What is a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
A Slip and Fall lawsuit is a civil action against a property owner seeking compensation for the injuries a person suffered from slipping or tripping and falling due to an unsafe and dangerous condition on the property. Slip and fall lawsuits fall within a broader category of cases known as premises liability lawsuits.
Are Slip and Fall Accident Lawsuits Permitted Under California Law?
Yes. California law requires all property owners and managers to maintain their properties in a safe condition for residents, visitors and consumers, and warn of any dangers. California Civil Code § 1714(a) specifically states, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.”
Can A Slip and Fall Lawsuit Be Brought Against A City, County Or Other Public Agency?
Yes. Cities, counties and other agencies are required to keep their facilities, playgrounds and parks, streets and roadways, and trees, bushes and landscaping on public properties free of hazards. Public agencies can include mass transit, public colleges and universities, public schools, sanitation and water districts, fire and police departments, public hospitals and state agencies. If the governmental entity does not keep its premises clear of dangers and a serious injury results, the entity can be held liable (at fault or legally responsible) and required to pay damages.
Two important notes on slip and fall lawsuits against the government:
- In California, the statute of limitations (deadline to file a lawsuit) against a public agency is extremely short. If you are injured on public property, do not delay in contacting us. You must file a claim within six months of the injury or risk losing your right to recover damages.
- Many, but not all, California cities and counties have ordinances that require the property owner adjacent to a sidewalk to maintain it in a safe condition. If the adjacent landowner is a public entity, it is the responsibility of the public entity to keep it safe.
What Proof Is Necessary To Hold A Property Owner Liable In A Slip and Fall Injury Lawsuit?
Simply because a person falls and injures him or herself on another’s property is insufficient to recover damages against the property owner no matter how serious the injury. The burden of proof rests on the injured person to demonstrate the following:
- The defendant owned, occupied and/or controlled the property where the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) was injured.
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property.
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury.
A property owner’s negligence means he or she failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances resulting in a foreseeable injury to a person on his or her property.
For example, slip-and-fall injuries occur frequently in supermarkets and convenience stores. It is common for customers to spill containers of milk, soda, wine and other liquids in the aisles. If another customer immediately falls on the wet floor following a spill, usually there would be no basis for bringing a premises liability lawsuit against the supermarket as the manager most likely would not have notice of the dangerous condition or an opportunity to correct it.
On the other hand, if a store employee learned of the hazard and did not immediately clean it up, or provide a warning until someone could promptly come and clean it, the store employee did not act reasonably under the circumstances. There would be a sound basis to bring a legal claim against the supermarket based on the store employee’s negligence.
Occasionally, a plaintiff can prove negligence by showing that the property owner violated a statute such as the state building code. These laws dictate when and where handrails and other similar features must be installed. If a person fell on a stairway that lacked appropriate handrails, and the lack of the handrail played a substantial role in causing the person’s injuries, he or she may have a valid claim against the building owner based the building code violation.
Must You Show The Property Owner Knew Of The Dangerous Condition To Bring A Slip And Fall Accident Case?
No. In some cases the evidence will clearly show the property owner was aware of the dangerous condition and failed to address it. In other cases, the property owner will claim he or she was unaware of the hazard. Even if true, this itself is not complete defense.
Property owners have an affirmative duty to inspect or take other action to learn of the condition of their property. Property owners must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others. They can even be held negligent if they fail to use reasonable care to discover unsafe conditions on the property and to repair, replace or give adequate warnings of anything that could reasonably be expected to harm others.
For example, clogged gutters can send large amounts of water off a building and onto adjacent walkways rather than down the intended drain pipes. A reasonable landlord would periodically have the gutters of his or her apartment building inspected and cleared, particularly if there were trees and foliage next to the apartment building which dropped leaves and needles onto the roof and over time clogged the gutters. In this situation, the landlord could be held liable to a tenant who injures him or herself on the slippery pavement during a rainstorm even though the landlord did not know at the time that the walkway was flooded.
If a tenant recognizes a danger, it is best to notify the landowner, so that the danger can be repaired without anyone being harmed. If the landlord is made aware, and refuses to fix the condition which later causes injury, there will be little doubt that the property owner “knew of the condition.”
What Types of Dangerous Property Conditions Are Frequently The Basis For Bringing A Slip And Fall Lawsuit?
At the Dolan Law Firm, our slip and fall lawyers often see cases involving the following dangerous property conditions:
- Uneven, broken, or cracked sidewalks, pavement or cobblestones
- Slippery or wet or sidewalks, pavement or cobblestones
- Unmarked potholes or open grates on a sidewalk
- Steep, sloping driveways
- Poor lighting
- Blocked store aisles
- Slippery or wet floors from rainwater, ice, snow or spilled oil, grease, water, and other liquids
- Fruit, vegetables and other food products dropped on the floor at supermarkets and convenience stores
- Uneven or narrow stairs or steps
- Missing or deficient handrails
- Unsafe balconies or railings
- Torn carpeting and changes in flooring
- Obscured or hidden curbs, barriers or potholes
- Exposed tree roots
- Cords or wires on the ground
- Low hanging cord or wires
- Construction hazards on roads, bridges, sidewalks and walkways, including fallen debris
What Damages Can Be Obtained In A Slip And Fall Liability Lawsuit?
The monetary damages in a slip and fall accident lawsuit that can be obtained from the property owner at fault include compensation for:
- Past and future physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and physical impairment
- Past and future hospital, medical, and incidental expenses
- Past and future lost wages and lost earning capacity
- Punitive damages in cases of outrageous or egregious wrongdoing
If you were partially at fault for causing the fall, you might still be able to recover damages from the property owner, but the dollar amount of your award will be reduced.
If a person has died as the result of the slip and fall accident, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filled by a surviving spouse, children, or other family members. The family can seek compensation for the loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, and affection, the financial support (salary and wages) the decedent would have provided, and hospital, funeral, and burial expenses.
What Should I Do If I Been Injured On Another’s Property?
- Gather evidence of the dangerous condition including taking photos: If your health permits, it is important to document the condition in a way that will show the physical characteristics of the height, width, depth, nature of the substance, etc. before someone goes out and repairs the condition. For example, use a ruler to photograph the dimensions of the defect. Get pictures showing the approach that you made to the defect, including what direction you were walking in. Many defects are not visible to even the most careful pedestrians.
- Preserve evidence:
- Store your shoes: After you fall, do not wear the shoes that you had on at the time of your fall again. They may have evidence of oil or other debris on the bottom that can be lost by continued wear. Your attorney may need to have the shoes examined by an expert. The available traction on the bottom of your shoes at the time of your fall is also often a subject for expert review.
- Request video: Tell the property owners to preserve any video. Video can play a critical role in any lawsuit. Many times we have seen video and counseled clients against bringing a suit. In other instances, video has been critical proof leading to settlement or victory at trial.
- Document your injuries: Take photos of your injury. If you did not need to go to a hospital right after you fell, it’s still important to seek medical treatment. Some injuries may not manifest until days after the accident. To obtain compensation for your fall, it is critical that you have medical documentation of your injuries.
- Be aware of Statute of Limitations: It is important to act quickly if you have suffered an injury, as the deadline to bring a lawsuit, called the statute of limitations, for most personal injury actions is two years from the date that you were injured if you are an adult. However, the statue of limitations is only six months in California for cases brought against cities, counties, public agencies such as MUNI and BART, school districts, public universities and colleges, etc.
- Caution on speaking to insurance agents: You are not obligated to speak to any insurance agent for the property owner. Keep in mind the mission of the insurance companies is to maximize their profit by denying or minimizing claims payouts. Your conversion with the insurance agent will likely be recorded. The agent may try to get you to make statements that absolve the property owner of liability or reduce your damages. At the same time, be aware that many insurance policies covering property have a no-fault provision providing a person injured on the property money to help pay for his or her medical expenses. It is called medical payments coverage. You don’t need to release any other potential claims to receive a payment under this coverage. So don’t sign any releases or waivers.
Why Should I Have A Slip And Fall Injury Lawyer At The Dolan Law Firm Represent Me?
Repeated, outstanding success in Slip and Fall cases — that’s the number one reason clients select our law firm if they have been injured due to a dangerous property condition, and why they refer their family and friends to our firm if they should need legal representation. We have recovered over $10 million for our clients in slip and fall lawsuits including in cases against the City and County of San Francisco, other cities in the Bay Area, and multiple privately owned apartment complexes, supermarkets and other businesses.
We are known for taking challenging and complicated cases to trial and prevailing. As a result, we often obtain settlement offers for our clients far above industry averages. We specifically provide our clients:
- Individual, attentive legal representation by highly experienced car accident attorneys with an outstanding record of success;
- Substantial investigative, financial and technological resources that no individual attorney or small law firm can provide;
- Access to accident reconstruction experts to identify and explain the cause of the accident; and
- Access to biomechanics and economic experts to determine the full extent of your injuries and calculate the cost of your future medical needs, along with any lost of wages or diminished earning capacity due to the accident..
Our attorneys work under the direction of Chris Dolan, our founder and lead trial attorney. Chris has been repeatedly selected by multiple publications as one of top injury lawyers in California. We are proud that US News and Best Lawyers have rated our firm a Best Law Firm and we have received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau for our in injury lawsuits. We encourage you to visit our Testimonials page and see our clients explain how we successfully resolved their claims.
Contact A Slip And Fall/Premises Liability Attorney At The Dolan Law Firm Today
If you have been injured in a serious slip and fall accident, contact our attorneys today by completing our contact form or call us toll free at 1-888-452-4752 for skilled and experienced legal counsel. We will review your case for free, promptly and with no obligation on your part.
We serve clients across the San Francisco Bay Area and California from our offices in San Francisco and Oakland. Our work is no recovery, no free or also referred to as contingency-based. That means we collect no fee unless we obtain money for your damages and injuries.