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Common causes of apartment injuries in California

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

California is the most populated state in the country, so of course it makes sense that a majority of residents live in apartments all over the state. As a resident of California, it is your legal right to live in a home that is up to code and safe from circumstances that could result in injuries or death. In this article we will review some of the most common causes of injuries in apartments and common areas in the state of California.

Common causes of apartment injuries in California include:

  1. Slip and Falls: This is one of the most common accidents, often due to wet floors, uneven surfaces, or poor lighting.
  2. Structural Problems: These include ceiling collapses, staircase accidents, or balcony failures, often due to poor maintenance or construction.
  3. Fire-Related Injuries: Fires can be caused by electrical issues, gas leaks, or negligence. Smoke inhalation and burns are common injuries.
  4. Water Damage and Mold: Prolonged exposure to mold can lead to respiratory issues and other health problems.
  5. Electrical Hazards: Faulty wiring or malfunctioning appliances can lead to electrocution or fires. 
  6. Exposure to Toxic Substances: This includes lead paint, asbestos, or chemices, which can cause serious health issues.
  7. Pest Infestations: Rodents or insects can spread disease or cause allergic reactions.
  8. Poor Air Quality: Inadequate ventilation can lead to respiratory problems.
  9. Security Negligence: Inadequate security measures can result in injuries from break-ins or assaults.
  10. Window Falls: Particularly in high-rise buildings, where window guards may be absent or ineffective.

Landlords in California are required to maintain safe and habitable living conditions, and failure to do so can result in them being held liable for injuries that occur as a result of their negligence.

What are the legal responsibilities of landlords in California?

In California, landlords have specific legal responsibilities that are primarily aimed at ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of their tenants. These responsibilities include:

  1. Habitability: Landlords must provide a habitable living environment. This means the rental unit must be in a condition fit for humans to live in. It must have running water, heat, electricity, and be structurally sound.
  2. Repairs: Landlords are required to repair any damage that makes the property uninhabitable. They must respond to repair requests in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Health and Safety Codes: Landlords must comply with state and local health and safety codes. This includes maintaining clean and sanitary building grounds and facilities, providing adequate trash containers, and keeping common areas safe.
  4. Pest Control: Landlords are responsible for pest extermination before the tenant moves in and throughout the tenancy, unless the infestation is caused by the tenant’s living habits.
  5. Security: Landlords must provide reasonable security measures. This can include functioning locks on doors and windows, and in some cases, may extend to security systems or fencing.
  6. Privacy: Landlords must respect the privacy of their tenants. California law requires that landlords give 24 hours’ notice before entering a rented property, except in cases of emergency or when repairs are urgently needed.
  7. No Illegal Discrimination: Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants or prospective tenants based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or other protected characteristics.
  8. Return of Security Deposit: Upon termination of the lease, landlords have a set period (usually 21 days in California) to return the security deposit, less any amount legally withheld for damages, unpaid rent, or cleaning.
  9. Provide Written Disclosures: Landlords must provide tenants with certain disclosures, including known hazards like lead paint, mold, or pest infestations, and information about the registered sex offender database.
  10. Rent Control Compliance: In areas with rent control laws, landlords must comply with regulations concerning rent increases and evictions.

Failure to adhere to these responsibilities can result in legal disputes, financial penalties, and in some cases, the loss of rights to rent out the property. It’s important for landlords to stay informed about their legal obligations to avoid these complications.

When should I go to the police versus going to my landlord after an accident at an apartment in California?

Deciding whether to go to the police or to your landlord after an accident in an apartment in California depends on the nature and cause of the accident:

  1. Go to the Police When:
    • Criminal Activity is Involved: If the accident was caused by or involved criminal activity (e.g., break-ins, assaults), you should immediately contact the police.
    • Serious Injury or Death: In cases of serious injury or death, especially if it’s due to suspected negligence or foul play, it’s crucial to involve the police.
    • Landlord’s Illegal Actions: If the accident resulted from your landlord’s illegal actions (e.g., tampering with safety devices, illegal utility cut-offs), you should report these actions to the police.
  2. Go to Your Landlord When:
    • Maintenance or Repair Issues: If the accident was caused by maintenance issues (like a broken stair), you should report it to your landlord for repairs.
    • Habitability Concerns: For accidents stemming from habitability problems (like mold, pests, or leaks), your landlord should be notified to address these issues.
    • Minor Incidents: For less severe incidents that don’t involve criminal activity or serious injury, it’s typically a landlord’s responsibility to handle the situation.

In Both Cases:

  • Document Everything: Regardless of whom you report to, document all details of the accident. This includes taking photos, saving medical records, and noting the date and time.
  • Seek Legal Advice: In situations where there’s uncertainty about liability or your rights, it might be prudent to consult with a legal professional. 
  • Tenant’s Rights Organizations: If the issue relates to your rights as a tenant and you’re unsure of the next steps, contact a local tenants’ rights organization for guidance.

Remember, safety should always be your first priority. If you’re in immediate danger or require urgent medical attention, call emergency services before doing anything else.

What are some less common types of injuries that happen in apartments?

While many apartment injuries are common and well-known, such as slips, falls, and burns, there are also more obscure types of injuries that can occur in apartment living environments. Some of these include:

  1. Injuries from DIY Repairs: Tenants trying to fix appliances or structural issues themselves can lead to injuries, especially if they lack the necessary skills or tools.
  2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: This can occur due to faulty heating systems or gas appliances. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, making it a particularly insidious danger.
  3. Injuries from Improperly Installed Fixtures: Items like shelves or cabinets that are not properly secured can fall, causing injuries.
  4. Psychological Stress Injuries: Issues like constant noise, harassment from neighbors or landlords, or living in a poorly maintained building can lead to stress and related psychological injuries.
  5. Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Exposure: Though scientifically contentious, some individuals report sensitivity to EMFs from Wi-Fi routers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, leading to various health complaints.
  6. Exposure to Harmful Chemicals: This can include exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new paint or flooring, or chemicals in cleaning products used in common areas.
  7. Legionnaires’ Disease: Caused by Legionella bacteria, which can thrive in large plumbing systems, air conditioning units, and hot tubs, leading to severe pneumonia-like symptoms.
  8. Window-Related Injuries: Including falling out of windows (especially in older buildings without safety features) or injuries from broken glass.
  9. Injuries from Old or Malfunctioning Elevators: Especially in older buildings, elevators can be a source of injury due to malfunctions or sudden stops.
  10. Allergic Reactions: Triggered by mold, dust, or other allergens that might be more prevalent in certain apartment environments.

It’s important for both tenants and landlords to be aware of these less common risks to ensure a safe living environment. Regular maintenance, proper safety measures, and awareness can significantly reduce the risk of such injuries.

Have you been injured at your apartment? Call J&Y Today!

If you have been injured either in your apartment, in a common area, or on the grounds of your apartment, it is your right to sue the responsible parties to recover compensation for your injuries and suffering. J&Y Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA has decades of experience holding landlords and property management companies liable for their negligence. Call us now at (877) 310-2104 for a free consultation to learn about your legal options and how to move forward.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.