Written by attorney Gary Leigh Moorhead

"Slip & fall" and premises liability claims in California

You're walking down an aisle in a grocery store, looking for your item on the top shelf, and suddenly your feet fly out from underneath you. The next thing you know is that a manager is hovering over you, asking a clerk where the 'Peligro' signs are, and asking you if you are able to stand. You hardly know what day it is. Your back or legs hurt so much you can hardly respond, and you are thoroughly embarrassed. Or you're walking your dog in a park on a sidewalk and suddenly trip over a concrete sidewalk slab that has been raised by the roots of a large adjacent coral tree. Or your neighbor's kids have a large trampoline in their backyard and want desperately to have your 5 year old come over to play. The next thing you know, paramedics are on their way to address a probable broken arm that occurred when the neighbor had gone inside to make a phone call. These cases all exemplify what are commonly referred to as 'premises liability' claims, and most are claims against businesses or homeowners, although many are also filed against governmental entities. Government tort claims based on dangerous road conditions, or sidewalks, or poorly maintained street lights, also fall under the umbrella of premises liability, but have somewhat different standards of accountability than private claims for injuries. The law requires that a landowner, or one in charge of real property, maintain it in a reasonably safe condition. Reasonable care must be exercised to inspect and guard against dangerous conditions that might give rise to injuries. What is reasonable under one set of circumstances might not be reasonable under another. For example, a duty of a parking garage owner in a known high crime area is different with respect to posting security guards than for a parking garage owner in an upscale and relatively crime–free area. Similarly, the reasonableness of floor inspections, and the duty of care, in a restaurant with carpeted dining-only tables is different than for a nightclub where drinks are served to patrons dancing throughout the bar area on a wooden floor.

Slip & fall injuries often result in fractured wrists, hips and ankles. More "fortunate" victims can sustain low back sprains, muscle/ligament tears and deep contusions.

Victims injured by the negligent premises owner are entitled to recover damages for "economic" damages for medical bills, lost income and other out of pocket damages related to the injury. They are also entitled to non-economic damages for pain & suffering, scarring, and emotional distress.

Gathering evidence by way of photos, videos, "co-efficient of friction" testing and employee statements/sweep charts is usually critical in establishing a case for slip & fall liability.

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