When you slip and fall while on someone else’s property, the property owner may be liable for your injuries. If their negligence caused your injuries, they may need to pay damages for the losses caused by the injury. However, their liability can depend on various factors, such as whether you were also negligent in the slip and fall accident.

What is a Slip and Fall Injury?

A slip and fall accident occurs when a person slips and falls on another’s property due to an unsafe condition on the property. This can include unsafe conditions such as:

  • Wet, overly slick, or slippery floors; 
  • Uneven surfaces, such as uneven flooring, broken floorboards, and cracks in the cement or pavement, and other conditions;
  • Fallen items or protruding items that can cause a person to trip;
  • Unstable surfaces, such as a wobbly platform; and
  • Various other conditions.

However, the property owner is typically not automatically liable simply because there was an unsafe condition on the property. In order for the landowner to be liable, they must have been negligent with regard to the unsafe condition. 

In other words, the property owner either knew or should have known that there was a dangerous condition on their property, and yet they failed to fix the dangerous condition before the victim slipped and fell. 

An example of this is where a property owner knew that a particular staircase was in bad condition and might cause an injury. If they knew this, yet failed to repair the staircase, they might be held liable for a slip and fall injury caused by the staircase.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a type of legal defense that is available where the victim was also negligent in the accident. This can happen where the victim did not use reasonable care or did something unsafe to cause or aggravate their injuries.

An example of this is where a person runs in an area that is marked “No running” by the property owner. If their running contributes to their own slip and fall accident, it might affect their ability to collect a whole damages award.

The way comparative negligence works is that the court first must determine that the property owner was negligent. Afterwards, it must also then determine whether the victim was negligent as well. If the court finds that the victim was also negligent in causing their own injury, then the court figures out the percentage of liability for the accident that the victim is responsible for. 

Once that percentage is figured out, the court will deduct that liability percentage from the monetary damages award amount. For example, assume that a plaintiff sustained $100,000 worth of damages from a slip and fall accident or incident. Suppose also that the court found that they were also 25% negligent. Under the comparative negligence defense, the plaintiff will only receive $75,000, which is 25% less of $100,000.

Are There Different Types of Comparative Negligence Claims?

Different states have different views and laws on comparative negligence. Not all states allow comparative negligence to be used as a legal defense to slip and fall claims. States that do allow for comparative negligence might examine the degree of negligence present to determine whether the plaintiff can recover at all. Out of the states that permit the comparative negligence defense, some states follow what is called “pure comparative negligence.” Other states adhere to “modified negligence” defenses.

Under pure comparative negligence laws, the victim’s damages will be reduced based on how exactly negligent he was. It does not matter if he was 99% negligent, the victim will still collect damages for the 1% liability of the other party. 

On the other hand, if a state utilizes a modified comparative negligence rule, then the victim will not collect if they were over 50% negligent. Some states require that a negligent plaintiff to be liable for only 49% or less of the negligence to recover monetary damages. In all comparative negligence damages situations, the damages will generally be reduced in accordance with the percentage of the victim’s negligence.

What Do Damages Cover in a Slip and Fall Claim?

Generally speaking, damages in a slip and fall claim serve to reimburse the injured party for the losses caused by the accident. This can cover costs such as medical expenses, hospital bills, lost wages, and other losses. In some instances, slip and fall damages might cover other losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of future earning capacity, and other monetary considerations.

Again, if the property owner is able to raise a comparative negligence defense, the monetary damages award might be reduced accordingly. Some states place caps or limits on the total amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. 

Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with a Comparative Negligence Defense?

If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, you may need to consult with a personal injury lawyer in your area. Your lawyer will help you assess your case and determine which legal route to pursue. They may also be able to determine whether a comparative negligence defense might apply to your situation.