Here’s what you need to know about “wet floor” signs and injury compensation. Don’t settle for less after a bad slip and fall on wet floors.
Slipping and falling on a wet floor can have devastating consequences.
If you’re very lucky, you only have bumps and bruises. Many fall victims aren’t so fortunate. One out of five falls results in serious injuries, like head trauma or broken bones.
Death rates from falls are on the rise and have increased by 30 percent in recent years. ¹
We’ve all seen the yellow “wet floor” signs used in businesses and public buildings. Commercial establishments are supposed to warn customers about dangerous conditions, like wet and slippery floors.
A wet floor sign doesn’t automatically let the business owner off the hook if you’re seriously injured from falling on a wet floor. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and emotional distress.
The Law and Wet Floor Signs
Under the legal doctrine of premises liability, commercial establishments are responsible for keeping their property safe from defects and dangerous conditions that could cause injuries. This obligation, or duty of care, means they must do everything reasonably possible to create hazard-free environments.
The store owner’s duty of care includes using wet floor signs. Management’s failure to place warning signs around wet and slippery areas represents a violation of their duty of care. This type of violation is considered negligence.
A business is legally negligent when:
- Management was aware or should have been aware of the wet floor
- A sensible manager would know the wet floor could cause customers to fall
- Management neglected to take reasonable steps to warn customers and dry the floor
- The business management’s negligence directly caused your slip and fall injuries
- Your injuries are real and verifiable
- You didn’t contribute to the circumstances that caused you to fall
There’s an exception to the duty of care rule. To be negligent, employees or management must have a reasonable amount of time to find out about the wet floor and do something about it. I
f they didn’t have time to see the wet floor and place a caution sign, management might not be considered negligent. Unless you can prove negligence, they don’t owe you any compensation for your injuries.
Example: Grocery Store Negligence for Wet Floor Injury
Imagine the produce section sprinklers went on at 3:00 in the afternoon. Five minutes later, you walked down the aisle and slipped and fell on water pooled under the lettuce display, breaking your arm in the fall.
Was store management negligent? Here are three different circumstances that determine whether or not the store would be liable for your damages:
- The grocery store is not liable for your damages if management didn’t know the sprinkler dripped water on to the floor. That’s because five minutes isn’t a reasonable amount of time for an employee or manager to discover the pooled water and place a wet floor sign on it.
- The store is liable for your damages if an employee or manager saw the wet floor before you fell and ignored it or failed to take action to direct customers away from the danger.
- Finally, if management knew it had a problem with the sprinkler and didn’t take any action to repair it, the five-minute interval wouldn’t matter. Management knew or should have known about the dangerous wet floor conditions.
When management negligence results in a visitor’s injuries, the visitor has a right to compensation for their damages.
Damages for slip and fall accidents can include:
- Medical treatment costs
- Expected future medical expenses
- Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses for medications, assistive devices, etc.
- Lost wages, including sick days and vacation time used during treatment
- Future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
Common Types of Wet Floor Fall Injuries
Traumatic injuries are a serious consequence of falls caused by wet floors. The most common types of injuries from violent falls are:
Soft tissue injuries include sprained and torn muscles and ligaments, bumps and bruises, cuts and abrasions
Head injuries can range from scalp lacerations to concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries
Bone fractures can include wrist and arm fractures, and potentially life-threatening hip fractures, in addition to skull or facial bone fractures
Back and neck injuries like whiplash, ruptured discs, and spinal cord injuries are potentially disabling
Knee and leg injuries can include painful dislocations, tendon tears, and fractures
Injury Claims Against the Government
Slip and fall injuries can just as easily happen in buildings run by the federal, state or local government. For example, you can fall on a wet floor at the:
- Post office
- Public library
- Motor vehicle administration
- County hospital
- Police department
Injury claims against a governmental agency must be handled quickly and carefully. Each type of government agency requires a special claim form, and they each have different deadlines for filing an injury claim.
Use Standard Form 95 for injury claim notice to any federal government agency.
State, county, or city notice forms should be available through the specific local government’s website.
No matter the branch of government, if you don’t fill out the correct claim form and send it to the right place before the filing deadline, your claim is sunk. There are no extensions, and no chances to start over.
Unless you have experience handling government injury claims, you’re better off talking to a personal injury attorney from the start.
Do You Share Blame for the Slip and Fall?
We’re all busy and often distracted. If you were using your cell phone, checking your grocery list, or playing with your child when you slipped on that wet floor, you might be partially to blame for your injuries.
You can be sure the property owner’s insurance company will blame you and may even deny your injury claim. It helps to know they can only get away with that in a few states.
In most places, you’re eligible for compensation even when you share blame for the circumstances leading to your slip and fall.
Contributory Negligence rules affect personal injury claims in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Under pure contributory fault rules, your claim will be denied if you share any blame at all.
Comparative Negligence or modified comparative negligence rules come into play in most states.
Under pure comparative fault rules, you have the right to pursue an injury claim even if you’re the person most responsible for causing your injuries. Your compensation will be reduced in proportion to your share of the blame.
What to Do After Falling on a Wet Floor
Slipping and falling on a wet floor is no joking matter. Commercial establishments normally use hard tile or linoleum to cover floors because of its durability and long-life. Directly under the tile are even harder surfaces, usually concrete or concrete composites.
A hard fall onto a concrete floor is potentially devastating and can result in serious injuries. You may be too stunned to realize how badly you’re hurt.
Knowing what to do, and the mistakes to avoid, after falling on a wet floor can make a big difference in the success of your injury claim.
Medical treatment: Never refuse or delay medical treatment after falling on a wet floor. Stay down and ask for help. Let the manager or a helpful bystander call 911.
The adrenaline rush after an accident can easily mask your injuries. Surprise and distress can hide symptoms of serious, even potentially life-threatening injuries. For example, head injuries are always a medical emergency. You could have a slow bleed on the brain and not realize it.
If you aren’t taken directly to the emergency room by ambulance, get a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Don’t wait to see how you feel. See your personal physician or go to an urgent care center on the same day as the accident.
A delay in medical care can sink your claim. The insurance company will jump at the chance to say your injuries didn’t happen from the fall.
Ask for a manager: If you slip and fall on a wet area, ask to see a manager. If you believe your injuries are serious, ask the manager or an employee to call 911.
Show the manager exactly where you fell and point out the slippery substance responsible for your fall. Make clear there were no wet floor signs anywhere within your view.
Ask the manager to give you the contact information for the main corporate office, and the name and contact information for their insurance company.
Watch what you say: Crashing to the ground is embarrassing. Your first impulse may be to get up and say something like “I’m OK,” or “Only my dignity is hurt.”
Never make excuses or apologize for your injuries. Don’t blame your shoes or suggest you should have been more careful. Anything you say can be used against you by the insurance company.
Don’t let the business owner make excuses for your injuries. If you’ve fallen on a wet floor, talk to a personal injury attorney about the store’s negligence.
Collect Evidence to Support Your Injury Claim
Building your injury claim requires evidence. Gathering credible evidence helps to prove the property owner’s negligence caused your fall and increases the value of your claim for compensation.
Photographs and video: There’s no stronger evidence than a photograph or video of the wet floor with no “wet floor” sign in sight. If you can, pull out your cell phone and take pictures of the scene. Focus on the wet area, taking close-up shots and a panned video up and down the aisle or area adjacent to the wet area.
Even if there is a wet floor sign, take pictures showing the distance from the sign to the wet area, or obstacles that forced you to step onto the wet floor.
If you’re in no condition to take pictures, ask a friend or a sympathetic bystander to take pictures of the scene.
Act quickly to collect photographic evidence. Within minutes of your fall, management will place one or more wet floor signs around the wet area. Once that happens, proving the absence of the signs at the time of your fall will be much more difficult.
Witness statements: Friends and family can be supportive, but their statements don’t help as much as those from strangers who come to your aid. Independent witnesses have nothing to gain from the outcome of your claim, so their testimony carries more weight with insurance adjusters.
Ask for witnesses’ names and contact information. Pull out any paper you can find and ask them to write down what they saw, including a description of the wet floor, and the absence of caution signs warning of the danger. Ask them to sign and date their statements.
Incident reports: Most commercial establishments require management to complete incident reports detailing the circumstances of a visitor’s injuries. Tell the manager you want a copy of the incident report for your records. You probably won’t get a copy without legal action, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Security camera footage: Most businesses have surveillance cameras to capture activity inside and outside the building. Tell the manager you want a copy of all camera footage for the day of your slip and fall injury.
Although you probably won’t get a copy without legal action, it’s important to put the business on notice to preserve any camera footage related to the incident.
Medical records: Without medical records and bills to verify the timing and extent of your injuries, your insurance claim will fail. Tell every medical provider who treats you exactly when, where, and how you came to be injured.
You may be seen by several medical specialists, including paramedics, emergency room doctors, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and more. Be sure to update each one with the details of your slip and fall, including the location and date of injury.
You will also need copies of your medical bills and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses like medications, crutches, and transportation costs for medical appointments.
The notes in your medical records create a link between the slippery floor and your injuries. Copies of your bills and expenses are used to calculate the value of your claim.
Wage statement: Ask your employer for a written statement of lost wages. The statement should include lost opportunities for overtime, and detail how much vacation or sick days you used during recovery from the fall.
Attorneys Can Maximize Your Compensation
If you’ve fully recovered from soft-tissue injuries like bumps and bruises, you probably won’t need an attorney to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company.
Calculate a reasonable compensation demand by totaling the cost of your medical bills and expenses, the cost of ruined clothing, and your lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.
Send a written demand for compensation. Enclose copies of your medical bills and records, receipts, witness statements, and other evidence.
Use our sample Demand Letter for Slip and Fall on a Wet Floor.
You don’t have to handle a minor injury claim on your own. If you’d rather not deal with the insurance company, you can always contact a personal injury attorney for a free consultation about the value of your claim.
For serious or complicated injury claims, you’ll need expert legal help. For example:
- Injury claims against the government
- Allegations of shared blame
- When the property owner refuses to cooperate or share insurance information
- Wrongful death claims
- “Hard” injuries resulting in permanent disability or disfigurement
Insurance companies are notorious for offering low-ball settlements to claimants who aren’t represented by an attorney. When they make their “final offer” they know you probably don’t have the energy or legal savvy to fight for more money.
Don’t settle for less. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.
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