Shopping malls attract flocks of customers young and old to one sprawling and often crowded location for a centralized experience of shopping, dining, and entertainment. While the mall is fun, it’s also loaded with potential hazards that can cause serious slip and fall injuries. These unfortunate situations raise many legal questions concerning the various commercial parties who may be responsible when visitors are seriously hurt, and an experienced slip and fall lawyer can answer those questions for you.
The Salamati Law Firm helps those who have been injured in slip and fall accidents in shopping centers, malls, movie theaters, and retail stores across Los Angeles. Our personal injury attorneys are passionate about helping victims of negligence in southern California get back on their feet and recover damages for their ordeal following a slip and fall accident in Los Angeles.
Who is liable for injuries sustained in a shopping mall?
California imposes a duty on property owners to take reasonable steps to make the premises safe for those who enter it. This usually means keeping the property in safe condition and warning of dangers that the owner or occupier actually does know about or reasonably should know about. Failing to do either of these may constitute negligence in the event of a slip and fall accident or other kind of injury.
When it comes to shopping malls, and similar locations like strip malls, entertainment complexes, and open-air shopping centers, there are often several individuals or businesses that have a duty to keep the premises safe, including:
- The property owners
- Retailers who lease space
- Property management companies
- Companies responsible for maintenance and repair
Your personal injury lawyer will review the facts to determine whether any of these, or even another party, may be liable for injury.
Proving liability for slip and fall injuries
The injured customer needs to be able to identify that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to make the premises safe or warn of a defect. This could mean showing that the defendant placed the hazard or failed to perform the inspections that would have prevented your slip and fall in a store.
For example, if mall security cameras prove that a spilled beverage sat on the floor for several hours, but no employees inspected the area or cleaned the spill, the mall could be liable when someone slips on it. Or maybe a large section of a step in the mall broke off a week ago and has been missing since. The mall either knew or reasonably should have known about this defect, yet did not do anything to repair it, warn you about it, or block that area off. If you fall and injure yourself as a result of this defective step, the defendant would be liable for your shopping mall accident.
By contrast, if the beverage in the example above was spilled by a patron right in front of you and you slipped on it within seconds of the spill, the mall would not have had any notice or any time to remove the dangerous condition (clean up the spill) before you slipped. Therefore, in this example, the mall would not be liable for your injuries.
You can still recover damages even if you were partially responsible
If your own negligence was partly to blame for the fall, you may still pursue a claim against the property owner for their breach of duty, but any award may be reduced in proportion to your own fault. As a pure comparative negligence state, California enables injured victims to be awarded damages even if they were 99 percent at fault for the accident. The amount awarded will then be reduced based on your proportion of responsibility for the accident.
For example, if you incurred $1 Million worth of damages in an accident in which it was deemed that you were 80 percent at fault, you would receive 20 percent of $1 Million – $200,000. All of these arguments have the potential to be hotly contested during settlement negotiations and even all the way up through trial, in the rare instance that your claim proceeds that far.
Evidence to gather after falling on mall property
It is important to gather credible evidence and testimony about the condition that caused the fall and how or why it existed. You will also need evidence of losses caused by the injury.
Here is what our attorneys at Salamati Law recommend that you do in the immediate aftermath of your fall:
- Seek medical attention after your slip and fall accident right away to treat your injuries, even if you “feel fine.” Adrenaline may be masking or delaying your pain, and some injuries take several days before surfacing. The longer you wait to seek medical attention, the more difficult it will be to prove that your fall is what caused these injuries.
- File and obtain copies of an incident report with authorities at the mall.
- Take pictures of all of your injuries.
- Take pictures of everything in the vicinity of your fall. Your photographs may capture someone that tries to deny later that they were present. Additionally, the property owner may attempt to remove, fix, or block off the dangerous condition immediately following your fall and claim that it was like that at the time you were injured, so pictures taken immediately can prove to be invaluable in store injury settlements.
- Interview any eyewitnesses to your fall and document their responses.
- Request the insurance information for the property owner.
- Related medical bills, including summaries or discharge papers linking the injuries to the fall
- Documentation of lost wages and other losses
Your attorney will help gather additional evidence, such as:
- Security videos or records of security guards at the shopping center
- Agreements between the shopping venue owner, lessee, and/or maintenance companies
- Manuals and employee training documents
- Testimony of any necessary expert witnesses
Common types of slips and falls in shopping centers
Slip and fall accidents are most common in places that are likely to develop wet surfaces, including:
- Food courts and concession stands where spills may occur
- Entrances due to customers tracking in wet weather and other hazards onto a slick floor
- Escalators and/or elevators that are not well maintained or managed by security
- Public restrooms
- Any areas showing poor maintenance such as chipped tiles, snagged carpets, leaky pipes, litter, and general disrepair
Potential damage awards for victims of negligence
To recover damages for injuries and consequential losses, the plaintiff needs to be prepared to prove both the liability on the part of the defendant(s) as well as the value of the losses themselves for accidents such as a slip and fall in stairwells or a slip and fall in the parking lot. Attorney Sean Salamati works with expert witnesses and investigators to help clients prove each of these elements and establish their right to maximum compensation. Typical compensation depends on a variety of losses, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
Time is limited to file a California slip and fall claim
In California, an injured party only has two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. That may seem like a long time, but many people try to wait until they are completely healed to file a claim, and that can be disastrous. It may take much longer than two years to be fully healed, and waiting beyond that point may render the claim invalid if your reason for delay is not covered by some exception to the rule.
Not only is it vital to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible following your accident in order to ensure that you do not miss any legal deadlines, but it can also make all the difference in the quality and quantity of evidence you are able to obtain as you build your case. As soon as the mall becomes aware of your accident, it will work as quickly as possible to fix, remove, or conceal the dangerous condition that caused your injury. If you wait months to hire a lawyer, the defective step that caused your fall may have been fixed. Additionally, not all surveillance camera footage is kept indefinitely. If your attorney does not request that the footage is preserved and shared soon after you are injured, it is possible that the mall may – intentionally or unintentionally – destroy concrete proof that would have significantly boosted the value of your claim.
Lastly, you may have been extremely diligent in documenting the contact information for several eyewitnesses to your accident. However, the longer it takes between the date of the accident and the date those eyewitnesses are contacted by your attorney, you run more and more of a risk of those eyewitnesses disappearing – by moving away or changing phone numbers – or not remembering what they saw quite as clearly, which damages their credibility and reduces the value of your case.
There are No Fees Unless You Win
Do not take unnecessary risks with your claim. Speak with a slip and fall lawyer in Los Angeles from Salamati Law to be sure you have all of the information you need to establish who is to blame for your fall and to receive full compensation to make you whole. Since 1995, our firm has been fighting for justice on behalf of injured Southern Californians. We know the system and fight tirelessly for the rights of our clients. Call today to schedule a free consultation, and rest assured that we do not charge our clients anything unless they win.