Suffering an injury from any type of a slip or trip and fall accident within a store, restaurant or other business can result in serious and permanent injuries that could be with you for the rest of your life. Some injures may require substantial and expensive medical attention and require you to miss time from work. When the party controlling the property has caused the fall, they should be held accountable for the damages. After a slip/trip and fall accident, or any type of injury occurring on another's property, you need a knowledgeable lawyer who can help you receive the maximum recovery for your injuries and other damages.
Slip and Trip and Fall Law in California
A person who owns or occupies property is negligent if he or she fails to use reasonable care to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. Those in control of property must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could logically be expected to harm others. If reasonable care is not used and an injury results from a fall accident, the business or property owner may be held liable for the injuries and damages suffered by the victim.
Typically, the question is whether in the management of his or her property, the possessor of land has acted as a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. The likelihood of injury to people coming on to the property, the probable seriousness of such injury, the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk, the location of the property, and the possessor’s degree of control over the dangerous condition are among the factors to be considered by the judge or jury in evaluating the reasonableness of a defendant’s conduct. While this is a long list of factors, whether a defendant is held liable for the injuries sustained in a fall typically boils down to common sense and experience. What could a reasonable business or property owner have done to avoid the accident? If the answer is something simple and not too expensive, responsibility would rest with the business or property owner.
Examples of Dangerous Property Conditions
Broadly speaking, premises liability claims allege a defendant property owner created a dangerous condition, allowed a dangerous condition on its property to exist and/or failed to take reasonable steps to warn people of the danger. While most cases involve a hazard that leads to a fall, such dangerous conditions can even include criminal acts committed by third parties. Some examples of situations giving rise to a valid claim include:
- Constructing a ramp or other structure not in compliance with the Uniform Building Code, resulting in a fall.
- Permitting a slippery substance to exist in a place of business for an unreasonable time that causes an injury.
- Allowing or placing a tripping hazard (such as merchandise or trash) on a floor such that a fall occurs.
- Failing to remedy an uneven sidewalk, walkway or parking lot.
- Allowing uneven or slippery stairs to exist on property.
Not every accident or injury will be the fault of the property or business owner as some incidents simply cannot be avoided. What is important is being able to prove those in control of the property acted unreasonably under the existing circumstances, thereby causing or at least contributing to the harm suffered. Most slip and fall accidents can be avoided if the business or property owner takes reasonable care in the management of their property. This often requires the owner or their employees to regularly inspect the property for conditions that might cause a fall or injury. The absence of those routine inspections can be used as evidence of neglect. When adequate safety precautions, including inspections, are not performed and an injury occurs, the property owner should be held accountable.
What To Do To Protect Yourself After a Fall
Three words: evidence, evidence, evidence.
It is extremely important to gather evidence after a fall in a business. The business owner is not going to help you build a case against them. You must do what you can to protect your rights and ensure you have a basis for a recovery when you're injured. There are vey simple ways to do this.
First, if you have a cell phone camera, by all means take pictures (ideally from various angles) of the object or condition causing your fall. Once an accident has occurred, business employees are generally pretty quick to correct or conceal the condition causing the fall. So, it is important to take pictures to make sure the evidence supporting your claim is not lost.
Second, if there were witnesses to your fall, you should try to get their name and contact information. This is particularly true if they approach you and seem supportive. For example, it is not uncommon for store patrons to approach someone injured and offer their help and insight into an accident. These witnesses become more crucial when the condition causing the injury is likely to be disputed, such as where there is a spill on the floor. Sometimes witnesses can help establish how long that dangerous condition existed before the accident, a fact that really impacts the element of notice. The business owner's actual or constructive notice of a danger before a fall must be shown to win a case.
Third, make sure the accident is reported to the business soon after it occurs. As simple as this sounds, this report goes a long way to establishing timing and the credibility of a claim. Business owners and their insurers tend to doubt claims that are not promptly reported. However, it should be remembered that when an accident or fall is reported the old adage that "less is more" comes into play. You should avoid lengthy, written descriptions of what happened and simply report the basics. It is not uncommon for a fall victim to be given a customer accident report to complete after a fall. If this occurs, it is always a good idea to stick to the bare bones of what happened and little more. Describing the location and cause (if known) is probably enough.
An Experienced Slip and Fall Attorney
If you believe your slip and fall or trip and fall accident was caused by someone else's neglect, take the first step to receiving compensation by contacting an experienced attorney. Paul W. Ralph has been representing fall accident victims for nearly 30 years, recovering millions of dollars for his injured clients. He can help you obtain the compensation you deserve and get your life back on track.