How to Know If You Have a Slip and Fall Case
A “slip and fall” is what many may think of as a classic personal injury claim—a person slips or trips on a hazard at a business or residence, falls, and is injured. This type of injury is considered a premises liability claim, a subcategory of personal injury law, and is in fact a relatively common type of personal injury claim. However, determining whether or not a property owner is liable for your injury depends on several factors.
Not every type of accident that occurs at a business or residence fits the liability requirements of a slip and fall claim. While a property owner has a duty to maintain a reasonably safe environment, those who come on to that property for a legitimate reason must also take reasonable care to be aware of and avoid obvious hazards. So determining fault in a slip and fall case hinges not only on determining the property owner’s responsibility in creating or failing to address a dangerous situation, but in determining that the victim of the fall did not cause the accident through carelessness.
For a property owner to be legally responsible for your injury, they (or their employee) must either have caused the slippery or unsafe surface to be underfoot, have known about the unsafe condition and done nothing to fix it or warn people about it, or should have known about it and fixed it because a reasonable person maintaining the property would have found the condition and repaired it. According to the personal injury lawyers at Hodes, Milman & Liebeck, "Many slip and fall cases fall into the third category, which means that a judge or jury will be responsible for deciding what 'reasonable' means, should the case go to trial."
Some factors going into deciding what is reasonable may include how long the hazard was there (a roof leak present for several months versus one that started only hours before, for example), whether it was possible to warn people of the hazard, or what, if any, steps the owner took to regularly maintain the premises.
While it isn’t necessary to prove that you were being ultra cautious, you will have to show that your behavior was not careless. If you were in a part of the property you weren’t meant to be in, for example, or weren’t paying attention to your surroundings, then the property owner may not be liable for your injury. For example, a customer who slipped and fell on a wet floor in the drug store because he was looking at his cell phone and failed to notice the “wet floor” sign is unlikely to have a valid claim. On the other hand, say a bank failed to put up a warning and provide entry mats for the marble floor in their foyer, despite repeated complaints that the floor became slick every time it rained. If a customer fell and was injured during the next rainstorm, that person would have reasonable grounds for a claim.
If you believe a property owner’s negligence was the cause of your slip and fall, contacting a personal injury lawyer is the next step in finding out if you have a case.