Globally, falls are a significant public health issue, as these accidents are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death worldwide. While most data focuses on falls among older adults, slip and falls are common yet preventable incidents for all age groups in the U.S. Slip and fall accidents can stem from various situations; however, they most often involve negligence.
Individuals, businesses, and governmental entities can be held liable under California’s personal injury and premises liability statutes if their negligence contributed to or caused a victim’s slip and fall injuries. Determining liability and attributing fault is critical to a slip and fall lawsuit. Victims should consult with an experienced attorney to determine their burden of proof, rights, and remedies after a slip and fall accident.
What Is the Nature of Liability in a Slip and Fall Personal Injury Case
Slip and fall cases generally fall under California’s premises liability laws. Not every fall leads to a personal injury lawsuit, and victims must be able to establish liability to recover compensation. Generally, under California’s slip and fall laws, a victim must be able to prove negligence. A party may be negligent in a slip and fall case when the at-fault party:
- Knew, or through the exercise of due care, should have known;
- About a dangerous condition on property they own or control; and
- Failed to repair, protect against, or provide adequate warning of the condition.
Liability for slip and fall cases often hinges on the unique facts and circumstances surrounding the fall.
Common Cause of Slip and Falls
Slips occur when there is insufficient friction or traction between an individual’s foot and the walking surface. Some common causes of slips include the following:
- Wet or slick surfaces,
- Weather hazards,
- Loose rugs or mats, and
- Flooring or surfaces that have uneven traction.
Trips refer to instances where a person’s foot collides with an object, causing them to lose balance and fall. Common causes of tripping include the following:
- Obstructed views,
- Poor lighting,
- Uneven carpeting,
- Uncovered cables, and
- Uneven steps.
Slips, trips, and falls are serious problems that can result in substantial injury and economic consequences for the victim. These incidents often occur at the following locations:
- Construction sites,
- Office buildings,
- Private residences,
- Public parks,
- Retail establishments, and
California law provides slip-and-fall victims with legal recourse for any individual or entity responsible for the accident and injuries.
Slip and Fall Liability
In California, individuals and businesses have a duty of care to protect others from harm when they enter the property owner’s land. Generally, this duty of care applies to individuals who own, lease, occupy, or control property. In some cases, insurance companies might be liable for paying you if you are a victim.
In addition to establishing the duty of care, you must be able to demonstrate the following elements:
- The at-fault party was in control or owned the property;
- The at-fault party was negligent in using or maintaining their property;
- You suffered harm by slipping, tripping, or falling on the property; and
- The at-fault party’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing you harm.
Victims should work with an experienced attorney to ensure that they meet the evidentiary requirements of each element.
Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall Case
The critical factor in winning a California slip and fall case is proving that the fall resulted from the property owner’s negligence. Some common evidence of negligence includes the following:
- Victim’s treatment notes following the fall;
- Video and photographic evidence of the accident scene;
- Witness statements; and
- Expert witness testimony.
Issues may arise if the landowner claims the victim was partly at fault for the accident. However, under California’s comparative fault doctrine, victims can still recover damages even if they were partially at fault.
Examples of Slip and Fall Liability Claims
Some situations where a property or business owner might be liable for a slip and fall accident include the following:
- A grocery store fails to clean up a spill or put a caution sign up, and a customer slips and injures themselves;
- A landlord fails to repair a broken staircase, and a visitor suffers injuries from tripping; or
- A restaurant neglects to clean up snow or ice off the pathway to their entrance.
The property owner may assert defenses in these cases.
Comparative Fault in California
In the context of premises liability cases, the victim may be partially at fault if:
- The victim was negligent; and
- The victim’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing their harm.
Let’s look at an example.
Adam is at a community pool and sees an opportunity to get on the diving board. Adam runs to the diving board, even though there are multiple signs that warn against running around the pool deck. While running, Adam trips on the concrete, falls, and breaks his arm. In this situation, the community pool may be responsible for uneven concrete. However, Adam might also be responsible for ignoring the warning signs and running on the pool deck.
In comparative fault cases, the jury is tasked with apportioning fault between the parties. If, as the victim, you are found to be partially at fault, your recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault the jury apportions to you.
Speak with a California Slip and Fall Lawyer About Your Injuries Today
Determining liability in slip and fall cases isn’t as straightforward as it may appear. So if you’ve recently fallen on another’s property and believe the property owner’s negligence played a role, it’s important to reach out to a dedicated California premises liability lawyer for assistance. At the Weinberg Law Offices, we’ve assembled a skilled team of personal injury attorneys who are ready to meet with you to discuss your case. We’ve been representing accident victims since 1984 and have recovered over $800 million on behalf of our clients. This means we know what it takes to connect you with the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation today, call 877-943-6274. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.