California Slip and Fall Lawyers
Slip and fall accidents are the second leading cause of injuries in the United States. They account for an estimated 16,000 deaths each year. Many more result in serious injuries. Often these injuries and deaths are caused by a dangerous or hazardous condition in someone else’s property. An injury or death from a fall that is caused by a hazardous condition in another person’s property may entitle the victim or the victim’s family to compensation.
Why Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
Over 70% of falls occur due to dangerous conditions and hazards in our environment. Dangerous conditions that cause accidents frequently result from poor design or improper maintenance. Other hazards are created by the presence of slippery surfaces and substances, such as areas with food spillage or water leakage.
Where Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
Slip and fall accidents occur virtually everywhere – in a supermarket or shopping mall; at school or at an office; or on a sidewalk. Your accident may be caused, for example, by a defect in flooring, which may be wet or uneven, or else it may be attributable to inadequate lighting that obstructs your ability to foresee a danger.
What Exactly is Personal Injury?
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
Slip and fall accidents have two main types of mechanism. In one scenario, your front foot slips forward, causing you to fall backward. In the alternative scenario, your rear foot slips backward, causing you to fall forward. A related type of accident, a trip and fall, occurs when your foot comes into contact with an obstacle, such as a protrusion, along your path.
The traumatic impact of a slip and fall or a trip and fall accident can cause severe and long-lasting injuries. Therefore, if you suffer a slip and fall or a trip and fall, it is in your best interests to seek medical and legal help without delay.
A Property Owner’s Duty to Prevent Accidents
The law requires that property owners use reasonable care in the management and maintenance of their premises and avoid exposing others to an unreasonable risk of harm, such as a slip and fall or a trip and fall. Therefore, property owners have a duty to reasonably inspect for any unsafe conditions on their premises and either to repair or give adequate warning of conditions that pose a risk of harm to others.
The victim of an accident must prove that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard that caused the accident, and that he failed to remedy it. If the property owner, or any of his employees, created the dangerous condition that caused the injury, knowledge of the hazard may be automatically imputed to them. However, if the hazard was created by a non-employee, such as a customer, the claimant must show that there was time enough for the property owner to have discovered and repaired the dangerous condition, or that the hazardous condition occurred with such frequency that the owner should have been aware of its presence.
In some instances, a property owner may have a duty to post warnings of a danger (such as “wet floor” signs), but these warnings must be visible and effective in order to be deemed sufficient.
Choosing the Right California Slip and Fall Lawyer
Slip and fall cases are often challenging and difficult to prove. To prevail, a slip and fall attorney must establish not only the existence of a dangerous condition, but the property owner’s actual or constructive knowledge of that condition. An experienced attorney would initiate an immediate investigation, and:
- Conduct a site inspection to ascertain the dangerous condition that caused the accident;
- Secure evidence of the dangerous condition before it “disappears;”
- Track down witnesses to the accident or who have knowledge of the dangerous condition;
- Locate proof of prior complaints about the dangerous condition or of prior slip and fall accidents at the same location.
A resourceful attorney will hire the appropriate experts on safety standards to determine the applicability and violation of governmental codes and regulations, and thus establish liability on the part of the negligent property owner. For example, if the slip and fall occurred on a faulty staircase, he might engage the services of a structural engineer to show deviation in the height or width of the steps.
What Should You Do After a Slip and Fall Accident?
- Seek Medical Help for Your Injuries. After an accident, seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. In the case of severe injuries, an ambulance should be summoned for emergency transport to a hospital. Too often, however, severe injuries may not manifest themselves for some days or weeks, making it all the more important that you be examined by a medical provider without delay.
- Determine the Hazard That Caused Your Accident. Take photos. In order to have a viable claim, it is necessary to identify the dangerous condition or hazard that caused you to be hurt. Time is of the essence in preserving the evidence at the site of your fall. Therefore, do what is reasonably necessary to take photos. If you have a camera with you (your cell phone will do), snap photos, or ask a companion or anyone at the scene to take one.
- Report the Accident. If you are hurt in a commercial establishment, such as a store, a supermarket, or a mall, you should report the slip and fall to management right there and then. It is very important to document your accident in this way. Incident reports contain useful information about the accident, including the date and time, the names of witnesses, and the circumstances of the injury. Most importantly, incident reports help establish that the slip and fall accident actually occurred, preventing a property owner from later claiming that the incident never took place.
- Contact a Reputable Slip and Fall Lawyer. Time is of the essence after an accident, so you should protect your rights by immediately contacting a lawyer who has significant experience handling these types of cases. A prompt investigation is vital to a successful slip and fall claim. In many instances, the hazard that caused your injuries may be a temporary one (such as a liquid spill in a supermarket) and may be cleaned up quickly, destroying critical evidence for your case. An expert attorney will initiate the proper steps to preserve evidence, identify and locate witnesses, and assist you in obtaining the necessary medical care. He will also protect against complicated filing deadlines, which for some claims may be as short as six months if certain government entities are involved. Failure to meet these deadlines may mean that any claim for compensation that you may have for your injuries is lost forever.
Who Is Responsible for Your Slip and Fall Accident?
Property owners, operators, and managers – whether they are individuals or business entities – may be liable for your injuries. A knowledgeable slip and fall attorney can locate the owners of any given property by checking the appropriate government records, including tax rolls.
Some owners and operators who bear responsibility for your accident may not be as obvious. They may, for instance, include service providers – such as concessionaires and janitorial companies – on the property in question. They may include franchisors and parent corporations. And they may well include government entities. A slip and fall at a public school, for instance, may impose liability on a local governmental body, whereas a slip and fall at a post office would implicate the federal government.
Damages You May Recover
If your slip and fall accident was due to negligence on the part of a property owner, operator, or manager, then you would be able to recover compensation for:
- pain and suffering;
- medical bills for past and future care;
- lost wages; and
- any reduction in your earning capacity.
Although punitive damages are uncommon in slip and fall cases, these damages may be recovered if the defendant’s conduct amounted to a reckless disregard for safety – that is, if a property owner or manager egregiously ignored a known safety hazard, thus causing the accident.
Having handled hundreds of slip and fall cases, The Reeves Law Group has developed an expertise in such cases and has secured sizeable recoveries for hurt clients. The Reeves Law Firm has both substantial experience and resources to handle your slip and fall injury case. For a free consultation, please call us at (800) 644-8000 or send us an e-mail.