Indoor Slip and Fall Accident Conditions
Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common causes of serious injuries in the U.S. today. These personal injury cases can involve premises liability, which refers to a property owner's responsibility for dangerous conditions. An injured person brings a slip and fall case to recover for fall injuries caused by the negligence of a property owner. This article specifically addresses hazardous conditions that result in indoor slip and fall accidents. If your injuries occurred outside, we have a separate article to address outdoor slip conditions.
A personal injury claim for premises liability follows the same legal elements as negligence. That includes duty, breach, causation, and damages. All managers, operators, and owners of property can be responsible in fall cases. Homeowners and business owners have a duty of care to prevent foreseeable harm to likely victims. When dangerous conditions persist, an owner may breach their duty by failing to exercise reasonable care.
An owner who fails to reasonably repair a hazardous condition or adequately warn people will likely be found to be in breach. In some situations, property owners can even breach a duty owed to trespassers. For example, a property owner may have a duty to protect trespassing children from dog bite injuries.
When a breaching party's failure to make the premises safe causes another's injuries, the injured person almost has a solid case. The last element they need to prove is damages. The following examples of injuries—often requiring extensive medical treatment—serve as proof of damages:
- Wrongful death
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Brain injuries
- Other serious injuries requiring immediate medical attention
Recall that an owner owes a duty of care to prevent foreseeable harm to likely victims. What dangerous conditions indoors can cause an owner to breach their duty? Read on to learn more.
Lack of Cautionary Signage
Making the premises safe doesn't necessarily mean eliminating a dangerous condition. Sometimes, an indoor area can be dangerous by design. For example, how can a shopkeeper reasonably clean their floors without some form of wet or watery substance? The law recognizes that wet floors don't automatically attribute fault to a property owner.
But a shopkeeper should behave reasonably under the circumstances that involve mopping a floor. That means they should provide adequate warnings or disclaimers to guests and customers. Providing wet floor signs or other warnings is a reasonable way for a store owner to make the premises safe. This is why it is very common to see those foldable yellow plastic warnings wherever janitors are mopping.
Uneven Flooring and Stairs
A property owner can also be liable for poor maintenance of surfaces. Whether it's inadequate landscaping or lack of regular cleaning, surfaces can become unsafe over time. Even the strongest materials can erode over the course of their lifecycles.
Poor maintenance, loose carpets, and uneven flooring installation are great examples that create premises liability. Other dangerous conditions include elevation changes with poor visibility, such as missing light strips on the “step up" portions of walkways. Again, the law isn't asking a property owner to move the sun and the stars to ensure safety. Even if it's too expensive to completely remodel an old walkway, a reasonable shopkeeper can still take fair measures to increase visibility and prevent foreseeable harm.
Wet and Slippery Floors
Grocery stores are one of the most common places where wet and slippery floors can be prevalent. As we already discussed, wetness can reasonably result from cleaning activities. But putting up warning signs isn't always a possibility, especially if the watery conditions aren't related to janitorial works.
Consider the following occurrences that are usually outside a property owner's control:
- Spills/leaks caused by others
- Slippery floor polish inherent in fresh landscaping
- Rain and other weather conditions near entrances
A storeowner could reasonably conduct hourly inspections of store aisles and still miss these problems. For example, an accidental bump from a customer's shopping cart can cause soup cans to fall off shelves. In just seconds, leaks and spills cover the floors. Again, the law doesn't expect the owner of the premises to look into a crystal ball or use their sixth sense to discover these dangers immediately.
When the law imposes a duty, it merely asks that the storeowner behave reasonably under the conditions. A reasonable owner won't discover a spill in mere seconds. It won't be foreseeable that just one minute later, a poor soul slips on that spill. It can all happen so quickly that the owner never has a chance to put up a warning sign or clean up the mess.
On the other hand, it's reasonable for owners to correct foreseeable harm. Suppose the shopkeeper immediately witnesses the spill on their security camera. Or suppose that a customer or employee immediately notices and reports the problem. In these situations, an owner should know better than to sit on their hands and wait for someone to get hurt inevitably. Even if no one is available to clean the mess, it would be reasonable to tape off the area to prevent customers from entering the dangerous area.
Poor Lighting or Broken Bulbs
Inadequate lighting is a no-brainer. Indoor areas don't always have windows to allow the sun or moon to shine through. For example, parking lots must be well-lit to allow people to move safely to and from their cars. Dark hallways must be sufficiently enlightened to permit safe passage.
What if a light pops out? Diamonds may be forever, but even modern LED bulbs have limited lifespans. Does a shop owner have a legal duty to predict these occurrences down to the last second? No. Again, the law doesn't expect owners of property to pull off Houdini-style levels of clairvoyance. Even with reasonable steps taken at every turn, broken bulbs take time to get noticed and repaired.
But the law also doesn't excuse laziness and carelessness, either. In other words, to avoid being negligent, the person who possesses or controls the premises should replace dead lights in a reasonably timely manner. Otherwise, they will incur premises liability to an injured person.
Walkways, Escalators, and Obstructions
In general, any area that can be traversed should be made reasonably safe. Here are some more scenarios demonstrating premises liability:
- A walkway is just too steep, and there's no reasonable way to fix it. But to make the premises safer, liability can be avoided or lessened through the installation of handrails.
- An escalator for shopping carts is missing guardrails. Without a safety mechanism, carts can fall down with speed and injure people.
- A clothing store is full of items or clutter. Hangers on the floor can be obstacles that create hazardous conditions. The owner should designate an employee to make regular aisle sweeps.
The possibilities for injury under premises liability are endless. At the end of the day, it's a question of whether the person or company in control or ownership of the premises exercised reasonable care. Equally important is an injured person's own efforts to behave reasonably.
A careless shopper who forgets to wear their glasses or a bored adult who chooses to skip across aisles has it coming. In those cases, the doctrines of contributory and comparative negligence may come into play. Depending on your state and the facts of your case, these legal principles lessen or eliminate an owner's liability to the injured person. This is due to the injured person's own negligence leading to the accident.
Get An Attorney's Help With Your Indoor Fall Claim
Victims of slip and fall accidents struggle with resulting physical ailments, missed time from work, and piling medical bills. If you are one of those victims, you need a reliable legal team of accident lawyers who can provide you with a free case evaluation.
A fall lawyer is a specific type of personal injury attorney who can help you enforce your legal rights in these circumstances. A fall attorney can file a slip and fall lawsuit against the person, entity, or insurance company responsible for dangerous indoor conditions.
A great first step in pursuing a potential claim is to call the phone number of an experienced personal injury lawyer. They can provide you with legal advice and help you avoid the expiry of your state's statute of limitations. This is a law that requires you to file your claim within a specified deadline.
Was this helpful?
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.