WeCanHelp_FallYou slip and hit the floor near a newly-mopped area in a supermarket. You trip over a hole on the pavement in front of a store. And as you find yourself clearly injured, you think the building owner bears all, if not most, of the responsibility. Unfortunately, slip and fall cases, also known as premises liability claims, aren’t as cut and dry. Owners must provide a reasonable degree of care to all invited and expected visitors, but his or her liability isn’t always clear and absolute. As you seek legal attention, the following factors will arise:

Proving the Owner’s Liability

Three factors establish an owner’s liability when a slip and fall injury occurs on the premises:

  1. The owner was acutely aware of the issue well in advance, but didn’t make an attempt to improve the area’s conditions.
  2. The owner should have known and should have taken reasonable steps to prevent others from getting injured.
  3. The present condition directly led to the injury.

Often, common sense prevails in these cases. The defendant’s behavior, as a result, is analyzed, and a lawyer will look to establish that he or she made a consistent effort to keep the property clean, safe, and up to code; how long the condition existed; that the owner had enough time to address it; and if the owner’s approach was appropriate. At the scene, to show what conditions you encountered at that point and time, take pictures with your phone. During your case, this evidence will assist with indicating what hazards were present.

What’s “Reasonable”?

The above points stress the property owner remedying the situation in a “reasonable” amount of time and taking appropriate steps to correct it – or, at least, notify others within the premises that a danger is present. Yet, multiple factors contribute to a “reasonable” reaction:

  • How long was the condition, such as a wet floor, pot hole, or patch of ice, present before anyone detected it?
  • Which daily activities does the owner engage in to prevent such conditions from regularly occurring?
  • Any proof to support the above claims.

Comparative Negligence

In slip and fall cases, several states have a comparative negligence rule; specifically, the injured bears some responsibility as a result of behaving in a careless manner. Essentially, if the condition was something a “reasonable” person would have avoided but the plaintiff ended up injured, it is established that the plaintiff is at least partially responsible for his or her injuries. A common example is when a property owner sets up “caution” or “danger” signs and barriers, but the plaintiff still enters the area. Or, equipment is clearly visible and has ample space around it, but the plaintiff, possibly distracted, walks into it and trips. Lawyers and courts measure careless by two factors: Did the plaintiff have a legitimate reason to be there, and did the owner expect the plaintiff to be there? As well, in the questioning stages, you may be asked if you thought another person could have realized and avoided the situation; if you saw barriers or signs to prevent you from avoiding an accident; and if you were participating in activities – such as running near a wet area with clear “caution” signs and barriers – that directly led to slipping and falling. Because of these aspects, an unsafe condition within a premises is not an automatic cause for a slip and fall case. Nevertheless, negligent property owners need to be held accountable when oversights result in serious injuries. If a slip and fall case has resulted in high medical bills and months of physical therapy, work toward a resolution with Trantolo & Trantolo.