Premises Liability Slips, Trips and Falls
“Notice” Is Key in California Slip or Trip and Fall Cases
It happens to more people, more often than we think. You are minding your business walking down a sidewalk, in a store, anywhere you are free to so. Suddenly, with little or no warning you begin to fall. Your immediate thought is, “how do I keep myself from falling?!” While it may seem as though time was moving in slow motion, your fall happens so fast that you can’t stop your fall and you are seriously injured. When the doctor bills start coming in your mail, or even after the shock of the fall wears off, your thoughts turn from “help me” to “why did this happen to me? Who is responsible?”
California law requires property owners, tenants, or those parties otherwise in control of a property’s condition to use reasonable care in keeping the property safe from harm to others. The law can be satisfied in some cases with reasonable inspections, observations, repairs or maintenance to the property. The problem is, whenever the word “reasonable” is used in a setting where someone is harmed, it puts opposing lawyers to work. One lawyer argues the property owner’s, tenant’s or other controlling entity should have done more to prevent the harms you suffered from the fall. Usually, the other side’s lawyer takes the position that her client did everything a “reasonable” property owner, tenant or manager should do so no one would get hurt.
In most slip or trip and fall cases causing serious injury, the main issue comes down to notice – whether the party or parties responsible for the property knew or should have known about the circumstances causing the fall. Did the responsible party have enough time to notice the problem, like a banana peel on a grocery aisle floor, and to act on it before you fell? If the banana peel was still very yellow, chances are it had not been on the floor long enough for the responsible party to know it was on the floor, even with a frequent sweeping inspection. The peel may have been carelessly dropped by another customer moments before your fall. On the other hand, if the banana peel is more brown than yellow, it more likely than not has been lying on the floor so long that it started to turn brown and during that time the responsible party, like the owner, tenant or management company, would have had plenty of time to pick up the peel.
In today’s digital age, almost every facility has some type of surveillance camera. The video from the camera, if it shows the area where you fell, can tell whether the responsible party knew or should have known about cleaning up the banana peel in our example.
Because of the complexity of slip or trip and fall cases, it is very important that you explore your options for getting compensation for your harms and losses. These options include consulting with an experienced attorney in slip or trip and fall cases.