Experiencing a slip and fall accident can be both physically painful and legally complex. In California, determining who is at fault is crucial to receiving compensation in fall injury claims.
The concept of negligence is central to these claims. Understanding how negligence works in a fall claim can help clarify the process of seeking compensation and moving on with your life. Let’s break down how negligence is defined in California, examples of negligence that can cause falls, and what you should do after getting hurt in a fall.
What You Need to Know About Negligence in California Slip and Fall Accidents
Two fundamental concepts play a pivotal role in determining fault for a fall. First, there’s the “duty of care.”
Property owners or occupiers in California have a legal duty to keep their premises reasonably safe. This includes regularly inspecting the property and fixing or warning about known hazards. The level of care expected can vary depending on the circumstances, such as the type of property and the foreseeability of the accident.
For example, a hotel with a tiled lobby can reasonably foresee that it will get slippery after getting wet, so it must either keep the floor dry or provide plenty of warning to visitors about the potential to slip and get hurt. In contrast, a business in San Carlos, California, cannot foresee a freak ice storm that makes its parking lot slippery, so it is unlikely to have a duty of care to have salt on hand to de-ice the pavement and prevent falls.
The other concept that is necessary to identify negligence is the breach of duty. This refers to a failure to act with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. In the context of slip and fall accidents, it implies that a property owner or occupier did not take reasonable care to fulfill its duty to protect visitors. This can look like not cleaning up a spill in a timely manner, not repairing a broken step, or failing to put up warning signs around a hazard.
When someone has a duty of care and breaches that duty, they are being negligent. If that negligence directly causes your accident, the party who breached their duty could be liable for the harm you suffered.
Examples of Negligence That Causes Falls
In the context of slip and fall accidents, negligence can manifest in various ways. Some of the most common examples include issues such as:
- Poor Maintenance: Property owners are responsible for maintaining a safe environment. If your fall was caused by factors like wet floors, uneven surfaces, or poor lighting, and the owner failed to address these hazards, they may be deemed negligent.
- Lack of Warning Signs: If there were potential hazards that weren’t visibly marked or indicated, the property owner could be liable for negligence.
- Violation of Building Codes: Non-compliance with local building codes, such as inadequate stair railings or irregular steps, is a strong indicator of negligence.
Each of these issues can be directly responsible for your fall and injuries, leaving the property owner or occupier at fault.
Comparative Negligence in California
There’s one other factor that can affect fault in California injury claims. California follows a pure comparative negligence system in determining fault. Under this system, if the injured party is partially at fault for their injuries, their compensation can be reduced by their percentage of fault. For instance, if a court finds that the injured party was 20% at fault and the property owner 80%, the compensation awarded to the injured party will be reduced by 20%.
Examples of when you may be partially at fault for your accident include:
- You were wearing inappropriate footwear
- You weren’t paying attention to where you were walking
- You weren’t using the handrail on uneven stairs
However, even if you are primarily at fault for your accident, the pure comparative negligence system may still let you hold the property owner accountable for its percentage of liability. For instance, even if you’re found 75% at fault for your fall if the premises owner is 25% liable, you can still pursue them for 25% of the costs associated with your injury.
Proving Fault in a Slip and Fall Accident
Proving premises liability requires evidence that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard and failed to rectify it. As a claimant, you need to establish:
- The existence of a hazardous condition.
- The owner’s knowledge or constructive knowledge of the hazard.
- The connection between the hazard and your injury.
To accomplish this, collecting evidence is crucial. If possible, after your accident, gather information like:
- Photographs or videos of the accident scene.
- Witness statements.
- Medical records proving the extent of your injuries.
- Incident reports, if available.
You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible – your health is paramount. Additionally, medical records serve as vital evidence in your claim. Keep your medical records alongside a detailed record of the incident, your injuries, and any related expenses.
Once you’ve gotten appropriate medical care, your next step should be to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the complexities of your claim, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent you in court if necessary.
Experienced Help for Determining Fault in California Falls
Determining fault in slip and fall accidents in California hinges on proving negligence. By understanding the elements of negligence and taking the right steps post-accident, you can effectively pursue a claim against the negligent party.
Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can significantly enhance your chances of proving fault. At the Law Office of Reuben J. Donig, we have years of experience helping people like you hold negligent businesses and property owners accountable for causing falls and injuries. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can help you prove negligence in your California personal injury claim.