they knew the garage would not assume any responsibility for property damage.

  • But most of those same courts held this in cases where the parking lot was simply disclaiming fault for damages caused by third parties. The car had been parked in the storage facility.

But even in those cases, some courts decided that there is never a waiver of direct liability for your own acts. So unless it got consented to, it's a no go.

  • And if a person did not read the disclaimer, courts have found the insufficient notice.

So they could not even to disclaim third party liability in that case. But remember, there could also be a sign or other posted warning, right? 

  • But what about possible evidence that the customer did not see a posted warning as well?
  • Often, the structures are poorly lit.
  • Also, there are distractions or poor placement of signs. So these could indeed render them useless.

However, most courts look at all of this on a case by case basis. And we could find no bright line case that was on point. So as it stands, it is a wobbler. A garage may or not get out of liability for its own negligence on a case by case basis.

What About Other Known Hazards?

Although we did discuss what happens when a premises owner or controller fails to act in the face of known dangers, this section deals with the challenge of what happens.

And also, how exactly does an owner or controller engage in a particularly hazardous activity?

  • For example, storage of explosives or an open dangerous and unprepared condition.
  • Could you foresee a problem with ticket stand selling tickets beneath the fireworks display?

Suffice it to say that when an explosion or fire does happen, the controller or owner will typically assume a heightened duty of care. And this is true, even when confronted with a trespasser getting hurt at the manufacturing plant.

What About the Storage of Dangerous Goods and Things?

So let's say, for example, the structure stores dangerous construction equipment. In that case, a duty to warn exists.

  • What if a safety barrier is unsafe, or not properly attached to bracing?
  • Often the garage operator/owner probably has an absolute duty to post warnings.
  • They should get placed around the perimeter of the danger zone.

And this is also to be a caveat to potential uninvited and guests. There would more than likely be a duty to barricade the danger zone.

Next, a duty exists to get it fixed, right? Yes, this is true. Also, smart landlords will do so before a gaggle of patrons rolls through, or a child gets harmed or killed. Do you understand this so far?

What About Liability for The Many Other Types of Structure Incidents?

Many personal injuries can occur in a parking structure accident. So they can come from:

  • Slip and fall accident
  • Defective barrier

But imagine rain puddles combined with a greasy garage floor. Something like this can cause an occupied vehicle to careen off of a ledge, to its doom.

Also, this can mean that injuries will involve the:

  • Head
  • Back
  • Tailbone

Sometimes these trips and falls cause broken bones, cuts, and gashes. So these are dangerous places when not kept in proper repair.

Of particular interest, the owner or landlord often gets held accountable for negligence. Almost always, it is for failing to provide a safe environment. But they are only liable for foreseeable types of circumstances. So this is another reason you should get legal help.

What Exactly is Premises Liability in California?

Under California premises liability, an owner or controller is in lawful possession when:

  • Is occupying premises, or land with intent to control the property;
  • At one point in the past was occupying the land or premises with intent to control it. And when there was not another who had later broken the chain of occupation and monitoring it is enough; or
  • Becomes entitled to the land’s immediate occupation, assuming the above elements are not present.

What is the General Duty of Possessors?

California has done away with the distinction between “invitee,” “licensee,” or “trespasser.” When pinning down legal liability, we look to reasonableness. In the definitions below, the term “premises” includes land, premises, or places of business. The term “possessor” means the person in possession of the premises.

(a)Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, wilfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself. The design, distribution or marketing of firearms and ammunition is not exempt from the duty to use ordinary care and skill that is required by this section. The extent of liability in these cases gets defined by the Title on Compensatory Relief. (Source Ca Civil Code Sec. 1714.)

Who is Liable for Your Physical Damages?

Under the California rule, a possessor of property is liable for all physical damages. Also, liability attaches if the condition or defect caused an injury. So if it's on the premises, and the plaintiff establishes the owner failed to maintain, or inspect, liability is present.

Owners must reasonably manage their premises. So liability exists unless the person injured willfully caused the harm to themselves. And this was despite the damage presented. (See eg., Buehler v. Alpha Beta Co. (1990) 224 Cal. App. 3d 729.)

So what this means to you as an injury victim, is that if a garage owner knows about the defect. Did he know that one of the parking spaces got splashed with leaked oil? (but would not appear to be oily or slippery due to poor lighting, trash on the floor, etc., to a reasonable visitor, with no prior knowledge).

In that case, the premises owner or controller may be liable to a guest. But the guest must be without notice of the danger. Then he or she had to suffer an injury from the danger.

What are the Best Defenses for the Structure Controller?

The best defense for a parking garage owner to a victim used to be the victim was a “trespasser.” And this is because the least legal protection got extended to the trespasser.

  • A trespasser is a person who goes upon the premises of another for his or her purposes. So there was no express or implied invitation, and not in the performance of any duty to the owner.

Traditionally it was unnecessary for defendants to establish that trespassers had unlawful intent. The only exception was that if the owner was actively negligent. But this rule got abolished under the Rowland v. Christian case (69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968).)

Want to Learn More From a Real Lawyer?

When you have become injured or suffered a fatality in a parking structure, Ehline Law Firm can help. Most of all, we have the resources and experience.

  • We can file a lawsuit.
  • That way can hold the parking structure owner or landlord accountable for negligence.
  • And if that caused injuries or death you'll need a great attorney.

Also, these resources include experts that can help to build a winning lawsuit. So all that we do is to ensure that the injured victim or family will recover fair compensation. Speak to an attorney today at Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC.


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