A slip and fall accident is a general term used to refer to numerous personal injury claims occurring when an individual slips or falls on another individual’s property due to dangerous conditions.
The dangerous condition may be almost anything, including poor lighting or broken handrails on a staircase. When an individual is injured in a slip and fall accident, the facts and circumstances of their accident may provide them with grounds for a premise liability claim.
A premise liability claim is a type of personal injury claim where the claimant seeks to hold the property owners responsible for the injuries the plaintiff suffered on their land. Generally, homeowners, businesses, and public entities, such as cities, are all subject to premise liability laws.
This means that a property owner has a duty to protect individuals against dangerous conditions on their premises. In addition, if the property owner fails to do so, the injured party may be able to bring a claim against them.
In these types of cases, it may be possible for the injured party to recover damages for any injuries they sustained.
What are Some Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents?
There are many issues that may lead to slip and fall accidents, including:
- Structural defects: As a house or building ages, it is exposed to ordinary wear and tear. If it is not properly repaired, it can cause dangerous conditions for those on the premises. Additionally, some buildings are not well-constructed;
- Trip hazards: These hazards may include anything that could increase an individual’s chances of a trip and fall, such as:
- hanging electrical cords; damaged flooring; or
- inadequate lighting; and
- Weather-related hazards: A property owner generally must minimize the risk of hazards from weather conditions. For example, a property owner may have to shovel snow and ice on sidewalks in the winter to avoid slip-and-fall scenarios on or near their premises.
What Kinds of Claims Could a Plaintiff Make?
During the winter months, ice and snow may become treacherous. If an individual slips and falls because of an icy or snowy sideway, they may be entitled to compensation.
The majority of ice and snow injuries will result in a premises liability or a slip and fall claim. The laws governing slip and fall cases vary by state.
However, there are certain common legal grounds that all statutes take into consideration. For example, an individual usually has to prove that the property owner was negligent, which requires the plaintiff to show:
- The property owner owed the person a duty to protect or warn against dangerous conditions;
- The property owner breached this duty; and
- An injury occurred as a result of the property owner’s breach.
It is important to note that different standards of care are owed to different individuals. For example, a business owner has a greater duty to protect their customers than a private property owner does for their houseguest.
A trespasser is typically owed very few protections. In many states, property owners owe different duties to different types of individuals, including:
- Invitees: An invitee is an individual openly invited onto the property; for example, most businesses open to the public. A property owner owes a duty to invitees to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions;
- Licensees: A licensee enters a property for their own purposes, for example, visiting the premises for a social visit or party. A property owner has a duty to warn a licensee about any known dangerous conditions on the premises;
- Trespassers: A trespasser is an individual who enters the property without the property owner’s permission. Typically, a property owner does not owe a trespasser a duty to warn or protect;
- Anticipated Trespassers: If a property owner knows that a trespasser will likely enter their property, then the property owner is required to provide them a reasonable warning if there are hidden, dangerous conditions present on the premises; and
- Children: A property owner usually has a greater duty to protect children. This is especially true when there is an attractive nuisance on the property, for example, a swimming pool;
- If a child is unaware of the dangers associated with an attractive nuisance, then the property owner must take reasonable care to warn or protect children who enter their property from harm.
Is it More Difficult to Bring a Claim if the Defendant is a City or Private Citizen?
It is typically more difficult for an individual to win a slip-and-fall case against a city or municipality. In these cases, governmental immunity may apply unless this immunity has been waived.
The laws of a state may also reduce the government’s standard of care or its duty to protect citizens against hazardous conditions. In addition, many city and state laws impose strict notice and filing deadlines on premises liability claims against the government.
In some instances, the notice deadline is as short as thirty days. If an individual fails to meet these deadlines, their lawsuit may be dismissed.
In governmental premises liability claims, an injured individual’s compensation may also be limited or capped. These rules also vary by state.
If an individual has questions about their community’s laws, they should consult with a local attorney for assistance.
What Defenses Should a Plaintiff Expect?
There are numerous defenses to premises liability claims. As noted above, claims made against cities and states often involve governmental immunity and strict procedural requirements.
If an individual misses these notice and filing deadlines, they will not receive compensation for their injuries. The most common defense to ice and snow slip and fall cases is that the conditions were open and obvious.
If a reasonable individual could recognize the hazard, the defendant may not be liable for its failure to warn about or correct the condition. Depending on the individual’s case and the laws of their state, ice and snow may be considered open and obvious.
However, it is important to note that the open and obvious defense may not be successful in cases of black ice. In addition, some states do not hold a landowner liable for the natural accumulation of ice and snow.
In these states, a homeowner does not have a duty to remove ice and snow that naturally accumulates. However, a homeowner may be found negligent if the hazard is unnaturally accumulated.
For example, an owner may be liable for ice that builds up near a gutter or a downspout. Other defenses in an icy sidewalk claim include contributory negligence and comparative negligence.
If an individual’s actions or negligence contributed to their injuries, their damages may be reduced. If an individual has any questions regarding the strength of their claim and possible defenses, they should consult with a premises liability lawyer.
What Remedies or Compensation Can a Plaintiff Demand?
If an individual was injured as a result of a property owner or a municipality failing to remove ice and show, they might be entitled to compensation for:
These damages are calculated on a case-by-case basis. An individual’s entitlement to compensation will depend on the following:
- Severity of their injuries;
- Degree of negligence; and
- Value of their out-of-pocket expenses.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If you or a loved one have been injured due to a slip and fall accident, it is best to consult with a slip and fall lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you of your state’s laws and filing requirements, investigate your claim, and file a lawsuit.