Frequently Asked Questions - Is a Business Liable if Someone Slips and Falls Even Though There is a Wet Floor Sign?
Proving negligence in a slip and fall accident can sometimes prove to be complex, and even more so when there is a “Caution Wet Floor” or “Caution Slippery Surface” warning sign present at the time of the slip and fall. However, even though a wet floor sign is considered evidence that an establishment was attempting to take reasonable precautions to warn its patrons of a dangerous condition within their premises, it does not completely absolve the establishment from liability. It is not this magic sign shielding defendants from negligence as some may think. The presence of a wet floor sign would not prohibit you from seeking compensation for injuries you sustained in a slip and fall.
Although, the outcome of personal injury cases are largely based on the most minute of details.
Firstly, a wet floor sign is only considered a temporary fix. For example, if a grocery store employee placed a wet floor sign out on the floor near a spill but then failed to immediately retrieve a mop and clean it up. Rather, they left the spill on the floor for the remainder of the day – that would be negligent behavior on behalf of the store as they intentionally allowed a dangerous condition to remain on their premises. They would then be liable for any injuries that befell their patrons as a result of the dangerous condition because of their ineffectiveness to maintain the highest duty of care to keep their patrons safe. The store’s video surveillance will be critical in substantiating this claim as you will be able to see the store’s actions in time-stamped order.
A wet floor sign would also not prevent any applied negligence on the defendant if your injuries were also caused by another safety hazard that was present. An example would be a poorly lit facility which, in turn, caused you to not be able to see the caution sign or, more commonly, not be able to see the total magnitude of the slippery area or where the slippery surface ended per se. Quite often, the substance on the floor is camouflaged with the floor color itself, i.e. a clear liquid. So, the patron cannot accurately discern, even when trying to be cautious, where the slippery surface ends and the safe floor begins. Another example of a secondary safety hazard being present would be obstructions in your travel path which forced you to go through the slippery area in order to pass. These examples would indicate to the fact that the establishment did not fulfill their legal obligation to reasonably maintain the safety of their premises simply by placing a caution sign on the floor. For instance, perhaps the store should have also placed an employee at the slippery site to better safeguard the patrons from the dangerous floor conditions while another employee was gathering materials to clean it up. A third example of a secondary safety hazard would be if the establishment’s floors were recently mopped or waxed. Surely, the defendant cannot adequately protect its patrons from falling on a slippery surface if the entirety of their floors are slippery! Thus, they have created the dangerous condition themselves, and simply putting out a wet floor sign will not be deemed adequate to shield them from legal liability. It may have been more reasonable for the establishment to have done this type of maintenance after hours when patrons would not be expected to be walking through their establishment.
Although, in certain circumstances, a wet floor sign can certainly complicate establishing negligence. The defendant may take the defense that the wet floor sign was an obvious and noticeable alert of a dangerous condition and you simply did not use caution, and, thus, caused your own injury. For example, perhaps you were walking down a grocery aisle where there was a spill on the floor and a wet sign was present to warn patrons of the slippery substance. If you were looking at your phone texting and not paying attention to where you were walking, the defendant’s counsel or the insurance company may declare that you are responsible or partially responsible for your own injuries because you were not using due care and paying adequate attention to your surroundings. They would claim that if you were paying proper attention, you would have noticed the wet floor sign and avoided the dangerous area altogether and, thus, avoided an injury. In this situation, the insurance company or jury may altogether deny your claim due to failure to establish negligence, or they may determine there was comparative negligence at play. If you were considered partially liable for your injuries, then any personal injury settlement will be proportionally reduced by the determined percentage of fault. So, if the insurance company deemed or the jury ruled that you were 40% at-fault for the incident, then you would only be offered/ awarded 40% of the total valuation of your injury claim.
Even if you slipped and fell in an area where wet floor caution signage was present, you may very well still have a strong personal injury claim and, thus, should seek the professional legal advice of an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Time is of the essence in regards to gathering pertinent evidence, i.e. photographs, video surveillance, store reports, statements from any and all witnesses, ect. So, getting an attorney to work for you as quickly as possible following your slip and fall is certainly to your benefit. They will be sure that you do not make any unknowingly incriminating statements to the defendant or their insurance company which may place liability on you. Especially in premise liability cases where caution signs are present at the accident scene, liability can easily get muddy, and liability will most certainly be argued by the defense. You will be thankful to have an experienced attorney fighting for you. Following your slip and fall, you will likely be in immense pain and should solely be focused on receiving the necessary medical care you need in an attempt to make yourself whole again. The last thing you want to deal with is hearing the store owner or insurance company adjuster not accepting liability for your fall and blaming you for your own injuries. With a personal injury attorney by your side, you can then focus exclusively on your medical treatment, and they will aim all their efforts into arguing the complicated negligence and liability in your favor.