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Who Is Liable for an Accident on an Easement?

Posted on February 1, 2021 in Premises Liability

Suffering an injury on someone else’s property can be confusing. You may not understand your rights or whether you have grounds to hold someone else financially responsible for your losses. If your accident takes place on an easement in California, it can be even more challenging to navigate the legal process.

What Is an Easement?

A property easement is a situation in which the title to a piece of property gives someone other than the property owner their right to use part of the land for a specific purpose. For example, if a property includes access to a main road, that part of the property may have an easement that allows public access. Another common scenario is an easement given to a utility company for control rights over where a power line exists on a property.

Who Can You Hold Liable for an Accident?

Determining the liable party, or defendant, in your premises liability case in California can be tricky if you were injured on an easement. An easement in California can be granted to anyone: an individual, a neighboring landowner, a utility company, a government agency or a private company. Any of these parties could be liable for your damages after an accident on an easement.

In general, liability will go to the party that was negligent, or that breached a duty of care. In premises liability law, duty of care refers to a property owner’s legal obligation to keep a property reasonably safe and clear from risks or hazards. This obligation varies according to whether the visitor is a guest or trespasser. Negligence is the breach, or violation, of this duty – either carelessness or intentionally.

Who Is Responsible for the Safety and Maintenance of an Easement?

Determining whether a party was negligent in fulfilling its duties of care to you on an easement first requires an understanding of which party had the duty of care – the landowner or the party granted the right of way in the easement. This differs from a typical premises liability claim, in which the property owner is liable.

Due to the existence of the easement, the owner of the property may not legally be responsible for accidents that occur on the land involved in the easement. Since another party other than the owner has the legal right to use the land in question, that party may absorb legal responsibility for the land’s safety, care and maintenance – as well as accidents that take place there.

If the easement is in place for use by a public utility company, the utility company or city government will bear the legal responsibility to maintain the land. It will become the utility company’s duty to cut low-hanging branches, keep debris free from the power lines, prevent fire hazards and take other steps to keep the area reasonably safe.

For all other types of easements, however, including property usage rights granted to a neighbor or private party, maintenance remains the property owner’s legal responsibility. If the easement does not involve a public utility company, therefore, the landowner will be liable. Otherwise, the utility company will be liable. However, if the granted party damages the property, he or she is legally obligated to restore it to its previous condition.

When To Contact an Attorney

Accidents on easements are even more difficult to work through on a legal level than typical premises liability claims. If you or a loved one was injured on an easement, such as while working for a utility company or using a public access road, contact a Los Angeles premises liability lawyer at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP for assistance.

An attorney can help you understand California’s complex easement laws, identify the correct defendant, file your claim, and negotiate for an adequate amount for your injuries and losses. To learn more about accident liability on an easement, speak to an attorney near you today.