It is a common sight in supermarkets and other stores—a yellow sign telling customers to use caution because the floors have been freshly mopped. Unfortunately, many stores never set up warning signs or cones, and unsuspecting customers can slip on the floor, suffering serious injuries in the process. If you have slipped in a store because of a wet floor, you should carefully document the accident to make a strong case for compensation.
Identify Why the Floor was Wet
There are many reasons why floors can get wet. In some situations, the property owner deliberately makes the floor wet, as when they mop the floor each day. In other situations, the owner might not want the floor to be wet, but it becomes slick because of:
● A leaking pipe or roof
● Rain coming through a door or window
● Condensation forming on the floor
● People tracking snow or water into the building
● Someone splashing a liquid on the floor
Try to identify the cause of the wetness. You should also take a picture. For example, if there is a giant water stain on the ceiling and you see water dripping down, then this is good evidence that a pipe has leaked in the building.
Determine the Owner’s Liability for Wet Floors
Slip and fall cases turn on what actions the property owner or occupier took and what your status is as a visitor. There are three statuses:
Generally, a property owner owes the greatest duty of care to an invitee. This is someone the owner expressly invites onto the property, or a business owner who has their doors open for business. A property owner must use reasonable care to correct defects they know or should know about. An owner also must use reasonable care to uncover defects, such as leaky pipes and collected condensation on the floor.
A proper owner owes a lesser duty of care to licensees who come onto the property with permission but not an invitation. A licensee is usually a social guest. Property owners generally must use reasonable care to make a dangerous condition safe or to warn licensees of it.
An owner owes the least amount of care to a trespasser, who enters the property without invitation or permission. All a property owner is required to do is not intentionally or willfully injure a trespasser. If the trespasser falls and injures themselves, then they must bear the cost of the injury all alone.
Washington’s Wet Floor Sign Law
Under the state’s premises liability law, an owner or occupier is likely negligent if they did not put up a sign warning visitors of the slippery floor. However, everything depends on the facts of the case.
For example, a business owner who mops their floor certainly should put up a sign. They have created the dangerous condition and know about it, so they need to protect their customers. Putting up a sign is the least they can do, telling customers to exercise caution. Without the sign, the owner is probably negligent and responsible for any falls.
Similarly, if liquid from a soft drink service station is all over the floor, a business owner should either clean it up or warn customers. It is no excuse that the owner did not know that there was soda all over the floor, since the law requires that they inspect for dangerous hazards.
However, a neighbor does not need to put up a wet floor sign if you stop by to visit. Under the law, they should probably warn you the floors are wet, but that is all.
Hire an Attorney as Soon as Possible
Slipping on a wet floor can lead to serious injuries that require thousands of dollars of treatment. At Kapuza Lighty, our clients have suffered concussions, broken bones, and nerve damage after an untimely slip. Many of them miss work and suffer a reduced quality of life—all because a business owner or other property owner was too careless to warn them to watch their step. We are proud to represent these clients in their fight for compensation.
After slipping on a wet floor, you should contact us right away. One of our Yakima slip and fall attorneys can review your case and identify whether you have a legitimate claim for compensation. There is no reason to assume your injuries are too minor or that the presence of a wet floor sign means you cannot recover compensation.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.