What Defenses to Slip and Fall Claims Are There in California?
California property owners are not automatically liable for every slip and fall injury that occurs on their property. Landowners and occupiers will often raise defenses to slip and fall injury claims and the most common are based on the plaintiff’s alleged fault, the obvious nature of the danger, or the plaintiff’s prior injuries.
At Ellis Injury Law, we have been helping those in Southern California win slip and fall injury cases for the past twenty years. An Ellis Los Angeles slip and fall lawyer works to build the strongest case possible even when defendants and insurance companies try to minimize their responsibility by raising these and other defenses.
Most common slip and fall defenses
A plaintiff in a slip and fall case in California needs to prove that the defendant was negligent. Negligence in this context means that the defendant knew or should have known about a dangerous condition on the property, that he or she failed to fix or issue a warning about the dangerous condition, that the defect caused the plaintiff’s fall, and that the plaintiff was injured because of the fall.
Successful defenses aim to disprove one or more of the elements that the plaintiff needs to prove. Some commonly-raised defenses include:
- No notice of the defect – If the defendant did not know or have reason to know of the dangerous condition on the property, there can be no obligation to fix the problem or post a warning. For example, if the plaintiff fell in a business entryway after another customer tracked in some water on their shoes, the business owner may not be liable if the employees did not yet know the water was there or have time to clean it up.
- Plaintiff’s negligence – If the injured party is partly to blame for the fall, the defendant less liable. California has adopted a comparative negligence framework, which means an injury victim has the right to sue an at-fault defendant no matter how much of the blame the plaintiff bears. However, his compensation will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of his fault. The plaintiff may be negligent if he or she did not exercise reasonable care such as by simply not paying attention to the surroundings or by walking around a wet floor sign and into the hazard.
- Open and obvious condition – A property owner does not have a duty to warn about dangers that are plainly visible. The defense will likely argue that the hazard was open and obvious and that the plaintiff, therefore, assumed the risk of injury by knowingly proceeding despite the danger.
- Status as a trespasser – This is not as strong a defense as it was in years past but it may still come up. It used to be widely recognized that a property owner did not owe a duty to someone who was not lawfully on the land so if a trespasser was injured, they had no right to sue. However, the current view is more nuanced. If the property owner had reason to know that a trespasser would enter the land, there may be a duty to keep the property safe and warn of defects.
- Prior injury – A negligent defendant is liable for all of the damages that their wrongdoing caused. However, they are not liable for damages caused by other events. If a plaintiff has a history of back problems and then injures his back in a slip accident, a negligent defendant would be legally responsible for any aggravation of the prior injuries but not for pain or impairment that existed before the fall.
Confident and competent preparation can combat the many defenses that are commonly raised. If you were partly to blame, having experienced slip & fall attorneys can lead to a lower degree of fault apportioned to you, increasing your compensation.
Have you been injured in a slip and fall in Southern California?
It is always a good idea to speak with a lawyer when facing a slip and fall injury. You can expect the defendant to raise defenses but some defenses are stronger than others. At Ellis Injury Law, an experienced lawyer will evaluate your claim and potential defenses and recommend a course of action to maximize compensation.
Do not wait to discuss your case with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at Ellis Injury Law. Consultations are always free and confidential.