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Slip and Fall Accidents: What Makes a Property Owner Responsible for Injuries?

California has over 164,000 retail stores, ranging from high-end fashion in Beverly Hills to eclectic boutiques in Santa Cruz. These shops have one common thread — customers can get injured on their premises.

Not every customer injury will support an injury claim. Some accidents are truly accidental.

But negligence by a property owner’s staff contributes to many of these accidents. When a property owner could have prevented accidents, they bear liability for the damage they produce.

Here are some of the things you should know about property owner liability for injuries on their premises.

Slip and Fall Injuries

The term “slip and fall” covers a range of injuries that happen on someone else’s premises. Slip and fall injuries do not necessarily require a slip or a fall, but they do require some form of hazard to be present on the premises that caused the injury.

How Slip and Fall Injuries Occur

Some common hazards that lead to slip and fall injuries include:

  • Slick floors
  • Wet floors
  • Loose carpet
  • Broken tile or concrete
  • Uneven floors
  • Broken railings
  • Poor lighting
  • Unmarked steps going up or down
  • Raised door thresholds
  • Objects on the floor

Slip and fall injuries happen when a hazard on the property causes you to lose your footing. Keep in mind that the hazard might not necessarily be on the floor. For example, a loose handrail might cause you to lose your footing when it moves unexpectedly.

Common Slip and Fall Injuries

Slip and fall accidents produce similar injuries because of the way that the accidents occur. As you begin to fall, your instinct is to try to catch yourself. If your body falls backward, you will likely reach back with your arms. If you fall forward, you will step forward with your leg and throw your arms out.

In both situations, you could suffer injuries to your hands, wrists, elbows, and knees when they impact the ground under the weight of your body. As you continue to fall, you could hit your hip or back on the ground.

Finally, as your body comes to a stop, your head whips. This motion could strain your neck and allow your head to strike the ground.

As a result of a fall, you might have the following injuries:

  • Fractured wrist
  • Whiplash
  • Back injury
  • Broken hip
  • Knee injury
  • Facial contusions and fractures
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Skull fracture

These injuries could require medical treatment and physical therapy. They could cause you to miss work or even lead to lifelong disabilities.

Proving Liability for Slip and Falls in California

To prove liability for a slip and fall, you must prove that the property owner was negligent and that their negligence caused your injuries. Specifically, you must prove four elements:

Duty

A property owner must safeguard its customers and guests from hazards on its property. It does not owe this duty to trespassers.

Breach

An owner breaches the duty to its customers and guests when the staff members fail to take reasonable measures to keep the premises safe. These measures include fixing or warning customers about hazards that are known or reasonably should have been discovered.

For example, if a spill happened immediately before a customer slipped, a store might not have acted negligently. It must have been aware of the spill or failed to take reasonable steps to find spills.

On the other hand, suppose that a customer reports a spill to a manager. If the manager does not send a staff member to clean it or put up a warning sign, the store might have breached its duty to its customers.

Damage

You must suffer some injury to sue a business for negligence. If you slide in a spill, but catch yourself before you are injured, you probably have no negligence claim. But if you suffer any injury, no matter how slight it may be, you may have a negligence claim. Just bear in mind that a minor injury will probably only receive a minor settlement or damage award.

Causation

The breach must cause the damage. To prove causation in California, you must show that the breach was the cause in fact and the proximate cause of the injury.

“Cause in fact” means that the breach fell within the chain of events that led to the injury. “Proximate cause” means that the injury was a foreseeable result of the breach.

In most cases, you can easily prove causation because the hazard logically caused foreseeable injuries. For example, a reasonable person would foresee that a burned-out lightbulb at an exit could cause someone to trip on the door threshold and herniate a spinal disc.

Handling a Slip and Fall Claim

Most responsible businesses have liability insurance. When you notify a business of an accident, it will contact its insurer.

You and your injury lawyer will negotiate with the insurer for a fair settlement based on the liability of the business and your injuries. If you cannot settle, you and your injury attorney may need to file a lawsuit.

Contact the Lalezary Law Firm to schedule a free consultation. Our friendly and experienced personal injury lawyers will discuss your slip and fall accident and whether we can secure a successful outcome in your case. Remember:  We Fight. You Win. They Pay.

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