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Slip-and-Fall: Do You Have a Case?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

As summer slips into fall, calendar-wise, the incoming wet weather in many parts of the country brings with it the risk for a more literally kind of fall: a slip-and-fall injury.

Unfortunately, wet surfaces are just one of the many conditions that can cause a slip-and-fall injury. Outdoor slip-and-fall injuries can be caused by cracked pavement or sidewalks, inadequate lighting, or hidden dangers such as unfilled holes. Indoors, polished or wax floors, torn carpets, worn stairways or improperly maintained elevators and escalators are all sources of slip-and-fall injuries.

But how do you know if your slip-and-fall injury will make for a winnable personal injury lawsuit? Here are a few factors to consider:

Elements of a Slip-and-Fall Case

Cases involving a slip-and-fall injury typically also involve the legal theory of premises liability. Premises liability makes the owner or possessor of property legally responsible in certain circumstances -- typically, for accidents that were caused by a dangerous condition that the owner or tenant knew or should have known was there.

Premises liability cases generally require these elements:

  • Duty. The owner or the tenant of the land must have owed a legal duty to the person who was injured to take reasonable steps in order to make the property safe. Individuals who are invited on to the property, such as customers in a store, are generally owed a greater duty than those who may be social guests or trespassers.
  • Breach of duty. The owner or tenant must have violated her duty to make the property reasonably safe, such as not reasonably inspecting the property for hazards or failing to warn about known dangerous conditions.
  • Causation. The injury must have been caused by the property owner or tenant's violation of her duty to the injured person, and must have been the foreseeable result of her breach of duty.
  • Damages. The injured person must also have suffered a legally recognized harm, such as a physical injury. Slip-and-fall victims often seek reimbursement for their medical bills and lost wages (from time taken off work to recover); if you don't have monetary damages that you can prove, then your case may be difficult (or not worthwhile) to pursue.

Important Considerations

However, property owners are not legally liable for every injury that takes place on their property. When the injury is caused by the injured person's own carelessness, such as clumsiness or failure to heed warnings, comparative negligence may place some blame on the injured person himself. In addition, when injuries are caused by a dangerous condition that the property owner was unaware of and could not have reasonably discovered or expected, the property owner may be not liable.

It is also important to be aware that if the property on which you were injured is owned by the city, state, or federal government, there are unique rules that apply. And in any event, with any slip-and-fall injury case, there is a statute of limitations which may act to bar claims after a certain period of time has passed.

If you have questions about a slip or fall injury, a personal injury lawyer can explain your legal options.

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