We all know that bright yellow sign: “Caution –Wet Floor.” Businesses use this sign to warn customers to stay away from wet and slippery areas, usually because they are busy cleaning or mopping.
Businesses are required under law to keep their property safe from dangerous conditions that can cause harm to their consumers. It is, therefore, part of their duty to put up warning signs if conditions are wet or slippery.
Owners should conduct regular inspections of their properties and look for dangerous conditions. If they find something, they must warn. If they don’t do it, they are negligent.
But, as to all rules, there is an exception. Business employees or management cannot be held responsible if it can be proved that the wet floor or the spill accident scene has justhappened and it wasn’t discovered yet.
The Sippy Cup
Imagine Mrs. Smith and her toddler, Little Smith. Leisurely shopping, Mrs. Smith is looking for chicken pieces at 3.00 p.m. What to make for dinner?
Little Smith takes the opportunity to experiment taking off the top of his Sippy cup and he succeeds. The joy of seeing the juice runs!
You are walking along, minding your own business and slips on the spilled juice at 3.05 p.m. The supermarket is not responsible and cannot be held liable.
Why? It’s because five minutes isn’t a reasonable amount of time for an employee of the supermarket to discover the spill and place a sign on it.
But, say Mrs. Smith (after shouting at Little Smith) immediately told an employee of the spill, but theemployee did nothing for an hour. Someone slips.Now we’re talking negligence.
What to do if you fell and you think it is negligence due to the lack of warning signs?
You should gather evidence. If your evidence is credible, you have a very good chance of getting a settlement from the owner of the property where you fell.
Most commercial establishments will complete an incident report of there was an injury on site. You should immediately ask for the manager after an accident, or call 911. Show the manager where you fell. Make it clear that there were no yellow cautionary signs. Ask for a copy of the incident report to keep for your records.
Don’t refuse medical care.
Your injuries might be more serious than you think.
Insurance companies do not like paying out claims. They will look very closely at your actions directly after the accident. If you said you’re ok and refused medical assistance, they will use it against you. They may even say you were hurt elsewhere and you are just using you’re “accident” as an excuse to sue for damages.
Paramedics will stabilize you and access your situation. If they think you should go to the emergency room, request copies of all the paperwork. You have a right to copies of all your medical records. All of this paperwork can be used to build your case.
If you are able, take pictures or a video of your slip-and-fall scene. Take close-up shots of the wet area and focus on the absence of any wet floor signs.
Pan out in your video-taking: try to take as much footage as you can of the surrounding areas of where you fell. If you are unable to take pictures or a video yourself, ask one of the bystanders to do it for you.
Remember, a wet floor sign might be placed on the scene of the accident within minutes of you falling. You have to be able to prove that it wasn’t there at the time that you fell. Sadly, not all people are honest. Some managers will swear that the sign was there all along.
Ask for the names and contact numbers of those who witnessed the accident. Independent witnesses will be invaluable to you, should there be an injury claim.
Ask them to quickly write down what they saw. Ask them to date and sign what they wrote. Some people will tell you they don’t want to get involved. They don’t have to. But still ask: there will be people who would want to do the right thing.
I know the floor was wet; I was just getting the sign
Slip and falls where there were no signs can be very hard to prove. If the owner or manager of the store claims he was en route to get the sign – what can you do?
A jury will ask a lot of questions:
- How long was the floor wet before the manager went to get the sign?
- How long did he stay away? Did he try to be as quick as possible or was he doing other business in the back?
- Could the manager have stationed someone to warn people of the slippery floor while he was away getting the sign?
But there was a sign!
The property owner is not automatically relieved of liability if there were a sign posted near the wet or spill area. The posting of the warning sign must have beenreasonablein relation to the scene and should have warned in an adequate manner.
How did the sign look?
A bright colored plastic sign with clearly printed black lettering is preferable. An impromptu sign on a piece of scrap paper is not necessarily highly visible.
Placement of the sign
The sign must be close to the hazard and must be able to attract the attention of passersby.
A slip and fall accident due to a lack of a sign might be very hard to prove. This article tried to highlight some of the issues. The best is to let an experienced slip and fall lawyer analyze your case and explain your options to you.