A “slip and fall” is a type of California premises liability accident. Not all falls lead to slip and fall liability. To recover damages, the accident must have been caused by someone else’s negligence.
Someone is negligent for a slip and fall in California when they:
- Know, or through the exercise of reasonable care should have known,
- About a hazardous condition on the property they own or control, and
- Fail to repair, protect against, or give adequate warning of the condition.1
Common causes of slip and fall liability in California include:
- Plumbing leaks,
- Torn or loose carpeting,
- Uneven floors,
- Uncovered cables and cords,
- Broken or missing railings,
- Broken furniture,
- Failure to rope off construction sites, and
- Failure to put up warning signs about known hazards.
To help you better understand how to recover damages for “slip and fall” accidents, our California personal injury lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. Who is liable for a slip and fall in California?
- 2. What do I need to prove to recover damages?
- 3. When is a property owner or occupant considered negligent?
- 4. What damages can I get for a slip and fall?
- 5. What is the statute of limitations for a slip and fall claim?
- 6. How do I prove the accident was the defendant’s fault?
- 7. What if I was partly at fault?
- 8. What if I was injured at work?
- 9. Five fast facts about slip-and-falls
1. Who is liable for a slip and fall in California?
People owe a duty of care in California to protect you from harm when you enter their property. This duty applies to people who
- occupy or
- control property.
There may also be parent companies or insurers who are liable to pay damages to you if you are injured in a slip and fall accident in California.2
Example: While attending an event at a hotel nightclub, Dylan slips on a spilled cocktail and sustains various fall injuries including a head injury and broken bone. The nightclub was rented out to a promoter for the evening. Possible liable parties in this slip and fall claim include the event promoter, the nightclub owner, the hotel, the hotel’s parent company, the parties’ insurers and perhaps even some of the nightclub’s or promoter’s employees.
If the site of the fall was public property such as a sidewalk or steps to a government building, then you may be able to sue the local, state, or federal government.3
2. What do I need to prove to recover damages?
To recover damages for a slip and fall accident in California, you must establish four things:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- You were harmed by slipping or falling on the property; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing you harm.4
3. When is a property owner or occupant considered negligent?
To recover for a slip-and-fall, you must prove that the defendant was negligent.
A defendant is negligent in the use or maintenance of their property in California if:
- A condition on the property created an unreasonable risk of harm;
- The defendant knew or, through the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about it; and
- The defendant failed to repair the condition, protect against harm from the condition, or give adequate warning of the condition.5
An example of negligent behavior is a grocery store not putting out “Caution: Wet Floor” signs after they wash the floor since a wet floor is a dangerous condition.
4. What damages can I get for a slip and fall?
You are generally entitled to recover all compensatory damages that result from a defendant’s negligence.
Compensatory damages for a slip and fall claim can include (but are not limited to):
- Medical bills for medical treatments, home health, rehab, etc.
- Lost wages,
- Property damage (for example, you dropped your phone and it shattered),
- Lost earning capacity, and
- Pain and suffering, including anxiety, PTSD, and other psychological disorders.
Note that pain and suffering is classified as non-economic damages because it is difficult to attach a dollar sign to it.
In contrast, economic damages such as medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages are easy to calculate from such records as
- medical invoices,
- past pay stubs, and
- repair estimates.
In very rare cases you might be entitled to punitive damages (a.k.a. exemplary damages) in a slip and fall lawsuit. An experienced California slip and fall lawyer can advise you as to this.
Examples of situations in which punitive damages for a slip and fall might be recoverable include:
- The defendant’s recklessness resulted in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, or
- The defendant intentionally destroyed evidence of liability.
When determining whether to award you punitive damages, the government considers:
- the defendant’s financial condition,
- your actual harm and compensatory damages, and
- the extent of the defendant’s conduct’s reprehensibility6
5. What is the statute of limitations for a slip and fall claim?
The statute of limitations to bring a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit in California is generally two years from the date of the accident.7
In some situations, however, the statute of limitations might be “tolled” (suspended) — for instance, if the defendant is out-of-state for an amount of time, or the injured person is a child under 18.8
Note that if you are suing the government, then the statute of limitations for these “administrative claims” is only six months after the injury:
- If the government denies your claim, you have another six months to sue.
- If the government fails to respond at all after 45 days, you have two years after the date of the injury to sue.9
An experienced California injury lawyer can advise you on how long you have to sue following an accident, depending on the circumstances of your case.
6. How do I prove the accident was the defendant’s fault?
The key to winning a slip and fall personal injury case in California is to prove that a fall resulted from the defendant’s negligence. Evidence can include:
- The slip and fall doctor‘s treatment notes,
- Video footage,
- Witness statements, and
- Testimony from accident reconstruction experts.
Our slip and fall lawyers include former cops and investigators. We know how to find the evidence that others may overlook so that you can get the compensation you need and deserve.
7. What if I was partly at fault?
If were injured in a fall – and you were partly at fault – you still may be eligible to recover damages. The judge would just reduce your damages in proportion to your fault.10
Example: Maxine is texting on her phone when she slips on a spill in the grocery store. She sustains $10,000 worth of damages from her injuries. The judge finds Maxine was 50% at fault for texting. Therefore, she could be awarded $5,000 in damages (half of her total damages.)
Note that if you were trespassing at the time of your fall, the landowner typically will not be liable for your damages.11
Also note that if the fall hazard was obvious – such as a large hole in the ground that is cordoned off – the landowner probably would not be liable to fall victims as long as a reasonable person would have avoided the hazard.12
Learn more about California’s comparative fault laws.
8. What if I fell at work?
If you slipped and fell at your workplace or while performing job duties, you probably will be able to recover medical expenses and disability payments through workers’ compensation. It does not matter if you were at fault for the fall. You would just need to show that
- you did not intentionally injure yourself,
- California’s workers’ comp laws cover your particular injury, and
- you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Depending on the circumstances of the fall, you may also have grounds to bring a traditional lawsuit against your employer or a third-party.
9. Five facts about slip-and-falls
- The majority of falls are “heel slips,” where your leading heel slides too forward, causing you to lose balance and usually fall. In contrast, “toe slips” occur when your trailing foot loses balance. Since your momentum is moving forward, toe slips usually do not cause a fall.
- Simple falls can cause serious injuries, such as severed spinal cords, traumatic brain injuries, and broken hips, legs, arms, necks, backs, and wrists.
- Twenty percent of falls result in serious injuries according to the CDC.
- Each year, more than 800,000 people are hospitalized for a fall-related injury.
- Other causes of falls include vitamin D deficiency, vision disorders, faulty shoes, balance disorders, and medications such as sedatives.13
Injured in a slip and fall in California? Call our law firm for help…
If you or someone you know sustained a minor or serious injury on someone else’s property, we invite you to contact our California slip and fall lawyers for a free consultation and legal advice.
Call us or complete the form on this page and we will contact you at a convenient time. Our personal injury attorneys have law offices throughout the state.
We can also help if you have been injured in a slip and fall accident in Nevada or injured in a slip and fall accident in Colorado.
Disclaimer: Past results do not guarantee future results.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1000. Premises Liability—Essential Factual Elements; CACI 1003. Unsafe Conditions; see, for example, Ortega v. Kmart Corp., (2001) 26 Cal. 4th 1200; Kopfinger v. Grand Cent. Public Market, (1964) 60 Cal. 2d 852.
- See, for example, Johnson v. Palo Alto (
- CACI 1000.
- CACI 1003.
- California Civil Code § 3295.
- California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.
- California Code of Civil Procedure section 352.
- California Government Code 945.6 GC.
- CACI 406. CACI 405.
- Ann M. v. Paciﬁc Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666.
- See also Kinsman v. Unocal Corp. (
- Facts about Falls, CDC.