As part of an overall increased awareness of the potential to be sued for personal injuries, many businesses and property owners are choosing to display warning signs for potentially dangerous conditions on a property or inside a building.
But what happens if you are nevertheless injured by what a warning sign is actually warning you about, such as slipping on a wet floor where a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign was posted, or being bitten by a dog despite a posted "Beware of Dog" sign?
Can you still sue for injuries if there was a sign? Generally, yes, but it may be more difficult to successfully recover for those injuries. Here are a few examples of common warning signs and their possible effects on a potential lawsuit:
"Do Not Enter." Property owners may be responsible for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on their property through a legal doctrine known as premises liability. The presence of a "Do Not Enter" sign may mean that those who enter without authorization would be considered trespassers. However, even trespassers are still owed a legal duty to be reasonably warned of artificial conditions on property that may cause injury. And in the case of children, certain conditions on property may be considered an attractive nuisance, creating a special legal responsibility for the owner of the property even when a "Do Not Enter" sign is posted.
"Beware of Dog." A sign warning others about the dangers of being bitten by a dog located on property may in some circumstances actually be used against the property owner or possessor in an injury case. Dog bite cases in many states require proof that the owner of the dog knew or had reason to know of a dog's "vicious propensities." The posting of a warning sign can be offered as evidence of this knowledge. But a warning sign may also allow the owner of the dog to argue that an injured person assumed the risk of injury by getting near the dog despite being warned not to.
"Caution: Wet Floor." In cases involving indoor slip and fall injuries caused by a slippery floor, the presence of a warning sign regarding hazardous conditions may make it more difficult to prove that the of the owner or possessor of property is legal liable for your injuries. However, factors such as the visibility of the sign may mitigate the ability of a defendant to use an assumption of the risk defense.