Washington State allows people to sue the owners or operators of private property like stores and restaurants for injuries they suffered on the premises. However, there are laws and earlier cases that impose some limits you may need to consider before moving ahead with a lawsuit.

Look at the following cautions, and then consider consulting an attorney to help you decide if a suit is likely to be worth your while.

What customers owe a store

Daily life for most Americans would be nearly impossible if store owners could not expect a certain amount of reasonable care and common sense from their customers. Customers have the right to expect only a reasonably safe place with the spaces and equipment needed to do business.

So, you may lose a lawsuit if you were in the store when it was not open or in a part of the store marked “employees only” or the like. Reasonably legible signs telling customers to watch their step on stairs or go around a fresh, slick spill on the floor might be enough to fend off successful suits.

To be likely to succeed, your injury would be reasonably expected to happen to a normally careful person trying to do ordinary activities expected in retail-space.

What a store owes its customers

Business owners open their doors and welcome customers into their space. Being reasonably responsible for the health and safety of those customers is not too much to ask.

So, for example, the place should have enough lighting for people of a wide variety of abilities to see where they are going. If something acts as a tripping or slipping hazard, a warning sign is the absolute least we can ask for. Although business owners are not superheroes, some hazards are easier to spot than others. They can arise as suddenly as a broken bottle of olive oil, but owners can make them safe reasonably quickly too. The question is often whether the owner “should have known” it was a hazard at the time the injury happened.

You do not have long to decide

Three years can seem like a long time. But injuries can be complicated and take time to become obvious, heal or fail to heal. Sometimes, it takes a while to realize where they came from.

On the other hand, witnesses who were there on the day can forget what they say, especially since it was likely a less memorable day for them than for you. Going back to the scene of the accident to take pictures or measurements becomes less valuable with each passing day as people move things move around, repair problems, etc. If you have a viable suit, you have three years legally speaking, but practically speaking you should act as soon as you believe you could.