When you go to a gas station or convenience store, you do not expect to be seriously injured. However, gas stations and convenience stories are sometimes sites of accidents that cause traumatic brain injuries, burns, broken bones, spinal cord damage, and soft tissue injuries. If you were injured in a gas station or convenience store accident, the California premises liability attorney at The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC may be able to help you recover damages. Mr. Black is a former insurance adjuster and understands how claims are evaluated. He has keen insights into how to present premises liability claims.
Injuries Arising From Gas Station and Convenience Store Accidents
Most gas station and convenience store accidents give rise to claims under premises liability law. All property owners in California, including those that own gas stations and convenience stores, are required to use reasonable care to keep their property safe for lawful visitors. Customers are supposed to be able to rely on the property owner providing a warning or making repairs in connection with any defective or dangerous conditions, including spills on the floor, oil on the concrete, broken concrete, heavy objects that are stacked high, or defective gas pumps.
In most cases, a person injured at a gas station or convenience store will need to prove that the property owner owed them a duty, there was a breach of the duty that caused the accident, the owner had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition, and damages resulted. Actual or constructive notice is an important element. A primary issue in most gas station cases will be whether the gas station owner knew about the defective condition that resulted in the injuries.
If the gas station owner did not actually know about the condition, should they have? When a gas station owner should have known about a defective condition by using reasonable care, there is “constructive notice.” It is typically easier to establish constructive notice than actual notice. A gas station employee might see an oil slick every day for a week and forget to clean it up without ever documenting its existence. However, constructive notice can be shown by showing how long the oil slick or other defective condition was there.
A gas station owner that fails to conduct routine inspections of the property for problems and therefore misses a condition that existed for a long period of time may be liable for injuries that result from it. How long a defective condition existed can be shown to a jury in many different ways. Sometimes one or more customers notify the owner or employee about the defective condition, yet nothing is done. In some cases, a surveillance video shows how long a problem such as an oil slick existed.
Generally, constructive notice does not exist if the problem is only there for a very short period of time. For example, if someone spills a clear soda in the aisle of the convenience store, and you slip and fall five minutes later, this amount of time may not be enough to provide constructive notice. However, it depends partially on the size of the convenience store. For example, in a tiny store, a clerk who has the ability to see both aisles may be expected to pay more attention to whether substances have been spilled there or not.
Occasionally, injuries such as burns or vapor inhalation arise from a defective gas nozzle. In addition to potentially holding the gas station owner liable in such a situation, you may have a claim against the manufacturer. You will need to establish which kind of actionable defect caused the injury. Actionable defects related to gas pumps include manufacturing and design defects. In most product liability cases, it is necessary to retain an expert to show the existence of a defect, and in some cases, the expert must also testify that the defect caused the injuries in question.