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When Does a Slip, Trip, or Fall Form the Basis of a Lawsuit?

A man who slipped on a wet floor beside a bright yellow caution sign holds his back in pain

You have no doubt heard the phrase “slip and fall” in the context of personal injury law and heard about large settlements and verdicts, and you may have wondered what separates those types of situations from a regular slip, trip, or fall which may not form the basis of a viable lawsuit. After all, we’ve all slipped and fallen at some point in our lives, such as on an icy surface or a playing field, so what makes a slip and fall at the heart of a winning lawsuit different? Below we take a look at this question which is important for many individuals injured in slips, trips, and falls.

Winning a Slip and Fall Lawsuit

To understand what types of scenarios would justify a slip and fall lawsuit, it is important to understand the legal framework for such a suit. Most slip and fall lawsuits are based on the legal concept of “premise liability.” In many personal injury cases, a plaintiff would file a lawsuit against the party that actually took the action that resulted in the injury. Thus, if a customer at your local grocery store went into an aisle and emptied a bottle of cooking oil onto the floor just as you turned down the aisle, and you slipped on it and broke your leg, then you would have a valid lawsuit against the customer for all of your injuries.

But, with premise liability, the law looks to the owner of the property on which the accident occurred to determine whether that owner fulfilled its duty under the law to make the premises safe. If the premise owner is a business and the plaintiff is a customer, then the business has a legal duty under California law “to exercise ordinary care in the management of such premises in order to avoid exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm.”

This standard is clearly a flexible one designed to give judges and juries the ability to assess slip and falls on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the premise owner exercised the ordinary care necessary to avoid exposing persons to unreasonable harm. Taking the situation of the cooking oil being spilled on the grocery store aisle, factors that a judge and jury would consider in assessing the grocery store’s liability might include: how long the oil was on the floor before the accident occurred; whether store employees noticed or should have noticed the spilled oil; whether appropriate steps were taken to avoid such an accident from occurring in the first place, and so on.

Note that, in the illustration above, the customer who created the danger would be liable nonetheless, but the more inattention to safety on the part of the premise owner, the more likely that the premise owner will be liable as well.

Common Slip, Trip, and Fall Lawsuit Scenarios

To provide further illustration on the types of circumstances that could likely lead to a valid slip and fall claim, here are few examples of factors that might be present in such a claim:

  • Failure of premise owners and employees to set up signs and obstacles when cleaning floors
  • Use of unnecessarily dangerous and slick supplies on floors
  • Poor lighting and obstructed views of dangerous areas
  • Insufficient attention and response to dangerous floors by employees and supervisors
  • Equipment, supplies, and goods being left on floors where customers routinely walk

Aggressive Representation in Your Slip and Fall Claim

If you or a family member have been injured in a slip and fall in Pasadena, Los Angeles, or the surrounding areas, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Andrew Ritholz will fight to get you the best possible recovery for your injuries. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation regarding your slip and fall claim.

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