A slip and fall accident is a general term that is used to refer to a variety of personal injury claims that occur when someone slips or falls on another’s property due to some kind of dangerous condition being present.
The dangerous condition could be almost anything, including poor lighting or broken handrails to a staircase.
When someone is injured in a slip and fall accident, they may have grounds for a premise liability claim. Premise liability claims are a type of personal injury claim where a claimant seeks to hold a property owner responsible for the injuries that they received on their land.
In general, homeowners, businesses, and public entities (e.g., cities) are all subject to premise liability laws.
This means that not only do property owners have a duty to protect people against dangerous conditions on their premises, but also that if they fail to do so, then an injured party may be able to bring a claim against them. In such cases, it may be possible for them to recover damages for any injuries sustained.
What are Some Common Causes of a Slip and Fall Accident?
Many things can lead to a slip and fall accident, including:
- Structural Defects: As a house or building ages, it is exposed to ordinary wear and tear, which if not properly repaired, can cause dangerous conditions for those on the premises. Additionally, some buildings are not well-constructed.
- For example, if a building has uneven steps, a lack of handrails, excessively slick flooring materials, or cracked sidewalks leading up to it, then a property owner should consider repairing these issues or else risk liability.
- Trip Hazards: These hazards may include anything that could increase a person’s chances of a trip and fall, e.g., hanging electrical cords, damaged flooring, or inadequate lighting.
- Weather-related Hazards: In general, property owners must try and minimize the risk of hazards stemming from weather conditions. For instance, a property owner might have to shovel snow and ice on sidewalks in the winter to avoid slip and falls on or near their premises.
When is a Property Owner Legally Responsible for a Slip and Fall Accident?
Slip and fall laws vary according to the laws of a state, but there are some common legal grounds that all statutes take into consideration. For instance, a person typically has to prove that the property owner was negligent. This requires proof that:
- The property owner owed the person a duty to protect or warn against dangerous conditions;
- The property owner beached this duty; and
- An injury occurred as a result of the property owner’s breach.
Also, in many states a property owner owes different duties to different types of people. This includes:
- Invitees: An invitee is someone who was openly invited onto the property (e.g., most businesses that are open to the public). A property owner owes a duty to invitees to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions;
- Licensee: A licensee enters a property for their own purposes, such as 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;
- Trespasser: A trespasser is someone who enters the property without a property owner’s permission. Typically, property owners do not owe a trespasser a duty to warn or protect;
- Anticipated Trespasser: If a property owner knows that a trespasser will likely enter their property, then the property owner must provide them a reasonable warning if there are hidden, dangerous conditions present on the premises; and
- Children: A property owner typically has a greater duty to protect children. This is especially true when there is an attractive nuisance on the property, such as a swimming pool.
- If a child would not be able to see the danger associated with an attractive nuisance, then the property owner must take reasonable care to warn or protect children entering the property from harm.
Are There Any Defenses to Slip and Fall Claims?
There are many defenses that an opposing party may be able to assert against a slip and fall claim. Some defenses might include:
- Comparative negligence or contributory negligence;
- Assumption of risk;
- Failure to prove the elements of a negligence case (i.e., affirmative defenses);
- Statute of limitation violations (these rules will vary by state);
- The owner took reasonable care to prevent an injury, such as posting warnings signs or cleaning up spills; and
- A lack of fault defense. For example, a reasonable person would have been able to recognize the danger and as such, would have chosen a safer route, or the dangerous condition that caused the injury was open and obvious to a reasonable person.
What Type of Damages Can I Receive for a Slip and Fall Accident?
When someone is injured in a slip and fall accident, there are several types of damages that they may be awarded. These include:
- Economic or Special Damages: This refers to monetary damage awards and can involve being compensated for medical bills, lost wages, or replacement of broken property;
- Noneconomic or General Damages: Non-economic or general damages are those covering costs for items such as, the injury itself, pain and suffering, disability or disfigurement, and loss of “enjoyment of life.”
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are exactly what their name sounds like — damages aimed at punishing the property owner for very severe and offensive violations.
In general, courts tend to only award economic and non-economic damages in a successful slip and fall case. Punitive damages are rarely ever awarded.
To determine what kinds of damages you may be eligible for, you should reach out to a personal injury lawyer for an estimated evaluation of your claims.
Can I Settle a Claim for a Slip and Fall Accident?
It is not uncommon to settle a claim for a slip and fall accident out of court. In fact, it is quite often the way that many personal injury claims get resolved. What occurs is that in exchange for giving up the slip and fall claim, the insurance company will pay the claimant either a lump sum or some kind of structured settlement allotment.
The value of a claimant’s settlement will depend on many factors, such as:
- The nature of a person’s injuries;
- How quickly someone recovers;
- The value of a person’s lost wages and medical bills;
- Whether there is conflicting evidence found in the claim; and
- The severity of the property owner’s breach.
Also, making a decision about whether or not to resolve a claim through a settlement must be taken very seriously because most settlements are full and final.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Slip and Fall Accident Claim?
It is typically in your best interest to hire a lawyer who handles slip and fall cases. This is due to the fact that premise liability claims usually involve a detailed factual and legal analysis.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, an insurance company might have a strong defense strategy that must be addressed and minimized. Without the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you could make serious mistakes and lose your right to compensation.