If you slip, trip, or fall in a public place and suffer injuries as a result, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your damages.
But from whom? And why? What makes someone else responsible for your fall?
California personal injury law extends significant legal protection to people who suffer injury as a result of someone else’s negligence.
As it happens, the majority of the slip and fall accidents in our state do indeed happen because of someone else’s negligence — in most cases, it is a business that breaches its duty of care by allowing a hazardous condition to exist on its premises. Common examples include grocery stores, retailers, restaurants, theaters, amusement parks, and hotels (to name just a few).
Let’s take a closer look at this “duty of care.” It will help you understand who is liable after a slip & fall accident in a public place, why they might owe you money, how much money we’re talking about, and the steps you can take to claim that money.
Understanding the Property or Store Owner’s Duty to Prevent Slips and Falls
When businesses open their property to the public, they incur a legal duty to keep the premises reasonably safe.
After all, when you take a step into a café, a clothing store, or any other place of business, you’re taking a leap of trust. Reasonably, you assume that the place is safe to walk through. If the property manager or owner isn’t doing its part, you could be blindsided and end up with injuries you don’t deserve.
The businesses’ duties include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Taking reasonable and timely action to correct any known hazards (for example: a puddle, a leak, a tripping hazard, items falling from shelves, or a slippery floor)
- Warning you about potential slip and fall hazards
- Putting up “wet floor” signage after mopping or waxing the sales floor
- Regularly inspecting their premises to look for potential slip and fall hazards
- Keeping the premises in a clean and orderly condition, with clear walkways
- Maintaining adequate lighting so that customers and visitors can see where they’re going
The business / property owner can be held responsible not only for dangerous conditions it actually knew about but also dangerous conditions it should have known about.
Among other things, the at-fault party may be liable for your medical expenses, physical therapy costs, emotional distress damages, lost wages (due to absences from work), and any other damages that are reasonably caused by the injury. While the dollar amount will always depend on the specifics of the case, the value of slip and fall injury claims can be substantial.
Who Is Liable After a Slip & Fall Accident in a Public Place Under California Law?
Commercial businesses aren’t the only parties with a duty of care under California premises liability law. Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding your injury (and depending on where it happened), responsible parties may include:
- The business owner
- The property owner (if different from the business owner — for example, where the business leases commercial property)
- The property management company
- A security firm responsible for overseeing the property
- A governmental entity (if your injury happens on public / government-owned property)
- A private homeowner’s insurance provider (if your injury happens in a neighbor or friend’s house, for example)
- Individual third parties whose negligence has contributed to your slip and fall
What if the Victim Is Partially at Fault?
California is a pure comparative negligence state. That may sound like a very technical term, but its meaning is fairly simple: in California, you can still recover financial compensation for an injury even if it was partly your own fault.
In these cases, the victim’s monetary award is simply reduced by his or her percentage of fault.
So, if Susan is running frantically through a grocery store and slips on a giant puddle of wax, a court might decide that both she and the store were partly at fault. Let’s suppose Susan suffered $100,000 in damages. Even if the court decided Susan was 60% at fault for her accident, she would still be able to recover $40,000 (that is, $100,000 reduced by 60%).
Of course, not all slip and fall accidents in California go to trial. More commonly, the parties will try to arrive at a fair apportionment of fault themselves. Many cases resolve through a private settlement negotiated between the victim’s personal injury lawyer and the defendant (usually a property owner and/or their insurance company).
The Law Offices of Mickey Fine: Bakersfield Slip & Fall Lawyers Who Will Fight to Maximize Your Compensation
At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of unfairly injured Californians.
Slip and fall claims can be complex. Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle insurance companies or corporate property owners on your own. We don’t want any accident victim to settle for less money than they deserve. Our slip and fall attorneys fight to increase the amount of compensation our clients take home whenever possible.
If you want to learn more about who is liable after a slip and fall accident in a public place — and how much money your individual claim might be worth — take your next step by contacting our office for a free and confidential case review.
We won’t charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. The initial consultation is absolutely free. Call 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield or contact us online right away.