Generally speaking slip and fall cases fall under premises liability cases, where a plaintiff claims that the owner or possessor of property caused or failed to fix a dangerous condition that caused an injury. Slip and fall accidents can happen in a wide variety of places and involve various dangerous conditions. The first thing that is necessary to have a good case is negligence on the part of the defendant.
Negligence is the generally theory that the owner or possessor of the property failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property. To prove negligence, an injured plaintiff must establish the existence of a duty, such as keeping liquid off the floor; breach of that duty, and; that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. As discussed below, the duty owed to a person depends upon whether the property is private or for public use, as well as your legal status while on the property.
Duties of Landowners or Occupiers
Visitors are typically classified as invitees, licensees or trespassers, and the duty owed by the landowner or possessor is different for each. An invitee is someone who enters the land in response to an express or implied invitation from the landowner. A licensee is a person who enters the premises with the landowner's express or implied permission for his or her own purposes rather than the landowner's benefit, like a social guest. A trespasser is someone who enters the land without the owner's permission.
Common Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and falls are very common accidents, and they occur in a multitude of different situations and places. Below is a list of examples.
- Tripping and falling on merchandise that has fallen from store shelves or been improperly stored on the floor.
- Slipping on a wet floor in a public restroom that has been recently cleaned, but with no caution sign.
- Slipping on ice or snow in a parking lot or on a sidewalk in front of a store or office building
- Slipping on spilled food or drink in a grocery store
- Tripping and falling down stairs that are loose, worn or missing a handrail
The above list is small, slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere at anytime.
There are often a number of people or entities that may be held responsible for someone's injuries. In a commercial setting or retail store, the business may rent space from a property owner, and both the property owner and the business (the tenant or possessor/occupier of the property) may be liable. If a third party, such as a management company, was responsible for maintaining the space, but failed to do so, that party may be liable as well. In a residential setting, both a landlord and tenant may be liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on the property.
Generally, if the property owner is a state agency or municipality special rules apply. Please refer to our other articles on the Tort Claims Act for further explanation.
Conclusion and closing comments
No one likes to admit that they were injured as a result of a slip and fall, they can be embarrassing. Don’t feel embarrassed; remember that you would not have fallen had it not been for the acts or failure to act of someone else. Though common, slip and fall accidents can be legally complex. Remember that you need the negligence of the other party, if you tripped over your own feet or were careless in not seeing a step or chair then recovering a settlement will be almost impossible. It is important to contact an attorney who has experience handling slip and fall cases to discuss your case.