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Can You Sue The City For An Injury At Oxnard Beach Park?

As with most legal questions, the answer to this one is a resounding maybe. The mere fact that you were injured on public property does not mean the government entity that owns the property is responsible for the harm you suffered. But government “landlords” are also subject to premises liability law, which imposes a duty to make the grounds reasonably safe for lawful visitors. However, since a public beach is more or less the planned management of a natural environment, there are limits to what the government can or should do to make the grounds safe — and what the public can expect government management to accomplish. Moreover, recreational areas tend to produce injuries because of the activities that visitors voluntarily engage in. For all of these reasons, the facts surrounding your injury are extremely important to determining whether you have a right to sue.

To clarify, let’s divide possible beach injuries into three basic categories:

  • Caused by risks of activity — During a beach volleyball game among friends, you trip and fall face down in the sand, bloodying your nose and sustaining a concussion. Your injury is clearly a risk of the activity you participated in voluntarily. You assumed the risk, so the city is not liable.
  • Caused by force of nature — A swimmer is pulled out by a rip current. He fights to get back to shore, but is too exhausted. He drowns. The beach has no lifeguard. Again, drowning is a risk one assumes when swimming in the ocean. Many California beaches are unguarded, so the swimmer enters the ocean at his own risk. The city is not liable.
  • Caused by faulty management — You are walking through the parking lot, carrying an ice chest for your family, when you step in a pothole, tearing the ligaments in your ankle and knee. The pothole has existed for weeks, but the city failed to fill it. The city is liable and must compensate you for your injury.

These examples are deliberately cut and dried, but beach injuries don’t always belong to just one category. Consider these examples:

  • Lifeguard on duty chats with friends instead of watching the water. He is late to spot a flailing swimmer and cannot get to him before the swimmer drowns.
  • Bicyclist on path passes a receptacle overflowing with trash, debris causes his front tire to slip, and he crashes, breaking an arm.

In these instances, a case could certainly be made that negligence, not simply nature or the inherent risks of an activity, was the cause of the injury.

The bottom line for personal injuries at Oxnard Beach Park or other state and local recreational areas is there must be a direct, causal connection between negligent management of the area and the injury. If you’ve been hurt at the beach and have questions about your rights, call Crane Flores, LLP today at (805) 628-4967 or contact our offices online to schedule a free consultation.