Of course elderly people are more susceptible because of their limited bone density and mobility, but anyone is susceptible to slip and fall accidents. "Here in Los Angeles, there are a lot of potholes in the ground," says Scott. "Many sidewalk areas have been lifted up by tree roots, which now pose a dangerous condition to pedestrians. There are many older developments or street projects throughout Los Angeles that are not hazard free and people get injured. Slip and fall injuries are the most common accidents."
Slip and Fall Accidents: Who Is Liable?
In a California premises liability claim, the injured party—the plaintiff—must prove that the owner or tenant—the defendant—had control of the land and also had control of the condition that caused the injuries. "The defendant can be the property manager, owner, business entity, city, state or federal government entity—or they could all be responsible," says Scott. "If the owner knew that conditions on the property were dangerous, they may be liable for failure to warn you." Or many entities may be responsible, and that's where a premises liability attorney can help you.
What Is a Slip and Fall Claim Worth?
One or several people or business entities may be liable for your slip and fall injury, but that doesn't mean that your claim is worth more.
"Most of the time your claim has one monetary value to it, no matter who is at fault," says Scott. "Sometimes, two or three defendants may chip in who are partially at fault and do a 'global settlement' between all the defendants. Usually we like to work with one defendant but some cases involve several entities and that often causes problems because they all point the finger at each other.
On the one hand, multiple defendants can sometimes be advantageous in litigation because they will work together and come to some kind of resolution. On the other hand, multiple defendants will join legal forces and try to defend the plaintiff's claim, which means that we will need to get more documentation and more discovery, and take more depositions from defendants. Either way, we are able to settle most of our claims without going to court.
Proving Fault in Slip and Fall Accidents
Proving fault usually requires the opinion of an expert. The fault could be a violation of a building code, a slippery floor or a carpet not installed properly. "More often than not, the plaintiff doesn't know who is responsible," explains Scott. "They are in discomfort, pain, and trauma so we help by taking the burden off them and doing the work so they can focus on getting better." Along with the help of a qualified investigator, an experienced slip and fall lawyer can contact owners of any given property, for instance, by checking the appropriate government records. An experienced attorney may find that a janitorial service is responsible or a carpet installer…
Slip and Fall Cases
"I represented a client in Orange County who fell as a result of uneven sidewalk," says Scott. "He was walking down the sidewalk in his community—the apartment complex—and his foot got caught on an uneven piece. He fell onto the concrete, fracturing a vertebrae in his neck. He was rushed to hospital, stabilized and put in a collar, and had surgery. Fortunately he called me right after he left the hospital. We had our safety expert go to the location where he took pictures and measurements of the sidewalk and determined that it is a dangerous condition. To make a long story short, he finished treatment in rehab and we settled with the community's insurance company—the sidewalk was part of the apartment complex.
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I recently spoke with a client who fell in a pothole while riding his bicycle. Before we could get to the location of the accident, the city had repaired the hole. Unfortunately, we couldn't prove how deep the hole was because we had no way of measuring it.
Since the plaintiff has the burden of proof, and we didn't have the evidence to support this case, we were not able to help the cyclist."
Point taken. When it comes to slip and fall accidents, do your best to document every detail, from photographs to witness interviews. And call an experienced Slip and Fall Premises liability lawyer sooner than later.