Imagine walking to a store entry when suddenly you find yourself spinning through the air and landing on your back. You have tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. Pain strikes immediately, so you go to the emergency room and find you need expensive treatments, including surgery.
The accident cost you thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages while you were recuperating, and substantial pain requiring heavy medication that left you to do little but stare blankly at a T.V. screen. Are you owed compensation for your plight? Yes. Under California premises liability law, the store owner was negligent for allowing a tripping hazard to remain in customers’ paths. Many slips and fall injuries result in serious injury, disability, and even death. If you fell and hurt yourself because of a property owner’s negligence, you can bring legal action in California courts.
What Are Slip and Fall Injuries?
Slip and fall lawsuits refer to premises liability claims arising from a complainant falling and suffering personal injury because of the property owner’s negligence. Property owners can refer to homeowners, business owners, or municipalities. For a claim to have validity, the property owner must have been negligent through specific action(s) or inactions.
Homeowner- and commercial insurance policies provide coverage for premises liability. These policies generally have limits of $100,000 or more with low deductibles. As a result, the chances of collecting a settlement or judgment are good. Insurance ensures that plaintiffs are never stuck with a valueless judgment because a defendant is indigent.
Homeowner Slip and Fall Liability
When you buy a home, you commit to a tremendous responsibility, including keeping the property safe for guests, professionals, and other people who access your property. Homeowners must regularly inspect their properties, determine if there are any slip-and-fall hazards, and remediate the problem or keep visitors away from dangerous areas.
For example, a guest who falls down your stairs because of a loose tread has a slip and fall claim. The homeowner has a duty of care to protect visitors from falling because of the stairway’s disrepair.
What About Landlords?
Landlords have the same duty of care as homeowners regarding safeguarding rental properties against slip and fall injuries. For instance, a property owner who leases a home with loose stairway treads risks liability claims from the tenant or tenant’s visitors. In many cases, landlords leave the property in disrepair despite repeated tenant requests to repair the hazard, resulting in a strong premises liability claim.
California law mandates landlords to repair any known hazards. In addition, they must provide warnings until the hazard is rectified, inspect the property regularly, and disclose any dangers to new tenants. Typical issues landlords must repair or give warnings on including the following:
- Floor surfaces prone to wetness
- Floorboards in disrepair
- Rotted or structurally unsound balconies
- Porches with loose structural elements
- Craggy or jagged concrete
- Known sinkholes
- Any other hazards
Businesses and Premises Liability
Businesses must carry substantial premises liability insurance because they have a greater risk due to higher foot traffic and potentially dangerous machines. Hundreds or thousands of people may enter a commercial property every day. Because random employees, customers, or others can create hazards, it is more difficult for businesses to identify problems. Some companies have inherently more dangerous environments, such as factories, vehicle dealerships, and sports facilities.
For example, grocery stores face many slip and fall liability risks. Thousands of customers, dozens of employees, and many vendors access the property daily. Workers in storage areas may slip and fall while lifting or unpacking boxes or fall over an obstruction, leading to a workers’ compensation claim.
Customers can slip and fall from liquids or other items dropped on the floor. In these cases, the store bears responsibility even if another customer caused the spill. For this reason, commercial entities must inspect publicly accessed areas frequently.
Municipal Premises Liability
Government agencies must ensure the safety of pedestrians in city buildings, on city grounds such as parks, and on sidewalks and roadways. Often, slip and falls result from sidewalks left in poor condition. Other slips and falls occur on city-run buses or municipal facilities, such as the pool deck at a recreation center.
California law requires plaintiffs to file a complaint with the municipality within six months of the incident. This complaint must be filed within the timeframe, or the plaintiff loses the right to bring a lawsuit. Injured parties can file a suit in state court if the complaint fails to bring about a settlement. The lawsuit must be filed within two years of the accident.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Slip and Fall Accident Claim?
Any serious injury case requires an attorney for you to achieve the best result. Without representation, a plaintiff will likely be unable to gather all the evidence and apply the strongest legal arguments and precedents. Because of this, insurance companies will likely believe they can win at trial and may refuse to offer a reasonable settlement. Your attorney also knows personal injury defense strategy and tactics and how to defeat them.
Premises liability defenses often center on pinning the blame on the victim. Typical arguments contend that the hazard was open, obvious, or non-existent. The fall was due to the plaintiff’s creation of a dangerous situation. For instance, a plaintiff may have slipped on water spilled on the floor of a grocery store. The case may seem straightforward: the store left the water in the way of customers, causing the fall. The business is responsible for removing the water or adequately warning customers of the hazard.
On the other hand, the defense may argue that a store employee warned of the water, and the plaintiff ignored it, thus causing their own injuries through wilful negligence. The plaintiff may reply that they heard no warning. In a case like this, your personal injury attorney would fight back against this allegation. The warning was ineffective because the plaintiff never heard it. Clearly, the store needed a sign or person at the site to ensure passing customers were aware of it.
Defendants often make specious arguments to justify a low settlement offer. California personal injury law goes by the pure comparative negligence standard. Under this legal framework, courts must assign the plaintiff and defendant(s) a percentage of comparative negligence between 0 and 100.
In this example, a jury may find the plaintiff has 0% liability, entitling her to 100% of her proven damages. On the other hand, a jury could conclude that the plaintiff shares in the liability for not heeding the warning and assign her 50% of the liability. In that case, the plaintiff receives only half her damages.
The defense may try to make the defendant afraid she will lose at trial or suffer from a severely diminished award in the hope of taking a low settlement. However, a San Diego slip and fall lawyer understands how to overcome the defense’s attempt to misdirect blame. Because of this, the defense is likely to raise their settlement offer to avoid the prospect of spending more on a trial and losing; however, if the defendants persist, your lawyer will call the case to trial and persuade a jury that the defendant is at fault.
Why Choose Shamon Law As Your Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers?
An injury can leave you with mounting medical expenses, lost income, and an inability to participate in your life fully. No accident victim should be left to fend for themselves.
Shamon law understands how important these cases are for our clients. Our experience includes going up against the big insurance companies and winning. We use our expertise to develop powerful cases, negotiate the best possible settlements, and win cases at trial.
Common Slip And Fall Injuries And Damages
Many types of negligence result in slip and fall injuries. Property owners want to keep their costs down, so they often skimp on maintenance, sometimes turning a blind eye to major hazards in the misguided belief that the chances of an accident are small. They may save a few dollars on maintenance but then be exposed to major liability.
Some of the most prevalent causes of slip-and-fall accidents include the following:
- Loose railings
- Ragged and uneven flooring
- Ramshackle stairways
- Slippery surfaces caused by spilled liquids or recently mopped floors
- Poor lighting that makes hazards invisible
- Debris left in walkways
- Deteriorated and uneven concrete
- Potholes, pits, and other uncovered holes
- Unsafe inventory stacking
- Escalator failure
- Elevator malfunction
Slip and fall accidents can cause many injuries, from minor scrapes to broken bones to paralysis to death. Damages can range from a few thousand dollars to millions. The amount depends on the demonstrable economic damages, the value of general damages, and whether punitive damages are warranted. Economic damages tie directly to a cost endured by the plaintiff because of the incident. For instance, medical bills and lost wages. Common examples include the following:
- Medical bills
- Ambulance bills
- Assistive devices
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Lost wages
- Lost employment
- Lost benefits
- Lost business income
- Lost self-employment income
General damages are the non-financial costs of the accident, such as pain, isolation, and lower life quality. Examples include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
California courts award punitive damages only in cases where the defendant(s) conduct was atrocious. Most slip and fall cases result from inadvertent negligence rather than intentional and reckless conduct, so punitive damages are rare. However, punitive damages could apply if you are injured due to the defendant’s extreme disregard for the safety and lives of others.
What To Do After A Slip & Fall Accident In San Diego?
As with all legal claims, you want to preserve all of your rights and gather evidence proving your case. To do so, document the accident, notify the property owner and seek medical care.
Document the Accident
Take photos and videos of the hazard, the surroundings, and your injuries. In addition, record the contact information of any witnesses. Evidence of the incident may disappear, so this documentation can prove pivotal.
Notify the Property Owner
Notifying the property owner is essential for an insurance claim. Therefore, you must ensure that your claim remains eligible for compensation under the policy. Report the matter to your supervisor or human resources immediately for a workplace fall. Workers’ compensation claims must follow a process of notification and exams by plan-qualified doctors.
Seek Medical Care
This may seem obvious in many cases. For instance, if you fall and break a bone, you will be in pain and go to the emergency room. This initial medical treatment establishes your claim from an evidentiary standpoint.
If the injury seems minor, seek a medical exam anyway because many injuries that appear minor can become big problems later. For instance, a person may fall and believe they suffered no serious injury. However, as the days pass, their ankle becomes more swollen and painful from a sprain caused by the fall. The injury then requires physical therapy and forces the victim to miss work.
Reporting a latent injury as soon as you recognize it establishes the incident, and a medical exam shows that the damage resulted from it. Because of this documentation, the defense cannot later claim that your sprained ankle was not the result of the fall. In addition, undergoing treatment shows that you mitigated damages, so the defense cannot argue for lower compensation by accusing you of aggravating the injury by being non-compliant with medical care.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured, speak to an attorney before conveying any information to an insurance adjuster. Insurance companies may contact you with questions. Your recorded answers can be used against you. Tell your insurance company to talk to your lawyer.
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San Diego Slip & Fall Accident FAQs
Premises liability cases hold property owners responsible. For example, a property owner who is negligent in maintaining the property is liable if the negligence results in an injury. The defendant(s) are typically homeowners, landlords, business owners, or municipalities.
No. A premises owner is liable if they were negligent. Valid defenses include no negligence on the part of the owner or that the negligence was on the part of the injured party. In many instances, juries conclude the owner and victim were both at-fault, in which case the plaintiff receives lesser damages.
Owners have no responsibility for people who access their property illegally in most cases. For instance, if a burglar injures himself on a stairway because of a loose tread, he has no entitlement to damages.
Yes. Many injuries have late-onset symptoms. With this type of case, it’s vital to take action as soon as you realize you have an injury by visiting a doctor and consulting a lawyer.
California law requires personal injury claims to be filed within two years. In cases against municipalities, a complaint must also be filed within six months of the incident.
Many cases settle in 1-2 years. Trial cases may take several more years, but most claims settle out of court.
San Diego slip and fall accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. According to this payment arrangement, you pay nothing until you collect. At that point, the legal fees are deducted from the settlement, so you never pay out of pocket.