Slip and Fall
According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for 8 million emergency room visits annually. Slip-and-falls account for 1 million of those, or about 12 percent of all falls.
San Bernardino slip-and-fall injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, have successfully obtained compensation for clients who were injured in a fall resulting from a property owner’s failure to clean up slippery surfaces or warn patrons about them.
Slip-and-fall claims are a form of premises liability, which means they stem from responsibility owed by the property owner, landlord, property manager, business or other entity that had a responsibility to maintain the safety of a given location for guests or residents.
It’s important to point out up front that just because a person falls and is injured on someone else’s property does not mean the owner of that site is liable for damages. That would be called strict liability, and it doesn’t apply in California slip-and-fall cases. Instead, what is necessary to prove is negligence. That is, we have to show the property owner acted in some way that was improper or failed to act when they should have, and that this “breach of duty” caused injuries to our client.
What is a Slip-and-Fall?
Although the term seems fairly straightforward, it’s worth pointing out. A slip-and-fall occurs when an individual encounters a surface that is slick or slippery, creating a dangerous condition that causes that person to slip, fall and become injured.
Typically, we are talking about a fall on some transitory substance, be it rainwater tracked in from outside or a toddler’s spilled apple juice, recently-waxed or washed floors or a smashed banana on a grocery store floor.
You may have also heard some attorneys refer to a “trip-and-fall.” This usually refers to a situation in which the walking surface is uneven, creating a hazard. This could include things like loose floorboards, torn carpeting, a defective sidewalk or a staircase that is poorly constructed.
Common Causes of Slip-and-Fall Accidents
Falls are more common than motor vehicle accidents. They account for nearly 21 percent of all emergency room visits, compared to auto collisions, which account for 12 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fact is, more people walk than drive.
Some of the most common causes for slip-and-falls include:
- Wet or uneven surfaces. The National Floor Safety Institute calculated about 55 percent of all slip-and-fall accidents are caused by unsafe walking surfaces.
- Weather conditions. Property owners can’t control the weather. But they can anticipate it to some extent, and they have a responsibility to make sure they are doing all they can to ensure that rain or fog or ice or snow aren’t going to create a dangerous condition to their guests.
- Improper training or equipment. This is especially noteworthy in occupational falls. Those who work in construction and manufacturing spend a great deal of time on their feet, often navigating narrow paths and slick surfaces. According to a recent Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets report, 85 percent of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to workers slipping and falling on slick floors. Further, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 22 percent of all slip-and-falls resulted in more than a month off work.
- Nursing home neglect. Older people – especially those who are frail and being cared for in a nursing home – are at especially high risk for falls. It’s estimated by the CDC that 60 percent of all nursing home residents fall annually. Not all of these are slip-and-fall cases, and even those that are aren’t necessarily the result of negligence. However, many are the result of negligence, and it’s important to carefully examine each case to see whether legal action is warranted.
Proving Liability in California Slip-and-Fall
In order to prove that a business or property owner is responsible to cover your medical bills, lost wages and other losses, one has to prove negligence. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish:
- Duty by defendant. That means defendant owned, controlled or operated the premises and had a responsibility to maintain it or address any harms within reasonable means.
- Notice. Defendant was aware or should have been aware of a dangerous condition on site that could have caused potential harm to guests or residents. This may require testimony from an expert witness familiar with industry practices, inspection and maintenance standards. For example, a grocery store defendant may claim workers had no knowledge of a spill in Aisle 3 that caused a fall. However, if the spill existed for two hours before someone came along and slipped on it, one might argue the store had constructive knowledge because it should have known such a condition was likely, as liquids are spilled all the time in stores during regular business hours. An owner’s failure to initiate routine inspections for known or knowable hazards won’t serve as an effective defense.
- Dangerous condition. This is something beyond just normal wear-and-tear or some other minor defect. It’s something that poses a significant safety hazard to those lawfully on site, using the property as intended.
- Damages. One has to have suffered some physical injury in order to assert a claim. This is one of the reasons why we advise seeking medical attention immediately after the fall. It helps to establish causation of injuries, and closes the defense window to assert something else was responsible for one’s injuries or that the injuries aren’t as serious as claimed.
Open and Obvious Doctrine
The open and obvious doctrine is one of the most effective legal defenses in a slip-and-fall accident.
From the court’s view, everyone has an individual responsibility to minimize injury to themselves. Where a danger is open and obvious, they have a duty to avoid it.
So let’s say there is a bright red puddle of juice on a white tile floor of the grocery store. It’s been sitting there for hours. An employee spilled his drink and failed to clean it up and no one else stepped in to do it either. A customer slips, falls and is seriously injured. The victim may have a tough time asserting a personal injury claim because, as the store will certainly argue, the danger was open and obvious and plaintiff had a duty to steer clear and avoid danger.
At the very least, a finding that a patron was injured by an open and obvious danger could result in a finding of comparative fault, which could reduce one’s damages by whatever percent the jury deems the victim responsible for his own injuries.
Contact the injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, by calling 714-705-6701 or 909-859-0280. Serving the Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.
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