A slip and fall injury usually occurs when a person slips on a surface or trips and falls on some object or protrusion from the floor. These can happen in various situations and places; however, most lawsuits that are filed for slip and falls have to do with injuries that happened in a business establishment. This can include places like retail stores, grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, and other places.
Slip and fall injuries can result in legal liability if the slip and fall incident occurred on the property of someone who had a duty to keep his or her premises in a safe condition. For instance, as mentioned, many slip and fall lawsuits happen in connection with retail stores. Retail store owners and shop owners generally have a duty to make sure the premises are safe for patrons and customers.
If, for example, the shop owner knew or should have known about a dangerous condition, but failed to fix it or remedy it, then they might be held legally liable if the dangerous condition caused a person’s slip and fall injury. For shop owners, it is important to know some of the basics of slip and fall injuries and the potential legal liability connected with them.
Slip and fall accidents can happen in a number of ways and due to many different causes. These can include:
- Injuries resulting from wet or slippery floors;
- Falls resulting from an object that wasn’t picked up from the floor;
- Accidents caused by uneven flooring, protruding floorboards, cracks in the ground, and other similar conditions;
- Injuries resulting from items that are sticking out or protruding (for instance, if a piece of wood is jutting out from a shelf or table); and
- Various other causes that were not listed above.
Slip and fall injuries can include sprains, strains, broken bones, lacerations, concussions, and other injuries. Slip and fall accidents can be particularly dangerous or harmful if the person’s head, neck, or spine are injured in the process. This can lead to more serious injuries and medical conditions.
If you are a property owner, and someone is injured in a slip and fall accident on your property, you might be held legally responsible for their injuries. However, the plaintiff (the injured party) has to actually prove negligence on your part. In such situations, there are several defenses you can assert that might limit or completely eliminate any liability you might have.
Legal defenses to slip and fall claims can include:
- No Breach of Duty: In order to win a slip and fall case, the plaintiff has to show that the owner did not breached their duty to maintain their property in a safe condition. If you are a store owner and can show that you took the proper efforts to keep the store in a proper and safe manner, you might not be held liable;
- Lack of Causation: The plaintiff has to show it was actually the store’s fault that the slip and fall accident happened. Suppose that the plaintiff suffered an injury caused by someone dropping a banana peel on the floor. If you can show that it was not you nor one of your employees who dropped the peel, the plaintiff might not be able to prove negligence on your part.
- Comparative or Contributory Negligence: Comparative and contributory negligence may be claimed when the court compares the plaintiff’s own negligence against the defendant’s negligence. This is typically a defense that is used when the plaintiff acted recklessly or carelessly, causing injury to themselves.
- If the court finds that the plaintiff was partially responsible, it will typically reduce your liability and the amount you will have to pay accordingly.
- For example, if a court determines that the victim was 40% responsible for the injury, then you might only have to pay 60% of the damages awarded to the victim. In some states if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% responsible for their own injuries, then you do not have to pay anything. An example of this type of situation is where the plaintiff was roughhousing and contributed to their own slip and fall accident.
State laws may differ with regard to the type of defense that is available. Also, each case will be different, and some defenses may be available only under certain circumstances. It may be in your best interests to consult with an attorney to determine exactly what types of defenses you can raise under the slip and fall laws of your particular state.
Slip and fall cases can result you in paying large amounts of monetary damages to the plaintiff. It is best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area who can help you respond to a slip and fall lawsuit. Your lawyer will be able to put forth the defenses that have the highest chance of succeeding.