Law Offices of Brett C. Drouet

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In California (as in the rest of the country), the vast majority of the slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents occur in grocery stores and department stores. These accidents mainly occur due to failure to properly maintain the premises and keep it in reasonably safe condition.

Flooring is one of the main areas of concern in slip-and-fall cases. Flooring is usually selected by the property owner, who often chooses flooring that looks good and is less expensive over flooring that is practical and safe. The glossy floors you often seen in grocery stores and department stores may look good, but they often become extremely slippery when wet. This leads to falls quite frequently.

There are many types of flooring that are specifically designed to reduce slip-and-falls and slipperiness in general, but some property owners and/or managers still refuse to install them, opting instead to stay with floors that are inherently unsafe when wet. These property owners/managers have effectively made the decision not to replace their flooring (which is defective when wet) and just pay for lawsuits when people are injured.

Another common reason for slip-and-falls in grocery stores is the way they essentially designed to be distracting. Grocery stores are organized in a way that is most likely to grab your attention, according applied commercial psychology. One way this can result in more trip and falls is that people are simply less inclined to look at the floor in front of them while they are walking. For instance, grocery store psychology says that consumers should be directed to look toward the middle of each display aisle. Having this focus elsewhere takes your eyes away from the floor and your concentration away from situational awareness.

Grocery stores are primarily organized this way to push products and make more money. However, they do have the unexpected side effect of distracting consumers while they are walking in the store. Even without the designed distractions, there are many other reasons why a consumer might not spot a slip-and-fall risk. Many times, a slip-and-fall risk like water or another liquid may not be visible on the floor. Without a sign indicating that there is a spill or leak, this is liable to wind up as a slip-and-fall.

How Does Comparative Or Contributory Negligence Impact California Personal Injury Cases Resulting From Slip-And-Fall Or Trip-And-Fall Accidents?

Comparative or contributory negligence can impact the percentage of damages a person may receive in their case.

As is the case with any claim, people making personal injury claims from slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents are expected to conduct themselves in a reasonably safe manner (or at least as much as the average person would in the same situation). Therefore, you are expected to use common sense, to look where you’re walking, and to try to avoid hazards if you can do so. Not doing so may lead to you being assigned comparative or contributory negligence.

If we return to the example of the apple pie that we used previously, we can illustrate how that might impact your case. Let’s assume the full pie is a case where the other party is 100% liable for your accident, with 100% of the responsibility.

If you could have avoided the slip-and-fall but did not because of your own negligence, you may be considered liable to some degree. Let’s say you were not looking around you as you were walking. The judge or jury will consider the specifics of the accident and will decide exactly how much that action or failure on your part contributed to or caused the accident. Let’s say they find that it makes you 50% negligent, and therefore 50% liable for the accident. In that case, you would be able to recover 50% of the “pie”—i.e., your damages for pain and suffering as well as for economic damages.

If You Have A Slip-And-Fall Accident At A Store, Are You Obligated To Sign Anything Or Fill Out Any Forms On-Site At The Time Of The Accident?

You are not obligated to fill out any forms or sign any statements if you have been injured in a slip-and-fall.

In the immediate aftermath of a severe fall, especially if someone is badly injured, the last thing they are usually worried about is why they fell and whether there were any witnesses. People are usually more concerned about the fact that they are in a lot of pain and need medical attention.

Still, store managers or owners will often try to push statements or forms on people while they are still waiting to get medical help. If you are able to give a statement and feel clear-headed enough to do so, then you can do so. However, you should think carefully about whether or not you can make a clear-headed statement before you do so. If you do make a statement, make sure to ask for a copy. In general, you should not sign anything at that time, as it could be used out of context to hurt your case later down the line.

Unfortunately, in slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall cases, I have seen many store managers and owners who shove statements in front of people and have them sign them while they are still confused or distracted by shock or pain. These statements are often inaccurate.

One example in my personal practice was a case where my client fell and severely injured her head, ultimately suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Her daughter was with her at the time, and was extremely distraught. The store managers isolated her and were shoving statements in front that were full of false and misleading statements. They were being very pushy to get her to sign the statements, and were not letting her get back to her mother, who was still severely injured and waiting for medical attention. Ultimately, she signed the statements just to get them away from them to return to her mother. They later tried to use those falsified statements against my client and her daughter during my client’s personal injury case.

I have always found it amazing how many store owners and managers do what they are required to do by law to maintain a safe environment in their store. For instance, stores are required to hold regular inspections of their premises, with specific requirements based on the traffic of that area and what type of area it is in the store. Many of them do not. There are many major retailers that do not have inspection regiments on a periodic basis, or who do not conduct appropriate inspections if they do inspection at all.

There are certain things that stores cannot prevent with inspections, and those things come with their own officially condoned (and non-officially condoned) solutions. For instance, many grocery stores put rubber matting down in the produce areas of the store. They do this because fruit falls down constantly in that area, and there is no way you can really inspect regularly enough to prevent that from happening. Fruit on the floor is a marked hazard, as people coming around corners and walking quickly on their way to a specific aisle or product might not see the fruit, and might step on it and slip. Many of the floors in grocery stores are concrete or cement underneath, and are therefore very hard. If you fall in a specific type of way, you can become very severely injured, especially around the neck and back.

Generally, it is incumbent upon these stores to take reasonable action in order to protect their customers. Some major retailers have actually changed out their slippery flooring, and have actually moved to carpeting to prevent slip-and-falls. It is very hard to slip on a carpet. You can trip on carpet if it’s not maintained, but it’s almost impossible to actually slip on a carpet. These measures are one way that a store can protect its customers and avoid liability for personal injuries.

I know this first-hand, because I used to represent defendants in personal injury cases. I had one client that was a major barbecue restaurant. They had tile flooring. Their customers also had a propensity to drop barbecue sauce on the floor. Customers would then slip on the barbecue sauce, fall, and get injured. They had literally hundreds of slip-and-fall cases. After a number of falls, we recommended the restaurant should change out their flooring for carpeting. They took our advice, and they eliminated all their slip-and-falls virtually overnight.

So, in the end, the key thing to remember is that these stores have an obligation to keep you safe as a customer. The larger stores are sophisticated operators that they have access to data about how slip-and-falls happen, where they happening, and how they happen. They also have knowledge about which materials are appropriate for non-slip flooring and what type of inspections should be done to maintain safety. The question is, whether or not they actually do what is required to maintain safety.

If you’ve already had a fall and you’re injured, get medical attention right away. It’s really important that you do that. Many people, especially in this country, do not go to the doctor right away. They may think they feel fine, or can walk it off. However, the swelling and/or pain eventually comes on and by that point the injury may be more severe than it had to be. It will also help your personal injury case if you can say your injury was severe enough from the outset that you sought out medical attention right away. Therefore, the sooner you can get evaluated the better.

Just as it is crucial to get medical attention as soon as possible, it is also crucial to get the right kind of medical attention. If possible, you want to be able to see a medical professional that has knowledge in the areas of physical trauma. You can and should to your family doctor for an initial visit, but most family doctors aren’t really trained in specific impact traumas. They might not know what to look for when it comes to a severe tissue injury, or traumatic brain injury, or internal injury, as you commonly see from accidents. They might not know the type of questions to ask, and therefore might not know how to get a diagnosis that is appropriate.

For instance, I often hear the trauma doctors I work with ask, “Have you noticed that you are going to bathroom more often?”, or, “Have you noticed that you’re having trouble with arousal and having sex?” You would be surprised how many of my clients say, “Well yes, actually, I did notice that,” or something similar. The reason trauma doctors ask those questions is because both of those symptoms are indicators of a nerve damage, which can be caused by things like nerve damage. These days, many doctors have a propensity to move patients very quickly. They don’t tend to spend the time to ask the right questions. Often, they don’t get accurate evaluations because of it.

We also feel strongly that people who have been injured in personal injury contexts (especially accidents and falls) get MRIs of the effected areas, and specifically that they go to the right MRI company. Not all MRI companies are the same, and not all MRI machines are the same. There is, as the saying goes, “Pintos and Porsches” of MRI machines. You want to make sure you find one that’s closer to the latter than the former, because the differences are stark.

As an extension of this issue, I have noticed that clients who had MRIs done at a hospital don’t really get the most accurate MRIs. The MRIs that are being used at hospitals are often not the best MRIs, and are often also taken with the patient lying flat on their back. Most people don’t spend their entire day lying flat on their back. Usually, they are moving around and moving their bodies around when they start having pain. One of the ways that up-to-date doctors are addressing that issue is by using bearing MRIs which are multi-positional. These machines put weight on your body and take images with your body in different positions and at different angles. These machines and the images they create are much more likely to show what’s going on with your injuries. The difference it makes is sometimes shocking. The same person can take an MRI when they’re flat on their back and it can show up without anything looking abnormal, but present with multiple, severe disc bulges once they get into a weight-bearing MRI. These things make major differences, both for your health and for your personal injury case.

For more information on Personal Injury Law in California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (626) 644-1755 today.

Brett C. Drouet, Esq.

Call For A Free Assessment
(626) 644-1755

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