Slip and fall accidents can result in life-threatening injuries or even death. This is especially true if the person is elderly or has an underlying health condition. As serious as this type of injury is, there is one silver lining; individuals hurt in a slip and fall accident can often take legal action. They can do this if their injuries were caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence. If you find yourself in this situation, a slip and fall lawyer can help you file a personal injury lawsuit against those responsible.
Below you’ll find more information on slip and fall accidents, the law in California, and some common legal terms associated with this injury. Of course, if you need to file a claim, don’t try to handle it on your own. These particular personal injury claims can be complex. Instead, enlist the services of an experienced slip and fall lawyer.
#1: How Much Time Do I Have to File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit in California?
In most cases, you have two years from the date of your slip and fall accident to file a lawsuit. If you were injured on government property, however, you have just six months to file your claim. An example would be someone slipping and falling on a cracked public sidewalk in need of repair. Government property includes any city, state, or federal land.
If the slip and fall victim was a child, the statute of limitations (the legal term for the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit) doesn’t usually start until the child turns 18. This is also known as tolling. Once they are of legal age, they are subject to the normal deadlines outlined in the previous paragraph.
There is one notable exception to the statute of limitations outlined above. The delayed discovery rule declares the statute of limitations doesn’t start until the victim realizes they were injured or discovers they have suffered the loss of their next of kin in a slip and fall accident. In these cases, they have two years or six months from the date on which they knew or reasonably should have known they were injured or lost a loved one. Then, it would be at the discretion of the court whether to extend the statute of limitations.
Note that once these timelines have passed, victims don’t have any legal recourse, no matter how serious their injuries were.
#2: What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a personal injury law term that refers to the legal responsibility property owners have to keep their premises safe for public and private guests. Premises liability laws govern the circumstances under which an owner would be responsible for any injuries that occur on their premises. A lawsuit would arise if a person injures themselves on someone’s else’s property due to the owner’s negligence or recklessness. They can file a claim seeking compensation for that injury. The property can be privately or publicly owned.
California, Civil Code 1714 states, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.” It also notes that on occasion, a person who is on the property (not the owner) may be responsible for their injuries if they have “willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.”
In short, an owner must keep their property reasonably safe but anyone who enters the property or crosses through it must also take ordinary care to avoid injury.
#3: How Does California Law Establish Fault in a Slip and Fall Accident?
Here in the Golden State, a plaintiff, that is, the injured party, needs to prove a property owner was negligent to recover any damages for a slip and fall claim. You and your lawyer would need to show the owner didn’t exercise reasonable care in keeping their property safe or they failed to warn of any known dangers.
Of course, the question becomes, what is considered reasonable care? Much will depend on the particular circumstances of the situation. For example, a supermarket is expected to act quickly if there is a spill in one of its aisles. But if their employees take hours to clean it up, causing someone to fall and injure themselves, the court would probably find the supermarket didn’t exercise reasonable care and rule in favor of the injured party.
On the other hand, if a person injured themselves in the same supermarket because they ignored signs indicating wet floors, they would probably not have a case.
#4: Can I File a Claim in California if I Was Partially to Blame for My Slip and Fall Injury?
Yes, in California you can be partially to blame for your accident injury and still file a claim. This is because California is a comparative negligence state. A court or attorneys for both sides will determine your percentage of fault for your injury and subtract that from your final settlement or verdict amount.
For instance, if you are found to be 25% at fault for your slip and fall injury and are awarded $500,000 in damages by a jury, you would be entitled to $375,000 ($500,000 – 25%, which is $125,000 = $375,000).
Unlike other states, even if you are over 50% to blame for your slip and fall injury, you can still file a claim in California.
#5: Can a Trespasser File a Slip and Fall Injury Lawsuit?
In most cases, someone who was trespassing, that is, didn’t have permission to be on a property can’t file a lawsuit if they are injured in California. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
- If there weren’t any No Trespassing or Private Property signs visible, the injured party might have a claim since property lines were not clearly marked.
- If the property is booby trapped to deter and harm trespassers, people hurt while trespassing (intentionally or not) can most likely sue for injuries suffered.
- If the property is in a dangerous condition which could cause harm to anyone who enters or passes through it including trespassers. All property owners in California have a general duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition.
- If the injured party was a child, they almost always have a claim even if they were trespassing since they aren’t considered responsible for their actions. For example, a child may see a swimming pool and want to take a closer look. Owners should take steps to ensure the area is fenced in and locked if not in use or in the case of an empty pool, has a protective cover over it.
Slip and fall accidents can unexpectedly upend a person’s life. Fortunately, as this page outlines, California offers victims the right to sue for their pain, suffering, medical bills, and lost income.
The Dominguez Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm that has been serving Southern California for almost 35 years. In that time they have achieved record-setting settlements and verdicts for clients who have suffered injuries in slip and fall accidents. For a free consultation, please call 800-818-1818.