Who Is Liable for an Accident on an Easement?
Anytime a person sustains an injury on someone else’s property, there will need to be an investigation to determine whether or not the negligence of the property owner was the reason the injury occurred. Victims may be able to recover compensation for their medical bills as well as other expenses related to the injury. However, if the injury occurs on an easement in California, the process of recovering compensation is more challenging.
What is an Easement in California?
Easements are areas of land where the original owner keeps the title, but other organizations or individuals are allowed to use a portion of the land (the easement) for a specific reason.
For example, it is common for public utility companies to have easements that allow them to have easy access to their equipment on a person’s property. An individual could also have an easement on their property if their property happens to block access to a main thoroughfare. Easements are there to allow other individuals to use a portion of the property to gain access to the thoroughfare. The original land owner still owns the land, but others have the right to use it.
Understanding Liability on an Easement
If an injury occurs on an easement, liability for the incident could become challenging. These will be premises liability claims, but the land owner may not actually be the person responsible for paying damages to any party.
In order for a person to recover compensation for injuries they sustain on someone else’s property, they have to prove the negligence of another party. But, with an easement, whose negligence is responsible for the injury? Is it the property owner or some other entity that controls the easement?
The simple existence of the easement could mean that the property owner is not legally responsible for any injuries that occur on the easement land. Since another party tends to control easements in California, meaning another party has the legal right to the land, that other party could also absorb legal responsibility for the safety of any person who has a right to be on the easement. This would include inspection and maintenance of the easement property.
For example, let us suppose that an easement is in place and used by a utility company in California. Generally, the municipal government or the utility company will have responsibility for keeping the area safe. So, if an individual sustains an injury as a result of an incident on the easement, the utility company or government responsible for the property could be held liable. Some of the responsibilities that a company or municipality may have include keeping debris away from power lines, preventing fires, ensuring there are no attractive nuisances present, etc.
However, there may be times when there are other easements where the responsibility to maintain the property remains with the actual property owner unless otherwise agreed upon through a lease or mutual contract with an easement holder and the landowner.
If you or somebody you care about has been injured due to an incident on an easement, we encourage you to reach out to a Sacramento premises liability attorney immediately. A lawyer can fully investigate every aspect of the claim, determine who is responsible for the maintenance of the easement, and work to recover complete compensation.