California Slip and Fall Laws

If you're making an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit after a slip and fall in California, keep these state laws in mind.

By , J.D.

When you're injured in a slip and fall in California, here's what you need to know:

  • If someone's negligence played a part in your California slip and fall, your options might include making an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit in court (or both).
  • California's statute of limitations sets a strict deadline for getting a slip and fall lawsuit started in court.
  • California's "comparative negligence" rule might affect your compensation if you bear some level of responsibility for your slip and fall accident.

Making a Slip and Fall Injury Claim In California

After any kind of slip and fall incident in California, you might have several options for getting compensation for your injuries, out-of-pocket losses, and other harm (these losses are called "damages" in legalese). For example:

Your goal in the insurance claim process is to come away with a fair settlement that covers the cost and impact of your slip and fall injuries and related losses. But keep in mind that even if your slip and fall case ends up in court, it can still reach a settlement at any point before trial (the vast majority of injury cases settle, after all).

Check out our example of a slip and fall settlement in California, and get more details on making a successful slip and fall case:

The California Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall Injuries

A statute of limitations is a state law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard by the state's court system. The time limits vary depending on the kind of case you want to file.

As in most states, the statute of limitations that will affect a slip and fall injury claim in California is the same as the larger one that applies to most personal injury cases filed in the state's civil court system. Specifically, California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 sets a two year deadline for the filing of "an action for...injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another."

What If My Property Was Damaged in the Slip and Fall?

Maybe you broke your phone or an expensive watch when you fell. There is a separate three year deadline for getting a lawsuit filed over the repair or replacement of damaged property in California. That statute of limitations is set by California Code of Civil Procedure section 338.

What If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you try to file your slip and fall lawsuit after the deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, the property owner (or whoever you're trying to sue) will almost surely ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is certain to grant the dismissal, unless some rare exception applies to pause or "toll" the statute of limitations clock.

From a strategy standpoint, you want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a slip and fall lawsuit, even if you're only making an insurance claim for now and you're confident it will reach a settlement. At the very least, having the option of going to court will give you more leverage during settlement talks.

What If Government Negligence Caused My California Slip and Fall?

If your slip and fall injury was caused by the carelessness of a government employee in California—you tripped and fell on a broken section of city-owned sidewalk, or in the DMV parking lot, for example—any claim you file will probably need to follow a special set of rules:

  • You'll likely need to provide the government entity with notice of your claim within six months of your injury.
  • You'll probably need to give the state or municipal government a chance to respond to your allegations.

Learn more about filing a claim under the California Tort Claims Act.

Comparative Negligence in California Slip and Fall Cases

Before you decide to file an insurance claim or lawsuit over your slip and fall, it's a good idea to anticipate the property owner's argument that you share some amount of responsibility for your accident.

It's important to be ready to counter this argument, because if it is successful, under California's "pure comparative negligence" rule you could see a significant chunk of any court award taken away (and a finding of shared fault will also likely reduce the value of your settlement).

Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.

How California's Comparative Negligence Rule Can Affect a Slip and Fall Court Case

In the rare event that your California slip and fall lawsuit makes it all the way to trial, under the state's "pure comparative negligence rule," any damages award you receive will be reduced according to the percentage of your fault.

So, let's say the jury finds that you are 30 percent to blame for your slip and fall accident (maybe you were on your phone at the time of the incident). They also find that your damages total $100,000. In that situation the property owner will only be on the hook for $70,000 (that's the original $100,000 minus the 30 percent that equates with your share of fault).

Your Share of Fault Can Also Affect Your Slip and Fall Settlement In California

If your slip and fall case doesn't make it to trial—even if a lawsuit isn't actually filed, for that matter—California's comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. During settlement negotiations, the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) will have these shared fault rules in mind. They're concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court, after all.

You can expect any settlement offer from the other side to reflect their view of your role in causing your own slip and fall accident, seen through the lens of California's shared fault rules. So it becomes that much more important to make a strong case against the property owner.

Getting Help After a California Slip and Fall

Any time you're hurt on someone else's property, it's important to understand the big picture—including whether the property owner or someone else might be legally responsible for your injuries—and to make sure your rights are protected. Discussing your situation with an experienced legal professional might be a good next step.

Learn more about how an attorney can help after an accident or injury, and get tips on finding the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a California personal injury attorney in your area.

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