A slip and fall accident is when a person falls and sustains an injury while on the property of another. Slip and fall accidents, which commonly include step-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents, more commonly occur at businesses like retail stores and grocery stores. Slip and fall accidents are also common in workplaces and leased premises.
Ultimate Guide to Slip and Fall Lawsuits
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a legal concept that comes into play in slip and fall cases. Premises liability requires that a property owner (or non-owner resident) is responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment, like a maintained balcony that will not collapse.
It is important to understand your state’s premises liability laws since they vary from state to state. Some states focus on the visitor’s status and others on the property’s condition.
How Do You Prove Liability?
- Status as a Visitor: In states that focus only on the visitor’s status to the property, four labels apply that aid in establishing the property owner’s liability for any injuries on the premises.
- Invitee: An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property of another. An invitee typically applies to businesses such as retail stores. The law mandates that the property owner should take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the premises when inviting an invitee onto the premises. It is also the property owner’s responsibility to inspect the premises for any dangerous conditions.
- Licensee: A licensee is someone who enters the property for their own purpose. They are usually invited guests present on the premises with the owner’s permission. If the property owner is aware of hidden dangerous conditions, they must warn the residents.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is a person who enters the premises without any right of permission. In general, property owners owe no duty to trespassers.
- Anticipated Trespasser: An exception to the general rule of trespassers applies when the landowner knows trespassers will likely enter the property. The property owner may have to provide a reasonable warning to prevent injury.
Condition of the Property
Invitees and licensees are held liable depending on the property’s condition and activities. It is the owner’s responsibility to exercise “reasonable care” for the visitor’s safety. Trespassers are still not owed any duties.
Factors that the court considers are the following:
- The circumstances of how the visitor entered the property.
- The use to which the property is put.
- The foreseeability of the accident or injury that occurred.
- The reasonableness of the owner’s effort to repair a dangerous condition or whether a sufficient warning was provided to visitors.
Children on Property
A property owner has a duty to warn, as described in the situations above. However, there are new requirements of a property owner concerning children.
A property owner must give a sufficient warning if the following factors are present:
- There is a likelihood that children will be present on the premises, and the owner knows or should know that.
- There is a dangerous condition on the premises, which the owner is aware of.
- The owner knows that the dangerous condition will likely cause bodily injury or death.
The theory behind a special form of liability for child trespassers is based on the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. An attractive nuisance is something that would entice a child into entering another’s property. Swimming pools, fountains, lawnmowers, tunnels, dangerous animals, stairs, and pathways are all examples of attractive nuisances.
The attractive nuisance doctrine consists of three elements:
- The law doesn’t expect children to comprehend the dangers fully they may face.
- If the property owners know that children frequent their property, the law places a special responsibility to prevent danger or injury to the children.
- If an owner fails to meet this special responsibility, they can be held liable for the child’s resulting injuries.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence is, in the simplest terms, the failure to take proper care in doing something. When someone is negligent, someone usually gets hurt.
There are four essential elements of a negligence charge, including:
- Duty: It must be established that the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances. A duty of care may be imposed by law between individuals. In general, foreseeable plaintiffs are owed a duty of care. To be considered a foreseeable plaintiff, the defendant’s conduct must have caused the plaintiff harm.
- Breach: The defendant breached the legal duty of care by acting or failing to act in a certain way.
- Causation: Defendant actually and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. Actual causation is proven if the defendant’s negligence causes the plaintiff’s injury. Proximate causation is proven where the defendant reasonably could have foreseen that their actions would cause injury. For example, if the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injury but it was through some unexpected act of nature, the injury will likely be deemed unforeseeable, and the defendant will not be liable.
- Damages: The defendant’s actions must have harmed the plaintiff. The purpose of compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff whole. Compensation for medical care, lost wages, property damage, and other expenses may be awarded.
The “duty of care” a defendant must undertake to protect foreseeable plaintiffs from injury is an element of negligence claims. It can be hard to define reasonableness, which may vary from place to place and person to person. Generally, it is understood to be the conduct that a reasonably prudent person would take in a similar situation.
Limitations for Slip and Fall Injuries
The statute of limitations may limit when you can file a claim in some jurisdictions. The limitations in each state vary, so it’s important to know them before filing a lawsuit. If you fail to meet these deadlines, your case will likely be dismissed before it has even been heard.
There are three possible remedies for slip and fall injuries: legal remedies, punitive damages, and equitable remedies.
1) Legal Remedies
Legal remedies in tort are also known as “damages.” Damages are compensatory, meaning they are given to compensate the victim for their injuries, losses, and pain/suffering.
Compensatory damages are divided into two classes: Special and General.
General damages are those that flow naturally from the defendant’s conduct. Pain and suffering are examples of general damages.
Special damages compensate the injured person for losses caused by the defendant’s actions. It is necessary to prove special damages, which are out-of-pocket expenses.
Loss of wages, medical expenses, and other financial losses are examples of special damages.
2) Punitive Damages
Although punitive damages are not permitted in contracts, they can be awarded in tort cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their actions and deter similar future behavior.
In cases where the defendant’s conduct is particularly heinous and compensatory damages would not fully compensate the plaintiff, punitive damages will be awarded.
3) Equitable Remedies
Injunctions are the most common equitable remedy in tort cases. Injunctions are court orders that compel parties to act or refrain from acting. Injunctions can be enforced criminally or civilly if a party fails to comply.
Generally, injunctions are awarded when monetary damages would not fully compensate a plaintiff for their harm. Injunctions can be either prohibitory or mandatory. Prohibitory injunctions prohibit a party from acting, while mandatory injunctions compel a party to act. It is possible to modify or terminate injunctions if circumstances change.
In a slip and fall case, the plaintiff’s injuries will likely be sufficiently compensated by monetary compensation. Instead of monetary damages, equitable relief is unlikely to be awarded.
Can I Settle for a Slip and Fall Injury?
A slip and fall settlement occurs when the parties to a slip and fall lawsuit negotiate and agree on a fair amount to compensate the victim for their injuries. Instead of a trial, a settlement is reached. Once a lawsuit is filed, a slip-and-fall settlement is usually reached. Settlements are reached when it can be determined that continuing litigation would be too costly or too risky.
The majority of slip and fall cases are settled before trial. Property owners usually face these situations when the claims are minor and clear fault can be established.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have been injured due to a slip and fall accident, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced slip and fall lawyer if you need help filing a lawsuit. In addition, a personal injury attorney can protect your rights and ensure you receive a more fair settlement.
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