Whether at a friend's house or a grocery store, slip-and-fall accidents occur fairly often. In some instances, the property owner is responsible for the injured party's injuries. The responsibility may arise from dangerous conditions on the property. This is legally known as premises liability. In other fall cases, the property owner will not be held liable.
FindLaw's Slip-and-Fall Injuries section answers frequently asked questions (FAQ) about premises liability. In this section, you can find articles about conditions that typically lead to slip-and-fall accidents. You can also obtain information on proving fault in a slip-and-fall accident.
Conditions That Make an Accident More Likely
Slip-and-fall accidents can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people simply trip and fall out of clumsiness, but there are hazardous conditions both indoors and outdoors that can make a slip-and-fall accident more likely.
Some common reasons for indoor fall claims are:
- Slippery or wet floors
- Torn or bulging carpet
- Obstructed walkways
- Missing handrails or other safety equipment
Outdoor factors can also play a role in slip-and-fall accidents:
- Inclement weather like ice and snow
- Inadequate or poor lighting
- Potholes or uneven grounding
- Poor maintenance of parking lots or sidewalks
Of course, not every type of condition will lead to a liability claim against a property owner. Generally, the owner's liability will depend on whether they took appropriate action to correct the problem. This can include fixing the unsafe conditions or at least warning people.
For example, it's reasonable for business owners to mop, wax, or polish their floors, but it's also important that they provide adequate warnings or put up safety barriers. Absent extenuating circumstances, a property owner should reasonably keep their place clean without risking injury to others.
Commons Types of Slip-and-Fall Injuries
Like car accidents, personal injury claims in premise liability cases involve tort law. Torts are wrongful civil actions that lead to harm. Personal injury law torts arise from a wide range of serious injuries. Common types of fall injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck and head injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
A slip-and-fall lawyer may advise you to keep track of your medical bills. The nature of your injuries and the ensuing medical expenses will be an important part of the fall lawsuit.
Liability of the Property Owner
Generally speaking, a property owner has a duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions on their property. This is known as the duty of care. The owner must act as a reasonable person in timely mopping a spill and/or adequately warning others. For example, a “wet floor" disclaimer may be visibly posted in an affected area.
A plaintiff's personal injury case must allege that a property owner breached their duty of care. The plaintiff may show that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. The injured person must prove that the owner didn't take reasonable steps to make the area safe. Of course, many factors come into play in each situation, such as:
- The amount of time the dangerous condition has been present
- The foreseeability of harm to likely victims
- The property owner's efforts to address a hazardous condition
- The injured person's own conduct (see comparative negligence)
Many states follow the rule of comparative negligence in slip-and-fall accidents. The theory of comparative negligence holds that an injured person might contribute to the accident. In that case, their award for injuries and other damages will be proportionally lessened by the amount they were at fault. For example, if a person is texting instead of paying attention to a warning sign, they may be comparatively negligent. The degree to which a person is comparatively negligent is determined by a jury or judge.
What You May Recover in Court
Homeowners and business owners alike will usually carry an insurance company policy. The policy is designed to protect them in case they are found to be liable. When a judge or jury verdict finds the property owner liable, the injured person can recover damages.
Economic damages are financial in nature and include:
- Past, present, and future medical expenses
- Lost income, including future potential earnings
- Other quantifiable losses, like at-home care
Non-economic damages, which are subjective and non-monetary, include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Other sentimental inconveniences
In cases where a defendant's conduct is particularly egregious, the court may also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for very shocking behavior. For example, imagine that a business owner purposely left wet floors unattended. An injured plaintiff then shows evidence in court that the owner does this on purpose because they want to laugh at security footage of people getting hurt. The court can make an example out of them by awarding punitive damages.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident on someone else's property, you may need an accident lawyer. You should get legal advice from a personal injury attorney to see if the property owner could be legally responsible for your injuries. A slip-and-fall attorney may sometimes even provide a free case evaluation.
It's in your best interest to contact an attorney soon after your injury. There are time limits that control when an injured person can file a personal injury lawsuit. Each state has a different statute of limitations which sets a specific deadline to file a personal injury case.
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