Who is Responsible for Crashes That Occur on Easements?

by Staff | March 21st, 2022

Accidents on easements, such as on public access roads, may be challenging to figure out since multiple parties could be liable for your injuries. When you are injured on an easement, you might not understand your rights or if you can hold them accountable for the losses you suffer. Our California car accident lawyers can help you through the legal process if your accident occurred on an easement.

What Is an Easement?

A property easement is when the title to a piece of land grants someone other than the owner the right to use it for a specific purpose. It can go to anyone, including a nearby landowner, a private company, a government agency, or a utility company.

If a property backs onto a major street, part of the land may have an easement for public access. Granting an easement to a utility company to oversee the location of a power line on a property is another common situation. 

Who Is Liable for an Accident?

An easement agreement between the original property owner and the easement rights holder identifies the liable party. Any of the parties listed in the easement agreement may be held responsible for your damages.

If the negligent party has breached their duty of care, they may be held responsible for injuries you suffer as a result. Duty of care refers to keeping a property reasonably safe and free of risks or hazards. Negligence is the failure to fulfill this duty, regardless of whether it is careless or intentional.

You should always have an experienced lawyer obtain any documents related to the easement property.  An attorney can review the agreement and analyze the wording regarding liability between the property owner and easement rights holder. Easements may be the responsibility of multiple parties or just one party.

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

Depending on the liability in the easement agreement, the original property owner may not be liable for accidents and maintenance on the land containing the easement. If the easement agreement addresses safety conditions for the easement property, that will also affect who is responsible. 

The party with the easement rights to use the land is responsible for safety and maintenance, including any accidents. For instance, the public utility company or local government must maintain the property if it uses the easement to access power lines and transformers on private property. It has a duty of care to trim trees, clean the areas around the power lines, and take steps to keep the land safe. If the public utility company creates dangerous conditions for anyone, they can be liable for damages.

Your lawyer may also find that in the easement agreement, the original property owner has the right to use the easement together with the easement rights holder. If the owner fails to correct safety hazards that led to your accident or doesn’t notify the easement rights holder about them, both the owner and easement rights holder may also be liable.

What Are Other Factors That Can Establish Liability for an Easement?

The details of the accident can also help determine liability for an easement. If you had an accident on a road owned by a private company due to hazardous road conditions, the evidence from the accident would determine the responsibility.

If the parties were negligent in creating the hazardous situation and neglected to correct any safety hazards, evidence aside from the easement agreement could hold them responsible. This evidence may include:

  • Photos and videos of dangerous road conditions such as fallen debris and cracks, and the lack of warning signs
  • Surveillance footage if there were any video cameras
  • Medical records and bills showing the progression and severity of your injuries
  • Any statements from nearby witnesses, if possible
  • Property records and the easement agreement

Let a California Car Accident Attorney Help You

Berg Injury Lawyers can help if you have been injured while on an easement. Despite California’s complex easement laws, we can help you find the liable party from the easement agreement and file your claim.

Learn more about accident liability on easements by scheduling a free consultation today.