If you were to make a mental list in your head of the most common ways you could be injured, you probably would include some typical concerns. Fear of car accidents, incidents involving guns, falling from a great height, or even shark and snakebites are found on just about every list. But there is a hidden danger that no one thinks about, but that accounts for almost half of all spinal injuries in the world: the slip and fall.
Slip and fall injuries are dangerous. They can happen to anyone, anywhere. They’re one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries. These sneaky hazards cause neck and back injuries, break bones, cause internal trauma, and result in many mental health conditions due to stress, anxiety, and depression.
One of the biggest non-physical problems with slip and falls is that there is not always a clear-cut way to get the medical bills from them taken care. You may end up paying for a lot of expenses out of your own pocket, even when the accident wasn’t your fault.
The California laws and regulations that cover these types of accidents are sometimes blurry and require legal knowledge to get you the compensation that you are rightfully entitled to. Here are some facts that can help you determine if you have a premise for a slip and fall liability claim.
What is a Slip and Fall Injury?
Slip and falls, also known as trip and falls, are personal injury accidents that usually occur on someone else’s property. They happen when the victim doesn’t see a hidden danger, such as a slippery floor, a crack or pothole in the sidewalk, or a carpet, and ends up slipping or tripping over the hazard. When the accident results in an injury, it is labeled a trip or slip and fall.
It’s a personal injury that befalls thousands of people in California annually, occurring more frequently than any fall from a great height, snake bite, or even the dreaded shark bite.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than one million people are injured in a slip and fall each year in the United States. Of these injuries, nearly 20,000 are fatal. With numbers like these, it’s a wonder that accidental slips and trips don’t top the chart of common household fears in more people.
Slip or trip and falls are predominant in the elderly population. Injuries to senior citizens from falling can cause significant damage that results in reduced mobility and independence. But seniors aren’t the only people who are in danger from slip and falls. Anyone can be the victim of these hidden dangers.
Slip and falls most commonly lead to traumatic brain injuries, fractures of the spine, hip, pelvis, and extremities, and neck and back pain.
What’s the Legal Word on Slip and Fall Injuries in California?
In California, as in most states, if you are injured from a slip or trip and fall on someone else’s property, they may be at fault for your injuries. If you can prove that the accident happened due to negligence on the part of the property owner, you may be able to file a premise liability claim and get compensation for medical costs and other damages that occurred as a result of the slip and fall.
Premise liability claims have a lot of blurred lines in them. To win your suit and get the compensation you are entitled to, you and your attorney have to prove your case. Even in an obvious situation, it’s not always as simple as it sounds.
There is a fine line between a property owner’s duty of care to keep their property safe and a visitor’s obligation to pay attention to their surroundings. Treading this line and proving that the property owner was remiss in their duty of care is what your attorney must do, and it’s why you need a knowledgeable attorney from Hershey Law on your side.
Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall
There are thousands of ways to get injured in a slip and fall and every case will be different. However, there are common threads to every premise liability case.
The foundation of the slip and fall lawsuit is based on the requirement that property owners have an obligation to take care of their property. They are obligated to take reasonable actions to keep their property hazard-free. But just because you were injured on the property doesn’t mean it’s automatically the owners’ fault. You also have a responsibility to be aware of your surroundings.
Because the law seeks to ensure that the property owner’s rights are just as much assured as your own are, you and your lawyer must prove these three fundamental aspects occurred in your case:
- There was a duty of care owed by the property owner, or the representative of the property owner, to the plaintiff – you. This is necessary because, depending on your state and the situation, if you were trespassing, you might not be eligible for compensation. It is also important to note that accidents that happen on government property fall into a different legal area than a typical slip and fall case.
- Either the property owner or their employee had a reasonable expectation to have known about the hazard, or they knew about the hazard and did not repair it, or they caused the hazard directly themselves.
- The hazard that was caused by the property owner’s neglect, or the neglect of their employee, directly caused your injuries.
Since the line between the property owners’ rights and yours is so fine, there are some questions that could turn the balance in either direction. Knowing how long the hazard was there before your injury occurred can help you prove negligence. If you tripped in a crack or over an obstacle that took a while to form, the owner had plenty of reasonable time to learn about it.
Another aspect of the case that can turn the tide in or out of your favor is knowing if the owner had a reasonable amount of time to repair the hazardous condition. If they can prove that they had recently been made aware of the hazard and had action steps in place to repair it, they weren’t being negligent. It was a matter of bad timing.
However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. They still should have roped the area off, posted warning signs, or found another way to ensure anyone nearby was made aware of the hazard.
Why is it So Hard to Prove Premise Liability?
The law isn’t automatically on your side in a slip and fall case. You are accusing a property owner of being negligent and causing your injury, but they have a right to their own defense, too. And if they can prove it, their defense can be used against you.
An experienced attorney, like those at Hershey Law, can predict the defendant’s potential defenses and work ahead to diffuse their impact. Some of the most common defenses include:
- The plaintiff was trespassing on private property.
- The plaintiff was distracted instead of alert to their immediate surroundings.
- The hazard was reasonably marked by warning signs or cordoned off.
- The hazard was obviously there, and an average person should have been able to avoid it.
- The hazard would not have been dangerous if the plaintiff was wearing appropriate footwear.
These defenses may be accurate, and they could be used against you if they are based on fact and are proven. But you may still have a case if your accident occurred in California.
California uses a pure comparative negligence rule. This means that your accident could be ruled partly your fault and partly the defendant’s fault. The percentage that you are at fault would come into play when your damages are determined. The total compensation you would have been awarded are then reduced by your percentage of fault.
For instance, if you were distracted and tripped in a pothole that was barely visible, the jury may determine that yes, you should have been paying attention. But because it was a pothole that had been there for a while and was hidden from all but close scrutiny, they determined that your fault was only 10%.
From there, your damages would have been $50,000, but they are reduced by your 10%, or $5,000. Now, the defendant is only responsible for $50,000 – $5,000, or $45,000 in compensation.
This pure comparative negligence rule is why you should always talk to an attorney before deciding that you don’t have a case in a slip and fall accident.
You Have Rights, Let Us Help You Protect Them
If you were injured in a slip or trip and fall, you may be having trouble getting medical treatment because of the expenses. But there may be a way for you to get the care you need without going broke at the same time.
Contact Hershey Law for your free consultation to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.