If you are hurt on someone else’s property because of a danger or hazard that the property owner knew about or should have known about, they can be held financially responsible for your injuries. For example, if you slipped on a wet floor and were injured because no wet floor sign was posted, you could file a personal injury lawsuit for compensation for your medical bills.
But if you also knew about the danger because a warning sign was put up, the case for compensation becomes a lot murkier.
Assumption of Risk
The most common way that insurance companies try to get out of paying an injury claim is by arguing that the victim was hurt through their own negligence, rather than someone else’s (in this case, the property owner). In slip and fall cases, the defense may take it a step further and argue that the injured person deliberately put themselves in harm’s way and “assumed the risk.”
Just like property owners have a legal duty to be aware of potential hazards that put visitors at risk, visitors also have a duty to avoid “open and obvious” dangers. If the hazard is clearly visible and immediately recognizable as dangerous, but the person chooses not to avoid it, then the judge will typically side with the property owner in saying that the injured person’s action meant that they knowingly accepted the risk of injury.
That means if a hazard caused you to suffer an injury, but a warning sign was posted notifying visitors of that hazard, you may not be able to get any compensation. However, posting a warning sign isn’t always enough.
Signs Aren’t Always Considered An Effective Warning
Wet floor signs are a bright yellow color, announce “caution” in large letters, and almost always have a picture of someone slipping to really drive the message home. So you would think that wet floor signs are always visible and noticeable. But this actually isn’t the case!
A 2015 study actually found that only 7% of people that walked past standard wet floor warning signs even noticed them! And a warning sign is only effective if the people it is trying to warn actually see it. Other kinds of warning signs may be even easier to overlook or miss altogether.
That’s why warning signs should always be as visible as possible and should never be obscured, even if only partially. Even dim lighting could make it harder to notice a warning sign.
Furthermore, a warning sign must clearly indicate where the hazard is. For example, if someone does see the wet floor sign, but it’s not clear which part or how much of the floor is wet, then even if that person tries to go around the wet area, they could still slip and injure themselves. In a situation like that, the property owner could be held responsible for that person’s injuries because the warning wasn’t adequate.
Other times, people may move a wet floor sign or orange cone out of the way so they can walk. While someone who deliberately moved a warning sign and then injured themself won’t have a good case for compensation, someone else who was injured after the sign was moved and thus never saw it could make a claim.
To sum it all up, a property owner simply posting a sign and walking away is not good enough to ensure that people are actually aware there is a dangerous hazard they need to avoid.
After a Slip and Fall, You Have Legal Options
While it is harder to win a slip and fall case when a warning sign was posted, it doesn’t automatically mean that everyone was sufficiently warned! And when that happens, you could still be eligible for compensation.
Furthermore, according to New York’s pure comparative negligence laws, people injured in accidents may still be eligible for compensation even if they were partially or even mostly at fault for their own accidents!
Although being 90% at fault for your injury means you will not be able to get as much compensation as if you were only 10% at fault, it is still possible to get some money to compensate your medical expenses and pain and suffering, which can be sorely needed after a serious injury from a fall. If you or someone you love were injured after a slip and fall, call the experienced New York premises liability attorneys at Catalano Law today for a free case review.