What You Need to Know When You Fall
Falls are not an uncommon event, especially when you're in unfamiliar territory such as when you're in a business for the first time. In the elderly population, falls can be particularly dangerous. Each year, millions of people over the age of 65 fall. Traumatic brain injuries and hip fractures are very common, and one out of five falls results in broken bones or a head injury. If you are injured from a slip or trip and fall, you need to know your rights to compensation.
The Law of Slip and Falls in California
Under California law, business owners are not automatically liable for a fall that occurs on their property. What the law requires is that the owner knew or reasonably should have known of a dangerous condition that causes a slip or trip and fall. This is what the law refers to as "notice." Notice of the dangerous condition can either be "constructive" or "actual." Notice is constructive when the danger could have been discovered upon reasonable inspection, even though it wasn't found before the fall. This can be proven by inference where the danger was in existence for a meaningful period of time. Sometimes the condition of the danger itself can help establish that it was present for a substantial period of time. For example, when the danger is a liquid spill, and there are tracks and footprints leading into and out of the liquid, then it can be inferred that the spill was there for long enough that it should have been discovered (and removed) if the business employees were doing regular inspections.
Actual notice is less common in slip or trip and fall cases. Typically, the evidence of actual notice is found where someone other than the ultimate victim tells a business employee there is something like a spill or debris on the floor that could cause a fall. If the employee has a reasonable opportunity to remedy the condition but fails to do so then the property owner could be liable. Actual notice is presumed to be present where an employee creates the dangerous condition but fails to warn patrons about it. Perhaps the most common scenario is one in which an employee mops a floor and forgets to put out the warnings about the wet floor. In that case, the injured patron may have a strong case against the business owner.
The Damages Recoverable After a Fall
After a fall resulting in injuries, the victim may have the right to recover two types of damages: economic and noneconomic. The economic damages include medical expenses (both past and future), lost wages, lost earning capacity and even the lost value of household services. While these may seem relatively straightforward there are various rules that apply which can call some of these items into question. For example, the law allows for recovery of the "reasonable" and "necessary" medical expenses resulting from the injury causing event. When the injured party has pre-existing conditions (which may have contributed to the need for medical treatment) then the calculation of the accident-related medical expenses can be more complicated. Additionally, it is not uncommon for business owners and their insurers to argue not all of the medical treatment received was even necessary. At the end of the day, these are often questions for medical experts to address in their reports and at trial, if necessary.
Noneconomic damages are inherently difficult to calculate because they require assigning a value to physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation and emotional distress. This is never an easy task and not many people have relevant life experience. The average person does not have occasion to assign a dollar value to these losses. However, with experience at handling similar injury claims most attorneys and insurance adjusters know what a jury would likely award in the case.
Getting in Touch With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
After a slip or trip and fall accident, you should act quickly to protect your rights. Reporting the accident to the business or property owner and taking pictures of the dangerous condition can go a long way to proving your case. With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, your claim can be successfully pursued and you can be compensated for your losses. Mr. Ralph has nearly 30 years of experience handling slip and trip and fall cases, and he has recovered millions of dollars for his clients. Don't let your rights slip away!