A quick Google search of “Trip and Fall Settlements in California” brought more than 500 personal injury lawyers and websites willing and quite able to represent you in the case of a trip and fall accident. Apparently it’s a pretty lucrative business. Google actually listed 73,100,000 results with over 50,000 using the exact phrase. The “trip and fall” business isn’t just lucrative, its big business, really big business. More than 10,000 claims are made and settled each and every day. Checking with the CDC, over one million Americans are injured and 17,000 are killed each year due to slip and fall accidents.
According to many legal sites, most from personal injury lawyers, the trip and fall “Trivial Defect Rule” covering sidewalks or other defects on public or private property originally dictated that the property owner is not liable for injuries sustained by individuals if the trip hazard was considered “trivial”. Trivial usually meant the trip defect was any change in height less than 3/4 inch. A few years back, a couple of rulings in California’s court of appeals changed all that. The court gave it’s opinion that all circumstances surrounding the trip and subsequent injury must be taken into account, expanding the parameters of the Trivial Defect Rule, and determined that measurement alone was not a basis for a trivial defect defense.
What the heck does all that mean? Well, if you’re a property owner, property manager, city manager, insurance agent, or lawyer representing property owners, HOA’s or any large business/public entity with public or private access, you might want to take a walk around the facilities and make note of the condition of your public access ways. “Holy smokes”, there’s more than you imagined. “Call my insurance agent, call my lawyer, call my contractor..” Oops…Property owners beware, there’s a target on your back and a personal injury lawyer that’s got you square in his sights, especially if you have a high traffic public walkway. Bottom line here; “Fix That Trip Hazard”
With the astronomical costs associated with litigation, or settling even the smallest trip and fall accident, how many trip hazards at your location is “one trip hazard too many”? I suppose that will be determined by your pain threshold. If someone actually is injured, most likely it will be determined by a court of law, and you will be the liable party. While there are a multitude of trip hazards that can never be eliminated, the number one cause of trip and fall lawsuits nationwide, uneven sidewalks and public walkways, can be quickly and efficiently repaired in less than one hour. Back in the good old days of dirt paths and roadways, Mother Nature may have been the cause of grandma falling on her face, but grandma sure couldn’t sue the farmer whose path she crossed. We all cursed the ground we walked on, nursed our wounds and moved on. Today designer thruways and walkways built with concrete and stone are the shining glory of every community and property owner in America. And thanks to Mother Nature they tend to move around quite a bit. Maybe we shouldn’t have cursed her so much…