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Slip and Fall
Any person who has experienced an unexpected fall understands how sudden and terrifying it can be. Whereas many are able to get right back up and deal with a little soreness, slip and fall and/or trip and fall accidents often result in life-changing injuries. These injuries include fractured bones, neck/back injuries, and other serious orthopedic injuries. According to the Brain Injury Association of California, falls are also the leading cause of traumatic brain injury every year. Our elderly population is particularly susceptible to serious injury when they fall.
Slip/trip and fall accidents become actionable when they occur as the result of a dangerous condition on another’s property. Under California law, the person responsible for the premises (an owner, occupier, or lessee, also known as “owner-occupier”) is generally the one legally required to maintain a premises free from dangerous conditions.
Common examples of dangerous conditions include the following:
- Equipment left unattended in stores or restaurants;
- Spilled liquids or freshly mopped floors without warning signs that create a slip hazard;
- Uneven, broken, or defective sidewalks;
- Defective parking lots;
- Broken or defective handrails;
- Defective steps and stairways or obstructions on steps or in aisles;
- Poor lighting;
- Dog bites;
- Negligent or inadequate security;
- Defective elevators and escalators; and/or
- Inadequate supervision or maintenance at a swimming pool.
In performing their duty to exercise reasonable care in order to keep their premises safe for guests, owner-operators may be responsible for routine inspections to discover any dangerous conditions, make necessary repairs in a timely manner, and alert visitors of potentially dangerous conditions by posting notices or warning signs. In slip and fall cases, for example, an employee mopping the floor at a store should take reasonable care and post a sign to warn patrons about the wet floor to prevent this type of injury. Failure to do so could result in a personal injury claim against the owner-operator for the customer’s injuries under the theory of premises liability.Actual and Constructive Knowledge
If an employee or patron of the premises spilled a beverage and that resulted in a slip and fall injury, however, the victim would have to show the premises owner-occupier had either accidental or constructive knowledge that the dangerous condition existed.
For actual knowledge, the victim must prove the owner-occupier actually knew about the dangerous condition resulting in injury. They may have:
- Created the dangerous condition themselves;
- Been present on the property and actually seen the condition yet failed to make repairs; or
- Received reports or complaints about the hazard from maintenance personnel, employees, or guests of the premises.
Alternatively, to establish constructive knowledge, the victim must demonstrate that if the owner-occupier had shown reasonable care, they should have known about the dangerous condition giving rise to the personal injury claim. If, for a slip and fall, a spilled drink remained on the floor of a restaurant’s dining area for several hours before the injury occurred, the owner-occupier may be liable. The owner-occupier may be presumed to have constructive knowledge of the hazard, as exercising reasonable care would have alerted them to the standing liquid and resulted in timely cleanup.Statute of Limitations
In California, it is important not to delay in seeking the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney to explore your options, know your rights, and decide whether to file a personal injury lawsuit. California’s Code of Civil Procedures has adopted a two-year deadline for filing a personal injury action due to another’s negligence – slip and fall injuries are squarely under this umbrella. Of note, if a government entity is involved, the statute of limitations can be as little as 6 months from the date of injury. There are other rare exceptions to the statute of limitations, but these details and whether they apply to your unique claim are best discussed with a California attorney. If you fail to comply with the statute of limitations, your case will be barred and you can lose your legal claim forever.Documenting Your Slip and Fall Injury
If you or a loved one has suffered a fall, it is important that you accurately document the scene. This can be done effectively with photographs and/or video. You should also attempt to obtain the names and contact information of all individuals who witnessed the fall incident and/or scene of the incident.
Due to the difficult nature of these cases, it is critical that you contact an attorney to ensure you understand your options and do not unwittingly make choices that could affect your recovery for your injuries. At Walton Law, A.P.C., we have successfully handled several cases involving slip/trip and falls, including those that have occurred in stores, parking lots, on public sidewalks and in nursing homes.
For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced San Diego slip and fall attorney, please call us directly at (866) 338-7079, or click here to submit your inquiry online.