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Slip-and-Fall FAQ

This slip-and-fall FAQ discusses frequently asked questions involving premises liability cases. Premises liability law concerns harm to people as a result of hazardous conditions on property. In a slip-and-fall personal injury case, a premises liability claim can involve very serious injuries. Like a car accident, a slip-and-fall is a type of accident that can involve:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Broken bones, torn muscles, and other injuries requiring extensive medical care
  • Emergency room treatment for internal bleeding
  • Wrongful death (the passing of a victim due to a property owner's negligence)

A slip-and-fall is a type of personal injury claim. It falls under negligence personal injury law, which concerns a defendant's carelessness. In general, property owners must exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to likely victims.

For example, a business owner has a duty of care to customers to ensure their safety. It would be reasonable for them to keep a parking lot clear of falling pallets of merchandise. If the owner's carelessness creates slippery walkways or torn carpeting, they should make a reasonable effort to make it safe before someone trips and falls.

Q: Does a warning or disclaimer negate liability?

A: If a property owner puts up a warning or asks guests to sign a disclaimer, the owner may be able to limit their liability. A warning or disclaimer doesn't automatically absolve an owner of all liability. For example, a visible “wet floor" warning might be enough in circumstances where the sign can be clearly understood by a reasonable person. If a disclaimer is made untimely or doesn't properly identify the location of the danger, it might not negate liability. Also, if a property owner creates dangerous conditions that can't be reasonably avoided with a mere warning or disclaimer, liability to injured parties will continue to exist.

Q: If someone falls on a broken piece of a city sidewalk and is injured, can they sue the city?

A: An injured person may have a case against the city in such a situation. This is because municipalities have a duty to keep streets and sidewalks in repair. An injured party might have a successful case against the city if they can show that it failed to maintain the sidewalk. There are very important deadlines and requirements for giving municipalities notice of such claims. A fall lawyer can advise about any deadline, also known as a statute of limitations.

Q: What if someone gets injured while at the home of a neighbor who invited the injured person there for a party?

A: Social guests are sometimes able to recover from their hosts. This depends on how their injuries happened. Homeowners must tell their guests about, or correct, any dangerous conditions that guests are unlikely to recognize. For example, suppose an injury was caused when a guest tripped on a throw rug. Here, the victim may be able to recover if they could prove that the host knew other people had tripped over it and the guest was unlikely to realize its danger. The host probably should have warned guests about it,  removed it during the party, or secured it to the floor with tape or tacks.

Q: Can someone receive compensation from a store where they were injured in a slip-and-fall accident?

A: The specific facts of each case will determine whether an injured party can recover damages. Damages may be recovered from the store owner, building owner, or the landlord. Stores have a duty to keep their floors reasonably safe for customers. Employees should routinely inspect areas the public might access. This helps to discover any potentially dangerous conditions. If a slippery substance on the floor causes a fall, liability may ensue. A plaintiff may show that the substance had been there for a relatively long period of time. They may also argue that the store otherwise had notice of it. If the store or other liable party failed to take reasonable steps to make the area safe, the plaintiff may recover damages.

Q: What duties do property owners have regarding ice and snow removal?

A: Generally, the law doesn't require a property owner to remove ice or snow that accumulates outside their building as a result of the weather. However, if conditions on the property cause an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow, the property owner may be liable for slip-and-fall accidents. In addition, if a property owner elects to provide snow or ice removal, the services must be performed reasonably. A negligent removal means chunks of ice may be left behind. An unsuspecting guest who trusts that the area has been made safe could be harmed. A property owner will have violated their duty of care in this case and may be liable.

Q: When will the law say a property owner "should have known" about a dangerous condition on their property?

A: In most cases, the law will say a property owner "should have known" about a dangerous condition if it was foreseeable. That means it existed for such an amount of time that a reasonably careful person, under similar circumstances, would have discovered it. If the condition was foreseeable to the property owner and yet they ignored it, they may be liable to injured parties. On the other hand, what if an injured guest needs medical attention as a result of their own carelessness? The doctrine of comparative negligence might assign all or some of the blame to an injured party who is personally at fault.

Q: Is the fact that someone warned an employee of a store about a spill important? What types of damages are available?

A: Yes, the fact that an employee of the property owner (or possessor) was given notice is important. Advance warning of a dangerous condition is very helpful in establishing that the owner knew of the condition. If they were still negligent in failing to remedy it, they may have liability to injured victims. This includes responsibility to pay their (special) economic damages, which are damages like medical bills that can be ascertained. Unlike medical expenses, some injuries are hard to quantify. For example, pain and suffering is a non-economic (general) damage that may also be recoverable.

Q: Can a building owner's violation of a building code ever be used to help a plaintiff win a slip-and-fall case?

A: Yes, occasionally a plaintiff can prove negligence by showing that a property owner violated a relevant statute or code. A building owner must ensure that their building's structure is in compliance with applicable codes. For example, building codes often dictate when and where handrails and other similar features must be installed. Suppose you fall on a stairway that lacks appropriate handrails. The lack of the handrail caused your injuries. Here, you may have a valid claim against the building owner based on the building code violation.

Q: Who can be held liable in a slip-and-fall case?

A: In slip-and-fall cases, there are often a number of people or entities that may be held responsible for someone's injuries. For instance, if a business rents space from a property owner, both the property owner and the tenant (the business) may be named as defendants. In that case, the tenant is known as a possessor of the property. The tenant has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent injury to those on the premises under its control. A possessor might also be a party who manages or maintains the property, such as a management company. An accident lawyer can help you identify other potential defendants.

Q: Should I get legal help with my slip-and-fall claim?

A: Lawsuits can allow you to receive compensation for your slip-and-fall injuries, but proving liability in a slip-and-fall case is often a complicated task. Insurance companies, especially homeowners' insurance adjusters, will fight tooth and nail to avoid payout. 

An experienced attorney can provide legal advice to you and your loved ones. A personal injury attorney will even sometimes provide a free case evaluation. They can help you and your family members understand your legal rights. Contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area can help you obtain the best outcome possible.

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