Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip/Trip and Fall Accidents in San Diego

Slip and fall and trip and fall accidents are among the most common reasons for filing a premises liability claim. The National Safety Council reports falls are a leading cause of unintentional injuries in the United States, with 8.9 million people seeking emergency care for fall injuries each year. In California, falls accounted for 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2008, according to San Diego County public health data.

Victims of slip and fall accidents may encounter a number of financial and physical challenges, such as unpaid doctors’ bills, ongoing medical care and even permanent disability. Slip and fall accident victims and their family members may have the option to pursue damages in a lawsuit or claim. Below is a guide to taking legal action after a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property.

What parties may be sued after a slip and fall accident?

Slip and fall actions are covered under California Civil Code Section 1714, which 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, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.”

According to this law, action can be brought against the owner of any commercial or private property where an accident and injury occurs. Note that the law exempts situations in which a victim “willfully” causes injury to himself or herself, such as by trespassing in an off-limits area of a business or engaging in otherwise reckless behavior (running, horseplay, etc.).

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 gives you two years after an accident in which to take legal action against owners of:

  • grocery stores;
  • hotels;
  • office buildings;
  • apartment complexes;
  • senior homes;
  • restaurants;
  • residences; and
  • many other types of property.

You even may take action against a government entity if the accident occurs somewhere like the post office, DMV or county-owned recreational facilities. When bringing suit against a California government agency, you first must file an administrative claim. This must happen within six months of the injury, according to the California courts’ guidelines. Some exceptions do apply; an injury lawyer can help determine the parameters of your claim.

You may file a personal injury claim on a family member’s behalf if his or her injuries have made it impossible for him or her to do so. You must be the parent or guardian of the victim, or otherwise considered a legal representative.

You may have the option to file a wrongful death action in the event of a fatal accident, according to California’s Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60-377.62. Again, you have a two-year timeframe in which to take action.

No matter where the accident occurred or who is responsible, the burden of proof will rest with you. You must be able to prove the elements of negligence are in place and that you suffered significant injury because of someone else’s carelessness and neglect.

What are the elements of negligence and how can I prove the property owner is liable?

You must be able to prove:

  • the property owner owed you a duty of care;
  • that he or she breached that duty of care; and
  • that you suffered injury because of the breach of duty.

For example, consider a slip and fall that takes place in a hotel lobby. The hotel owners and management staff have a duty to the public to maintain a property free of hazards, such as spilled liquids and the like. If you slipped and fell on a puddle of water caused by a leaky pipe that the owners knew about and did not repair, you would have cause to prove a breach of the duty of care.

The burden, however, would remain with you to prove the existence of the hazard, the owner’s negligence in remedying the hazard and that the hazard caused serious injuries.

Evidence will play a key role in proving negligence and injuries and may include:

  • video surveillance;
  • building maintenance records;
  • witness testimony;
  • photos of the accident scene;
  • police or accident reports; and
  • medical records.

What damages can I recover in a slip and fall claim?

California’s Civil Codes outline the damages available in a premises liability claim, including:

  • medical bills;
  • missed wages;
  • pain and suffering; and
  • more.

Note that the 2011 California injury case Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provision) impacts how much compensation you can recover for medical costs, based on what your own health insurance and you have paid.

I’m ready to take legal action? What is my first step?

A free case evaluation allows you the opportunity to learn more about your rights and options. Call 619-296-5884 or contact us online.

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