The Most Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents are part of premises liability law. This is an area of personal injury that uses negligence principles of standard of care, breach of the duty of care, causation and damages. Proof of liability in slip and fall cases can be more difficult than in other types of injury claims such as car accidents as it depends on the nature of the property, reasonable notice of a defect or hazardous condition and the common defense of comparative or contributory negligence.
A slip and fall in California can occur from a wide variety of causes:
In nursing homes, slip and falls are common occurrences because staff members fail to assist or monitor residents who obviously required help. Construction sites are notorious for injuries of all kinds, but an injured worker may have a claim against another subcontractor who left holes in the roof, provided faulty handrails or steps, or who failed to sufficiently warn of a hazardous condition.
Any of these common causes of slip and falls can lead to serious injuries and substantial compensation.
Comparative Negligence and Joint and Several Liability
California is a pure comparative negligence state and has outlawed joint and several liability. If you are found to be comparatively liable for your own injuries, you can still recover though your compensation will be reduced by your degree of fault. Also, if there are two responsible parties, with one defendant being 80% at fault and the other 20%, the parties only pay based on their percentage of liability. If one party has no assets to pay, the other party still only pays its percentage and is not jointly liable for the entire award.
Property owners and insurers often assert that slip and fall victims failed to exercise ordinary care in preventing their injury. For example, wearing high heels or sneakers on a sidewalk or parking lot area after a snowfall and freezing temperatures may be construed as not exercising ordinary care. If the hazard was such the owner could have expected a person to have discovered it by the exercise of ordinary care, then liability might not be imposed.
In construction accidents, a worker who neglects to wear a safety harness or ignores yellow tape placed around a hazardous condition may be held comparatively negligent as well.
Duty of Care
A business owner has a duty of care to invitees or customers who are persuaded to come onto the premises to buy goods or services. Owners have a duty to periodically inspect their property for slip and fall hazards and to fix them or warn of their existence. Notice is a common issue in these cases as an owner may not be held liable if the hazard was recently created and the owner did not have a reasonable time to remove the risk. For instance, if a patron advised a manager of a slippery fall but no maintenance was done for 30 minutes and an accident occurred, the owner or its representatives probably had sufficient notice. Likewise, if the condition was there for several hours, the constructive notice may be imputed to the owner.
Homeowners may not have such a strict duty to its social guests, or licensees, or to others such as police, fire or meter readers who come on their property but still must either repair or warn of known hazards presenting unreasonable risks of harm. In the case of trespassers, the property owner is only liable for any injuries if the owner knew that trespassing was common or if he or she engaged in willful and wanton conduct such as using deadly force.
If you have any questions about this article, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Ritholz Law.