It's sometimes difficult to prove who is at fault -- or liability -- for slip and fall accidents. Thousands of people each year are injured, many seriously, from slipping and falling on a floor, stairs, or other surface that has become slick or dangerous. Even ground that has become uneven to a dangerous degree can lead to severe injuries. However, sometimes it may be difficult to prove that the owner of the property is responsible for a slip and fall accident.
Could the Property Owner Have Prevented the Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, it may be tempting to seek out justice in the form of a lawsuit as soon as possible. But stop and ask this question first: If the property owner was more careful, could the accident have been avoided?
For example, even if a leaking roof leads to a slippery condition that you slip and fall on, the property owner may not be responsible for your injuries if there was a drainage grate in the floor designed to limit slippery conditions. In addition, property owners won't always be responsible for things that a reasonable person would have avoided, such as tripping over something that would normally be found in that location (like a leaf rake on a lawn in the fall). Every person has a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and make efforts to avoid dangerous conditions.
In addition, property owners have a duty to ensure that swimming pools, trampolines and other so-called "attractive nuisances" are secure. For instance, swimming pools must be securely covered and/or protected by a fence to prevent children from using them when unattended.
Property Owner's Duty to Maintain Reasonably Safe Conditions
However, this doesn't mean that property owners are never held responsible for the injuries of others that slipped and fell on their property. Although this isn't a a cut-and-dried rule, property owners still must take reasonable steps to ensure that their property is free from dangerous conditions that would cause a person to slip and fall. However, this reasonableness is often balanced against the care that the person that slipped and fell should have used. What follows are some guidelines that courts and insurance companies use when determining fault in slip and fall accidents.
Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents
If you've been injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else's property because of a dangerous condition, you'll likely need to be able to show one of the following in order to win a case for your injuries:
Because many property owners are, in general, pretty good about the upkeep on their premises, the first situation is most often the one that is litigated in slip and fall accidents. However, the first situation is also the most tricky to prove because of the words "should have known." After presenting your evidence and arguments, it'll be up to the judge or jury to decide whether the property owner should have known about the slippery step that caused you to fall.
If you have a valid claim of negligence for a slip and fall injury, you'll want to work out the types of damages for which your lawsuit will seek compensation, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To get a ballpark figure of what your case may be worth, take a look at our damage estimate worksheet.
When you set about to show that a property owner is liable for the injuries you sustained in your slip and fall accident, you'll most likely have to show, at some point, the reasonableness of the property owner's actions. The following are some questions that you or your attorney will want to discuss before starting a case:
Carelessness, Clumsiness, and Comparative Negligence
Most states follow the rule of comparative negligence when it comes to slip and fall accidents, providing a defense to negligence charges. This means that if you, in some way, contributed to your own accident (for example, you were talking on your cell phone and not paying attention to a warning sign), your award for your injuries and other damages may be lessened by the amount that you were comparatively at fault (this percentage is determined by a judge or jury).
Like researching the liability of the property owner, there are some questions that you can ask of yourself to estimate how likely it is that you'll be found to be comparatively negligent:
If you've been talking with the insurance company about a possible settlement for your injuries, you'll probably be asked many questions that are similar to these. Although you won't have to prove to the insurance company that you were extremely careful, you'll probably have to show enough so that the insurance company can conclude that you weren't acting negligently yoursel.
Do You Have Slip and Fall Liability Questions? An Attorney Can Help
If you've been hurt in a slip-and-fall accident, you may want to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Because of statutes of limitations which limit the time a person has to bring an injury lawsuit, you should act quickly. If you think you have a claim, you may want to get in touch with an experienced, local personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.