If you are injured in a slip and fall, you might have a premises liability claim. Under premises liability laws, property owners have a duty to protect people against dangerous condition on their premises. Premises liability laws cover homeowners, businesses, and public entities (like cities).
Many things can cause a slip and fall, including:
- Structural defects: As a building ages, wear and tear can lead to dangerous conditions. And, some buildings are improperly constructed. These might involve cracked sidewalks, uneven steps, lack of handrails, and excessively slick flooring materials.
- Trip hazards: These hazards include anything that might increase your risk of a trip and fall, such as electrical cords, damaged flooring, or inadequate lighting.
- Weather hazards: Property owners typically must minimize the risk of weather-related conditions. For example, a property owner might have to shovel snow and ice sidewalks in the winter to avoid slip and falls.
Slip and fall laws vary from state-to-state. However there are some common legal considerations. You must prove the owner was negligent. This requires proof that:
- The property owner owed you a duty to protect or warn,
- The owner breached this duty, and
- An injury occurred due to this breach.
In many states, a property owner owes different duties to different types of people. They include:
- Invitee: An invitee is someone who was openly invited onto the property (this include most businesses that are open to the public). A property owner owes invitees a duty to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions.
- Licensee: A licensee enters a property for his own purposes (such as visiting property during a social gathering or party). A property owner must warn a licensee about any known dangerous conditions.
- Trespasser: A trespasser enters a property without permission. Typically, property owners do not owe a trespasser a duty to warn or protect.
- Anticipated Trespasser: If you know that trespassers will likely enter your property, you must give them a reasonable warning if there are hidden, dangerous conditions on your property.
- Children: A property owner typically has a greater duty to protect children. This particularly true of there is an attractive nuisance on the property (such as a swimming pool). If a child wouldn’t identify the danger associated with this attractive nuisance, the property owner must take reasonable care to warn or protect children from harm.
There are many defenses to a slip and fall claim. Your defenses might include:
- Failure to prove the elements of a negligence case,
- The owner took reasonable care to prevent an injury (such as posting warning signs and cleaning up spills),
- The dangerous condition was open and obvious to a reasonable person,
- A reasonable person would have recognized the danger and would have chosen a safer course or route,
- Comparative negligence or contributory negligence,
- Assumption of risk, and
- Statutes of limitations violations.
If you are injured in a slip and fall, you might receive:
- Economic or special damages: compensation for your medical bills and lost wages,
- Non-economic or general damages: compensation for your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment, and
- Punitive damages: damages aimed at punishing the property owner for very severe and offensive violations.
While courts frequently award economic and non-economic damages in successful slip and fall claims, punitive damages are very rare.
Many personal injury claims settle out of court. In exchange for giving up your slip and fall claim, the insurance company will pay you a lump sum or structured settlement. The value of your settlement will depend on many factors, including:
- The nature of your injuries,
- The severity of the property owner’s breach,
- The value of your lost wages and medical bills,
- How quickly you recover, and
- Whether there is conflicting evidence in your claim.
Because most settlements are full and final, you must take the decision to resolve your claim seriously.
It’s typically in your best interest to hire a slip and fall lawyer. Premises liability claims involve a detailed factual and legal analysis. Depending on your circumstances, the insurance company might have strong defenses—which you must address and minimize. Without the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you might make serious mistakes and lose your right to compensation.