According to research from the National Safety Council, slips and falls are the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related fatalities in the U.S. In 2019, 39,343 people died from falls.
In addition, 32% of non-fatal emergency room visits result from fall-related injuries each year. The next leading category - being struck by or running into an object - accounts for just 13%. No other category even reaches 10%.
Generally speaking, if you slip and fall and get injured at work, your employer's workers' compensation insurance will cover your medical expenses and lost income. But if you're at someone's home, or out in a store or restaurant, and you fall and suffer an injury due to a hazard, not only should their insurance provide liability coverage, but you may also be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In California, owners and occupants of buildings are subject to both premises liability and negligence standards, which means that they may be held accountable for any injury you suffer on their property, whether at a convenience store, dining establishment, or someone's home. Even walking down the street, slipping and falling, and being injured, can result in claims against the local or federal governments.
If you've slipped, fallen, and been injured on someone else's property and you're in Glendale, California, or anywhere in the San Fernando or San Gabriel valleys, call me at Fitzgerald Law. I have more than 30 years of practicing personal injury law. I have helped countless others like you receive the fair and just compensation they deserve.
Premises liability means that the owner, possessor, operator, or controller of a property - storefronts, office buildings, homes, restaurants, and the like - has a "duty of care" to maintain the premises safe from hazards, or to warn visitors of any hazards by informing them or blocking them off from access to hazardous areas.
You've all no doubt seen "wet floor" signs as you enter a building. This is an example of the building's owner/operator trying to exercise a duty of care. In California, the standard for duty of care is that the person or entity in charge of the property must exercise "reasonable care." The legal standard sets the bar at what "a reasonably prudent person in the same circumstances" would do.
Some of the conditions that can lead to slip & fall accident injuries include:
- Spills and wet floors
- Plumbing leaks
- Loose carpeting
- Uneven floors
- Uncovered cords and cables
- Broken or missing railings
- Broken furniture
- Failure to put up warning signs or rope off hazardous areas
Rewards for slip & fall injuries total more than $50 billion nationwide annually. When you slip, you normally fall backward, exposing your head to traumatic brain injuries, which are among the most dangerous of all injuries from falls. Other injuries include:
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Shoulder and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Hip fractures
- Wrist, arm, and ankle injuries
- Cuts and abrasions
To file and prove a claim for personal injury, the operative word is "negligence." The Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions state: "The elements of a negligence claim and a premises liability claim are the same: a legal duty of care, breach of that duty, and proximate cause resulting in injury."
Thus, if you're injured in a slip & fall incident on someone else's premises, and you file a personal injury lawsuit, you must show that:
- The property is owned or possessed by the defendant you are suing
- The defendant was negligent - failed to exercise a reasonable duty of care
- You, the plaintiff, were harmed due to this negligence
- The negligence was a substantial factor in the injury for which you are seeking damages
Under California law, negligence can be proven by merely showing that a "reasonable person" should have known about the hazard or condition that resulted in the injury.
In some cases, more than just the controller of the property may be liable. Depending on the circumstances, employees, event sponsors, equipment manufacturers, maintenance companies and their personnel, and many others may also be held liable.
Statute of Limitations & Workers' Comp
Note that in California, you must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date of your injury. If you are injured on government property, even on an ill-repaired sidewalk, you must file a claim within six months. Note also that you can't wait two years to file a claim against the property holder's insurance company. That must be initiated as quickly as possible.
Remember as well that, if you're injured as an employee while at work, a workers' compensation claim is the route you must take. In some instances in which the injury is caused by a third party, such as a manufacturer of a malfunctioning piece of equipment, there may be potential for a lawsuit.
When filing a claim with an insurance company for a slip & fall injury, or going to court for a personal injury claim, both the insurance adjusters and the judge and jury will employ what is called the pure comparative negligence standard employed in California. This means that you, as well as the property holder you deem to be negligent, will be assigned a percentage of the fault.
For instance, if you ignored a warning sign and then proceeded anyway to walk on a wet floor and were injured, you could be assigned 40% of the blame (or more or less). If the compensation for your losses totals $100,000, you would receive only 60% of that amount ($60,000) after deducting 40% for your part in the accident.
Unlike other states that use a modified version of comparative negligence, you can still recover compensation if you are 99% at fault, though that likely wouldn't be worth the effort.
Most businesses and property owners and lessees carry liability insurance to cover on-site injuries from slips and falls and other accidents. Insurance companies, however, will compensate only for medical expenses and lost time from work, and then often only up to a specified monetary cap. They will also do everything in their power to pin the blame on you as much as possible to lower or cancel their liability. Don't deal with them yourself. Let an attorney handle negotiations with the insurers and their claim adjusters.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit opens up even more avenues for proper compensation. In a court of law, you can receive compensation not only for economic damages (expenses and lost wages) but also for non-economic damages such as personal pain and suffering.
If you've been injured in a slip & fall accident that is not covered by workers' compensation, you need to contact an attorney immediately. Even if it is an employment-based accident, you still may want to contact a lawyer for help.
You don't have to deal with your personal injury situation on your own. At Fitzgerald Law, I serve individuals and families throughout the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and the Greater Los Angeles area. If you've been injured, call my office in Glendale immediately for a consultation. Together, we can discuss your situation and review all of your legal options.