Everyone falls. Sometimes we laugh about it (often from our backs on the ground), but other cases aren’t so funny. Incidents of slip and call can occur anywhere: at the grocery store, at work, on a building’s front steps. In fact, approximately one million emergency room visits every year are a result of slip and fall accidents. They can cause substantial harm and injury, which can lead to expensive medical bills. Understanding how slip and falls occur and who is liable for these events is critical to recovering damages and filing a successful slip and fall claim.
Slip and Fall Overview
More times than not, we trip over our clumsiness and fall. Other times, there can be added conditions that contribute to the fall accident and make slips much more likely. For indoor falls, approximately 200 million falls are a result of a slippery, wet floor, poorly waxed surfaces, an uneven carpet or improperly labeled step. Outside, slip and fall factors include walkways that aren’t clear of snow or slick ice, poor night lighting that makes obstructions or steps hard to see or stairs that don’t follow current building safety codes.
Many of these conditions are avoidable but rest on the diligence of the property owner to properly maintain the surfaces of their property. This is why liability for a slip and fall accident is usually on the property owner. That said, not every incident will result in the owner of the property being liable. There has to be sufficient evidence to suggest that this owner failed to identify and correct the contributing conditions of the fall promptly. Or provide clear warning signs of the potential hazard.
Thus, the proper standard of care for a building property owner involves duties like salting the outside walkways and steps during icy conditions, alerting others of any current dangers so they can take proper caution and consistently paying a keen eye on emerging safety codes and the status of the property itself. If an owner follows all of these practices, they limit the chance they will assume liability for slip and fall incidents.
For any damages to be recovered, the plaintiff must adequately show that he or she sustained injuries as a direct result of the slip and fall accident. The severity of the injury impacts how much the victim can recover.
Determining Liability in a Slip and Fall Accident
Assigning fault and responsibility in a slip and fall case is not a precise science. Each case pivots on whether the owner of the property maintained conditions that would make a fall unlikely to occur, as well as the state and mindset of the plaintiff at the time of the incident and how careful (or careless) they acted. For example, in poor, snowy weather, there is an expected level of care and caution that people have to take it slow and be careful. If it was found that the victim was running up the stairs at the time of the accident, this hasty, rushed behavior might fall outside of this expected standard of caution and common sense.
Another typical example, regarding the mindset of trip and fallers not assuming the necessary precaution when moving about inside or outside a property, is whether or not they were intoxicated or otherwise impaired. This can be a contributing factor to a slip and fall that can vastly outweigh most evidence suggesting property owner negligence.
Time is an essential element to slip and fall cases as well. It’s easiest to establish liability when the contributing condition was an issue that the property owner long knew about but did nothing to remedy. A slip and fall accident claim is harder to collect on if the condition that caused the fall was a current issue and hadn’t been brought to the property owners attention yet. In other words, owners have a grace period between when they become aware of a dangerous condition and how long it takes them to fix the issue. For example, a property owner isn’t required to clear sidewalks and walkways during a snowstorm, but in a reasonable time frame after the weather has passed.
For a property owner to be held liable for a slip and fall incident, there has to be a sufficient body of evidence that shows there was a dangerous condition that wasn’t properly taken care of or people made aware of, in am appropriate span of time. There also has to be evidence that shows this condition was a direct cause of the slip and fall and that the plaintiff was not made aware of the hazard through signage or other forms of notice.
The criteria of a slip and fall accident where the property owner is at fault includes:
- The owner of the property knew of the issue, or his/her negligence caused it.
- The owner did nothing or failed to correct the problem appropriately.
- The hazard existed for such a long length of time that the owner should have discovered and fixed the situation before it caused a slip and fall.
Other factors would influence this criterion if the slip and fall occurred on a commercial, residential or government property. Slip and falls that happen at the workplace can be particularly hard to navigate and harder to win because the case can hinder on whether the accident was caused because the victim ignored their training or the company’s policies. Additionally, large corporations can utilize a team of lawyers to defend their position and negate any liability.
What to do After a Slip and Fall Accident
Slip and fall accidents can result in costs up to $250,000 to $300,000 per year. If you have been injured in a slip and fall incident, you should not waste any time in trying to recover damages from the responsible party. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your injuries are a result of the fall. You should immediately begin researching the right and experienced law firm that can get you the help and guidance you need to have a successful slip and fall claim.