According to Maureen, a slippery floor at the Outback Steakhouse caused her to slip and fall. "My mother and I were being escorted to our table when I slipped and fell onto the floor, smashed my kneecaps and twisted my left leg," she says, adding that it was a rainy night so she was wearing rubber boots with traction. "There was an 8-top table with a family eating and I fell right in front of them—it was so embarrassing.
"I was in so much pain that I almost passed out. My mother said I went completely white—she was worried. The manager and my mother helped me sit down; they wanted to call an ambulance but I don't have medical insurance so I just sat there for an hour or so. The manager called a bus person over and he mopped the floor. The manager told me I fell because it was raining outside and they had just waxed the floor that morning—wax on top of wax. She didn't deny or admit it was their fault.
"I was catching an early flight the next morning to be with my family; it was two days before Christmas. I limped onto the plane, hoping I would get better.
"But that didn't happen. Both my knees were badly bruised and my leg was killing me. I eventually saw an orthopedic doctor (it took two months to get medical insurance); after several x-rays and an MRI, he confirmed that I had sprained my leg and damaged cartilage in both knees due to a sudden impact. My medical report said that my knees were 'damaged due to injury.'
"I have my medical report, x-rays and an outstanding bill for the MRI. Unfortunately my insurance didn't cover the MRI, which I didn't know at the time. So my credit rating has suffered because this bill is at the collection agency. And it gets worse: Because I couldn't stand for more than an hour at a time—I'm a hairdresser—I had to take a considerable amount of time off work. From December until July I could only work three days a week. I had to move in with my parents because I couldn't pay my rent.
"I was very active before this accident; I used to ski, go mountain biking and climb trails—can't do that anymore. I used to work out at the gym just about every day—can't do that anymore either (the people at my gym can vouch for me). I can walk my dog on the beach but that's about it. I have gained weight because I am so inactive, and that's depressing.
"This accident is still causing me pain in my knees and calves; the pain wakes me up at night and I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I'm 53 years old and have to reinvent myself; I need a career change that doesn't involve standing all day long.
"I phoned the restaurant after I got the MRI results and told them I wanted to settle out of court—to pay my medical bills at least. The manager referred me to their insurance company. I spoke to their insurance rep and repeated what I had said to the manager: I needed my medical bills paid and wanted to make sure my credit was good.
"'No way', he said. 'Get a lawyer.'"
LawyersandSettlements (LAS): Maureen's slip and fall injury happened in December 2009. Is she within the statute of limitations?
Attorney Kip Scott (KS): It depends. In California, she may have up to two years to file or settle her claim. (If the responsible party is a government entity she must file a claim win six months of the accident, which isn't the case here.)
LAS: Maureen didn't see a doctor until a few months after the accident. How will that affect her claim?
KS: If you've been injured it's best to seek medical treatment ASAP. Insurance companies will sometimes minimize your injuries if there has been a delay in treatment.
LAS: Her medical report says she suffered bruised knees and a torn ligament in her leg, but can you show from the medical report that she had a slip and fall in the restaurant?
KS: I would have preferred her to seek treatment that same day.
LAS: Maureen has an accident report from the restaurant but it doesn't say much; It mentions that the accident took place but they don't know why.
READ MORE LOS ANGELESE PREMISES LIABILITY LEGAL NEWS
In Maureen's case, to prove that a dangerous condition existed on the premises it may be necessary to have a safety expert test the coefficient of friction of the waxed floor.
(It is generally considered in the industry that a walkway surface with a coefficient of friction higher than 0.5 is non-hazardous. Federal regulations from the Americans with Disabilities Act recommend a coefficient of friction of 0.6 or higher. The coefficient of friction is a measure of the slipperiness of a surface.)
Usually a dangerous condition created or known by the owner can make them liable.