A slip and fall case is not as cut and dry as the accident itself. When you’ve suffered a slip and fall accident, it may seem immediately clear what happened; but, legally speaking, there is still a good deal of work that has to be done in order to press a lawsuit over the incident.
This is even more true about slip and fall cases that happen on public sidewalks.
That’s why we’re going to take a quick dive into what happens when you slip and fall on a public sidewalk. We’ll look at what causes a slip and fall, when it’s a problem of the city’s and when it’s a problem of a private individual, and we’ll use these details to explore how fault is determined in a case like this.
What Causes a Slip and Fall on a Sidewalk?
There are a number of potential causes for a slip and fall accident. In fact, a slip and fall accident could occur without having any exterior cause. Sometimes, we just lose our footing and fall. Unfortunately, a slip and fall case requires there to be some negligence involved in order to seek compensation for your injuries.
Some common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Wet Surfaces: It doesn’t just need to rain or snow in order to make a sidewalk wet. For example, somebody could be watering their lawn and, in the process, completely soak the sidewalk. The added slickness to the surface can make it hard to keep your balance.
- Hazardous Weather: While rainy weather might be the first to come to mind (since snow is so rare here), it isn’t the only kind of weather you should be worried about. Heavy winds can cause or contribute to a slip and fall accident. However, if heavy winds were the only factor at play in your accident then you likely don’t have a case.
- Poor Lighting: Poor lighting can make it hard to tell when we’ve got our footing and when we’re about to take a tumble. Lighting is one of those factors which can be pivotal to proving a case, though it tends to be used in conjunction with another factor like…
- Wear and Tear: Sidewalks get beat-up over time, forming new cracks and off-setting the level of the ground. This can cause your foot to catch and take you down. As far as factors go, this is an extremely useful one for seeking compensation because it can imply a failure to uphold a duty of care.
Slip and fall accidents might not seem as dangerous when compared to something like a truck accident, but they can still lead to extreme injuries. Broken bones, spinal cord damage, soft tissue damage, and traumatic brain injuries can all be sustained simply by falling and landing wrong.
If you’ve suffered a slip and fall, make sure you get checked out by a doctor. They can help you deal with your injuries, as well as provide professional records that can be used to confirm your injuries to the court later.
When is a Slip and Fall the City’s Fault VS When it is a Private Individual’s Fault?
Sidewalks make for a bit of a complicated slip and fall case. The reason for this is because it isn’t always apparent who is responsible for maintaining a particular stretch of sidewalk.
Generally speaking, most of the time a sidewalk’s upkeep falls on those with a business or property that abuts the sidewalk. This isn’t necessarily going to be the case, however.
It could also be that the sidewalk’s poor condition is the fault of a careless California government employee. This is often the case when the sidewalk is government owned. If there are no buildings or businesses nearby, the sidewalk might be owned by the government. But if the accident occured on a sidewalk by the courts or the DMV, or another similar government facility, then it is almost certainly a government issue. In this example, there would be additional hoops to be jumped through and a smaller time frame before the statute of limitations runs out.
How is Fault Determined in a Slip and Fall Case?
To determine fault in a slip and fall case, you have to show the courts that the defendant was negligent in their duty to uphold the sidewalk. Furthermore, you need to show that it was this duty that led to your injuries. For example, if you slipped because of high winds only then it doesn’t matter if the sidewalk was quite ill-managed; unfortunately, the negligence was not tied to the injury in this case.
Of course, as you may have figured from that last paragraph, you also need to be able to show that you were injured. This is where that visit to the doctor earlier comes in handy.
There are many cases where your slip and fall was not entirely the defendant’s fault because you were also acting in an unsafe manner. When this happens, we rely on California’s comparative negligence laws. These laws allow you to seek a percentage of compensation for your injuries. If you were 40% at fault for your accident but the defendant was 60% at fault then you would get 60% of the damages. Say the damages total $10,000, you would get $6,000 in this example.
The defendant will want to disprove your claims by showing that you weren’t on their property, you weren’t paying attention, you were wearing unsafe footwear or clothing, or you ignored an obvious hazard. Fighting against these defenses will be necessary to prove that the defendant was at fault by failing to uphold their duty of care.
How Do I Win a Slip and Fall Case?
Since the defendant will be arguing with everything they have to try to show that they aren’t responsible for your injuries, you will need to provide evidence that shows that they were. Witness accounts, medical records, photos, and video footage are all forms of evidence that can help you to win.
If you’re dealing with a slip and fall case and want a professional hand, reach out to Gibson & Hughes. Our team knows what to do with cases just like yours and they’ll be able to help guide you along each step of the process towards getting the compensation you deserve.