When it comes to commercial and retail properties like movie theaters, grocery stores, restaurants, retail stores and other public places, wet tile, wood, and enamel flooring is the most common cause of slip and fall accidents. Wet floors in general frequently present dangers to guests and customers at commercial businesses.
Property owners have an obligation to ensure that invited individuals are safe upon entering their place of business. Premises liability laws require commercial businesses to protect customers and guests by warning them of potentially dangerous conditions, including wet or slick floors. Following an unexpected spill or recent cleaning, wet floor signs can be an easy, inexpensive way to do so. They are designed to warn patrons and customers of the risk of a slip and fall injury and hopefully prevent them from occurring.
Can I Still File a Lawsuit if a Wet Floor Sign Was Present and I Slipped?
Businesses hope that the presence of wet floor signs will absolve them of liability if someone does slip and fall. While the placement of a wet floor sign can help to reduce a property owner’s liability in certain cases, it doesn’t give them a free pass from responsibility for slips and falls that occur on their property.
Wet floor signs are not a guarantee that a court will find that a property owner took every reasonable step to prevent an accident either. They only provide evidence that a claimant was warned that a hazard existed. The victim of a wet floor slip and fall accident can still sue if he or she fell and was injured, even if a wet floor sign was present at the time of the accident.
If you’ve been injured in a wet floor slip and fall accident, you have the right to file a personal injury suit in civil court, even if a wet floor sign was present at the scene. Call the personal injury team at Berry Law to start the process of recouping the damages owed to you today.
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What Is the Liability for Not Posting a Wet Floor Warning Sign?
Failing to post a wet floor sign is not a criminally punishable act, but it is a violation of liability law, and can be used to determine fault in an accident claim or lawsuit. A violation of liability law puts property owners at risk for increased monetary damages and compensation that is owed to a plaintiff in a personal injury case.
Forgetting to put a wet floor sign out after an unexpected spill or mopping up a puddle of melted snow in an entryway can leave a business owner open for a potentially costly lawsuit if a customer or guest slips and falls as a result. Businesses may also choose to forego the use of wet floor signs and opt instead to use orange cones, caution tape, or station an employee in front of the wet floor to warn customers.
When Is a Property Owner Still Liable if a Wet Floor Sign Was Posted?
Even when a wet floor warning is present, the incorrect use of such signs can make them ineffective at alerting guests and customers to hazards due to improper placement and other factors, including:
- Failure to place a wet floor sign prior to mopping the floor.
- Only using one wet floor sign instead of the standard three placed in a triangular pattern around the slick area.
- Neglecting to place a wet floor sign around corners near the slipping hazard to provide advance warning to customers and guests.
- Failing to place wet floor signs at each entrance and exit to a room when the entire floor is wet in that space.
- Poorly positioning a sign in a way that causes it to be hidden or provides insufficient lighting for it to be seen and prevent accidents.
- The presence of a secondary issue that a plaintiff was not made aware of that caused further damage, such as broken glass in addition to a liquid spill.
In other cases, a wet floor sign may be present, but the guest or customer is left with no other alternative than to walk across the wet or slick surface in question. This is common in entryway spaces that lead to the exit of a property. In such a case, the property owner may be negligent because he or she failed to rope off the area and provide an alternate path in or out of the space.
What Does State Law Say About Premises Liability and Wet Floor Accidents?
The law requires business owners to take reasonable steps to address hazards like wet or slick floors. Failure to do so is negligence on the owner’s part, and they can be held liable for any damages that result.
Whether a wet floor sign is present or not, slips and falls that occur due to wet floors require the claimant in a personal injury suit to prove the following:
- The business was or should have been aware of the wet floor.
- The establishment failed to warn guests or customers about the wet floor, and the plaintiff was injured as a result of that negligence.
While business owners aren’t expected to know about a wet floor immediately after a spill or leak occurs, they are legally responsible for continually monitoring the conditions of their property and mitigating the risks when spills or leaks are discovered. In cases where a property owner claims he or she was not aware the floor was wet at the time of an accident, the claimant will need to prove that the property owner should have been aware that there was an issue.
For example, an employee was in the area and would have seen the hazard or the business failed to exercise reasonable care by routinely checking the premises for spills or leaks.
The ability to prove that the property owner or another employee was aware of the floor being wet greatly increases a plaintiff’s chances of recovering damages in a personal injury suit. One way to prove that an employee had knowledge of the wet floor is to show that the business caused the floor to be wet in the first place, for example, by mopping or waxing it.
Liability is determined partially on whether a property owner acted in a manner that a reasonable person would replicate given a similar situation. A property owner is expected to act responsibly and swiftly to address issues or face liability for not doing so. Likewise, a claimant can be held to a similar standard under Nebraska law.
Compensation is dependent on whether a reasonable person would also not have noticed a wet floor sign and acted with an increased level of caution to avoid a slip and fall. A plaintiff can be found partially at fault for a slip and fall where a wet floor sign was present. The defense may argue that the claimant is at fault for failing to see the wet floor sign and act with caution.
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How Are Damages Determined in the State of Nebraska?
Nebraska’s shared fault rules govern who is entitled to damages and how much they are owed based on their percentage of fault for an accident that involved two or more parties. When fault is assigned amongst the individuals involved in a personal liability case, Nebraska applies a modified comparative fault rule under Nebraska Revised Statute 25-21,185.09.
Modified comparative fault reduces or eliminates damages that are awarded based on the percentage of fault assigned to the injured party. A plaintiff must be found 50 percent or less at fault for their slip and fall accident to recover any damages at all. For example, if damages awarded equal $100,000 and a claimant is assigned 20 percent of fault for an accident, he or she can only receive a percentage of the damages at $80,000.
If a court rules that a property owner acted responsibly and that a reasonable person would have noticed the wet floor sign, the court may reduce or eliminate damages altogether.
What Should I Do if I’m Involved in a Wet Floor Slip and Fall Accident?
Regardless of whether or not a wet floor sign was present, there are certain steps you should take following any slip and fall accident.
Seek Medical Treatment Immediately
Having a record of the injuries you sustained in an accident establishes that you were actually injured as a result of a property owner’s negligence.
Document the scene of the accident, as well as the use of any wet floor signs that are present, with photos where possible. Include shots of the slipping hazard and the position and placement of warning signs. Also collect photographic evidence of the injuries you sustained in the fall.
Speak With Eyewitnesses
Collect the names and contact information for anyone who saw you fall in the event that you need their testimony for a personal injury suit later.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
An Omaha personal injury lawyer with a background in handling liability cases can represent your interests in a slip and fall case. An attorney will investigate critical factors like how soon a wet floor sign was added following a spill, as well as the way the sign was used and whether or not it was easily visible or hidden and difficult to read. A professional has the background you need to successfully navigate the legal system during a wet floor accident lawsuit, even if a sign was present. Call today to get started.