Any water on a floor is dangerous. Pedestrians are not expecting floors to be slick, so they do not use appropriate caution when walking. Instead, they barrel on ahead and promptly slip, landing on their back or their arms and suffering painful injuries as a result.
At RMD Law, we meet regularly with clients who have been injured after slipping on a wet floor. They are anxious to receive compensation to help them cover their medical expenses and replace their lost wages. However, before they can sue, they need to identify who is responsible for the fall—if anyone.
A Property Owner’s Duty to Visitors
Slip and fall cases fall under an area of law called “premises liability.” In California, property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep their premises reasonably safe. (California Civil Jury Instructions 1001). What qualifies as “reasonable” will depend on the circumstances:
● A store owner will need to make regular inspection of the aisles in the store to make sure that no liquid has spilled, which could cause customers to slip and fall.
● A store owner should promptly clean up any spills and warn customers of liquid on the floor.
● A store owner that mops the floor will probably need to put up a sign warning patrons that the floors are wet.
Many cases will turn on the facts presented. A store owner needs to know about an unsafe condition or have reason to know of it before they are legally liable. (California Civil Jury Instructions 1003). For example, if someone drops a jar of pickles on the floor and another person immediately slip son the juice, then it is unlikely that the store owner is responsible. They need some time to clean up any liquid on the floor.
However, if someone told the store owner about the spill and hours passed without the owner doing anything, then they have probably acted unreasonably.
Before we can determine whether a store owner is liable for your injuries, we need some basic information about the accident, such as:
● What caused the floor to be wet? For example, if condensation formed on the floor, then the owners probably know about this since it is a regular occurrence. If someone spilled a drink on the floor, then an owner might not immediately be aware of the hazard.
● How slippery was the floor? Some surfaces like cement do not readily become slick, even with a little water on them. However, other surfaces like tile might become very slippery. We need to know how slick the floor was.
● How long was the water been on the floor? You might not know the answer to this. However, the longer the liquid was on the floor, the less reasonable it is for a store owner not to clean it up. Surveillance video or an eyewitness might be able to provide this information.
● Did anyone see you fall? The more witnesses, the better. They can testify as to what happened and rebut any suggestion that you are faking your injuries.
● Did a store employee do or say anything? If they cried out, “Oh no, I forgot to put up the Caution, Wet Floor sign, then this is good piece of evidence.
● Was there a sign warning you the floors were wet? California does not have a wet floor sign law, but the presence of a sign could hurt your case.
Ideally, after the slip, you can quickly take a photo with your smartphone of the liquid on the floor where you fell. If not, ask someone nearby to take a photo. A picture can easily help other people visualize how much water was on the floor and how far it had spread.
An Orange County Slip and Fall Lawyer Can Help
After a slip and fall, you need an experienced attorney in your corner to protect your right to compensation. At RMD Law, our slip and fall lawyers have obtained compensation for victims to reimburse them for medical expenses, replace lost wages, replace damaged property, and compensate them for pain and suffering along with other harms.
Please do not delay. California law gives injured victims a short window of time to stand up for their rights and request help. If you wait too long, then a judge can and will dismiss your case out of court. We have seen too many people lose out on their right to compensation because they did not contact a lawyer soon enough.
To schedule your free consultation with one of our Orange County lawyers, please call (949) 326-5000 or contact us online today.