Orange County Slip and Fall Attorney
Research based on insurance industry claims reveals five major causes for the majority of slip and falls insurance claims, which are: walking surfaces (55 percent), footwear (24 percent), lack of hazard warnings (10 percent), lack of training (8 percent), and fraud (3 percent). Even though the walking surface is most likely to be identified as the primary reason for a slip and fall, the other factors, such as lack of hazard identification and lack of training can be reasons for a slip and fall claim as well. Even the choice of footwear, while potentially contributing to a slip and fall, may not prohibit the filing of a slip and fall claim.
As an example, a high end restaurant can reasonably expect at least some of the women to wear high heels in their establishment, therefore should reasonably protect against impairments or obstacles, which could lead to a slip and fall. While these may be the larger issues, there are a wide variety of reasons people actually slip and fall. In the workplace, a slip and fall occurs most often due to debris left in the walkways, slippery, wet or oily floors, uneven floor surfaces and steps which are not uniform in height or are poorly lit. In public areas, the cause of slip and falls are somewhat the same as those in the workplace, including:
- Any type of obstacle in walkways;
- Rain or snow-soaked, slippery entrances which are not clearly marked with a hazard sign;
- Items in the store which are stacked precariously, or to a dangerous height level;
- Spilled liquids which have been there enough time to have been reasonably removed or cleaned up, and which are not clearly marked with a hazard sign;
- No warning signs on a freshly-mopped floor;
- Hazards such as sudden changes in the height of the floor or poorly lit areas with no warning signs;
- Staircases with are no well-lit;
- Uneven surfaces;
- The surface of the floor;
- Ice, grease, water or other slippery substances on the floor;
- Loose carpeting;
- Dirty floors;
- Raised or recessed edges on flooring;
- Changes in floor surface, such as carpet which changes to tile;
- Changes in floor levels;
- Unexpected slope or raises in the floor;
- Obstructions in the walk path;
- Glare in the area, or
- Unusual features such as loud music or strobe lighting.
The elderly, in particular, are vulnerable to slip and fall accidents with injuries, yet any person walking in a public place at any time, is entitled to be warned of existing hazards which could be present. When a person falls and strikes a hard flooring surface with a fleshy part of their body, the injuries may be serious, but much less severe than when the head or bones connect with a hard surface, resulting in grave or fatal injuries. Slip and fall injuries can lead to extensive medical expenses and, in some cases, the victim of a slip and fall may be unable to return to work, either temporarily or for good.
Consider the following statistics regarding slip and falls from the National Floor Safety Institute:
- While fall fatalities are almost equally divided between men and women, more women actually suffer slip-and-fall accidents;
- Although fatal occupational injuries do not occur primarily from slip and falls, these injuries do represent the primary cause of lost work days;
- More than one million hospital emergency room visits annually are the result of a slip and fall;
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes flooring materials or slippery floors as the cause of more than 2 million fall and slip and fall injuries every year;
- More than half of all accidental deaths in homes are the result of a fall, most often at ground level;
- Every decade of life brings a higher incidence of falls;
- One out of every three people over the age of 65 will experience a fall;
- Of the fatalities associated with falls, 60 percent involve those 75 and older;
- About 40 percent of all nursing home admissions are the result of a fall;
- Fatal falls are more likely in the mining, construction and maintenance sectors;
- In the trucking industry, slip and falls are the primary cause of compensable injury;
Where Do Slip and Fall Injuries Occur Most Often?
Regardless of where you suffer a slip and fall injury, if negligence was involved, then the owner of the establishment could be liable. Any time you walk in a public place, you have a right to be advised of any hazards which could be present. While slip and fall accidents can occur virtually anywhere, some of the more common public areas a slip and fall is likely to occur include the following:
- Construction areas;
- Moving sidewalks or escalators;
- Wet areas around swimming pools;
- Stationary sidewalks;
- Grocery stores;
- Malls, and
- Public restrooms.
Grocery Store Slip and Falls
Grocery stores spend over $450 million in legal expenses and settlement amounts every year resulting from slip and fall accidents. The flooring surfaces in grocery stores are often slick or highly polished, making it difficult for shoppers to see a wet surface. Further, with a grocery cart in front of the shopper, seeing hazards can be that much more difficult. In other instances, spilled jars of food which should reasonably have been removed could be responsible for a grocery store slip and fall.
Who Bears Responsibility for Your Slip and Fall?
In order to show your slip and fall was caused by a dangerous condition which existed on the property in question, the owner must have been aware of the dangerous condition. A reasonable person must not have been able to anticipate the condition which led to the slip and fall, and had the responsibility to be alert to obvious hazards or notice signs of existing hazards. Therefore, it must be shown that:
- The owner or manager of the property in question was aware of the hazardous condition, yet failed to take the necessary actions to correct the condition, and
- The hazardous condition existed for enough time that a reasonable property owner should have discovered the hazard, making immediate corrections to the condition, or placing a warning sign to the public regarding the hazard.
Both the property owner and the person walking, have a degree of responsibility regarding any slip and fall accident. As an example, if there was a spill immediately prior to your fall, then the property owner might not be liable, as he or she might not have known about the spill in time to have it cleaned up before a customer slipped and fell. If, on the other hand, a liquid was spilled, and store employees walked around the spill over a significant period of time, prior to your fall, then those employees knew, or should have known, that the spill was a hazard and should be cleaned up, or, at the very least, hazard signs posted.
If the owner of a property fails to install safety features, such as railings, negligence on the part of the owner may be apparent when a person slips and falls. This means the following factors will determine whether the owner was responsible for your slip and fall:
- Was the hazard which caused your slip and fall in evidence for a sufficient period of time that the owner was aware of the hazard—or should have been aware of the hazard?
- Does the owner of the property have a normal procedure for looking for hazards on the property and is there proof of that procedure?
- Did a legitimate reason exist for the hazard?
- Was there a way to increase the safety of the specific area where you fell?
- If your fall was caused by an object in your path, was that object normally in that position or could it have been placed in a safer area?
- Was a warning sign or barrier in place regarding a known hazard?
If it can be shown you were careless, this will certainly play a part in determining the overall liability for your accident.
Common Injuries Following a Slip and Fall
Following a slip and fall—even when you don’t believe you are seriously hurt—it is very important to seek immediate medical attention. Injuries can often manifest later on, after the rush of adrenaline brought on by the fall, has worn off. Of course a person who suffers a slip and fall could experience any number of injuries, but the following are the most common types of injuries:
- About 20-30 percent of those who experience a slip and fall will have moderate to severe injuries, including hip fractures, head injuries, bruises and cuts;
- Fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand are the most common types of fractures resulting from a slip and fall;
- The most common cause of traumatic brain injuries is slip and fall accidents, particularly among the elderly;
- 46 percent of fatal slip and falls among older Americans involved a traumatic brain injury, and
- Slip and falls can result in injury to the back, neck or limb, when the victim of the slip and fall attempts to break his or her fall by extending an arm.
A complicating factor associated with slip and fall injuries is that quite often those injuries occur to the soft tissues. This type of injury can be difficult to measure with traditional equipment, such as x-rays. Because of this, the insurance company may argue the injuries were not as significant as claimed.
Statutes of Limitations for Slip and Fall Accidents in California
Every state has a statute of limitations, which dictates how much time a person has to file a claim. Under California law, victims of a slip and fall accident have two years from the time the accident occurs, to file a slip and fall claim. Minors who have suffered a slip and fall accident have two years from the time they turn 18 in which to file a slip and fall claim.
If the slip and fall injury occurs on government property, then the claim must be filed within 6 months from the time the slip and fall occurred. If the claim is denied by the government administrative board, then the injured individual has two years from the time the accident occurred, in which to file a civil claim. There are, however, certain exceptions to the statute of limitations which governs slip and fall injuries in California, such as:
- The harm to the individual did not manifest until the statute had run;
- The individual is physically incapacitated, or
- The individual is mentally incapacitated.
What Type of Damages Can Be Collected in a Slip and Fall Accident Claim?
Of course the damages you are able to collect in your slip and fall accident claim is dependent on the specific circumstances surrounding your accident, as well as the extent of your injuries. You may, however, be entitled to one or more of the following:
- Lost Wages—if your injuries were severe enough that you were unable to return to your regular job, you may be entitled to lost wages, both past, present, and future.
- Medical Expenses—You may be entitled to medical expenses, including physical therapy, physician bills, prescription drugs, hospital bills and any other medical costs.
- Pain and Suffering—You could be entitled to non-economic damages related to the pain and suffering you have experienced as a direct result of your slip and fall.
What to Do Following Your Slip and Fall Accident
If you are able, following your slip and fall accident, you should take photographs of the site of the accident which clearly shows the conditions which contributed to your fall. If you are unable, because of your injuries, to take photographs, see if you can have a friend or family member do it for you. If there were any witnesses to your slip and fall, get names and numbers if possible.
The photographs and witness contacts can be an invaluable resource for your Orange County personal injury attorney as he or she builds your case. An experienced attorney will have the necessary knowledge of California laws which pertain to your fall, and will use their skills to help you recover an equitable settlement from the negligent party.