In certain situations, you can be held legally responsible when a person is injured on your property in a slip and fall accident. A slip and fall accident generally refers to a wide range of personal injury lawsuits that can be brought when a person slips or falls on another person’s property. These cases often involve some type of dangerous condition on the property where there was an accident. A dangerous condition can be many things and can result when an owner does not regularly maintain a property or when there is regular wear and tear that happens over time.
Some examples of a dangerous condition include bad lighting or problems with structures on a property such as balconies, staircases, handrails and support beams. When a person is injured in a slip and fall accident on your property, they may be able to sue you in what is called a premises liability lawsuit.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a term used to describe a type of personal injury claim where an individual tries to find a property owner legally responsible for the injuries that they received while they were on his or her property. Residential homeowners, business owners, and public entities (for example, towns or cities) can all be held legally responsible under premises liability laws.
Property owners often have a duty to protect people against dangerous conditions on their property, and if they do not, then an injured person may be able to bring a lawsuit against them. In some premises liability lawsuits, it may be possible for an injured person to collect money, called damages, for any injuries they received from the accident.
When Is a Property Owner Legally Responsible for Injuries After a Slip and Fall Accident on Their Property?
In general, to find a property owner legally responsible, the plaintiff (the person who is suing) must prove that the property owner had a duty to the person injured to keep the property safe and free from dangerous conditions. It is important to remember that the slip and fall injury laws change from state to state and will depend on the specific laws of your state. Most states have very similar or common legal requirements. Usually, the injured party must prove negligence.
To prove negligence in a premises liability case, the plaintiff must be able to show that:
- The property owner was the actual owner of the land that the plaintiff was injured on;
- The property owner was in control of the condition that caused the slip and fall;
- The plaintiff’s injury was a foreseeable consequence of not fixing the dangerous condition. A foreseeable consequence is an effect that an average person could have predicted;
- The property owner breached his duty to the injured person and failed to take actions necessary to avoid the accident that caused the injury; and
- The plaintiff was injured and suffered actual physical or financial damages.
In most states, there are specific laws that say a property owner owes a different duty of care to different categories of people on his or her property. Below are the most common types of people who enter onto property:
- Invitee: An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property by the property owner. This category includes most businesses that are open to the public, like a grocery store. A property owner has a duty to invitees to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions;
- Licensee: A licensee is a person that enters the property for their own benefit or purpose. This includes people who go to someone’s property for a party or any other type of social gathering. A property owner has a duty to licensees to warn about any known dangerous conditions on the property;
- Trespasser: A trespasser is someone who enters the property without permission from the property owner. Usually, there is no duty to warn or protect a trespasser;
- Anticipated Trespasser: An anticipated trespasser is a person that the property owner knows will likely enter onto the property. The property owner has a duty to anticipated trespassers to provide a reasonable warning of any hidden, dangerous conditions on the property; and
- Children: The duty to protect children is usually higher than the duty applied to other categories of people. In cases where there is an attractive nuisance on the property, for example a swimming pool or anything that would interest a child, the property owner will often have a higher duty to the child on the property. A property owner has a duty to take reasonable care to warn or protect children entering the property from harm. This duty applies when a child cannot see the danger of an attractive nuisance.
What Should I Do if Someone Is Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident on My Property?
If a person is injured in a slip and fall accident on your property, you may be legally responsible for his or her injuries. Whether you can be found legally responsible will most often depend on the specific facts of your case. The steps below may help to protect you if the injured person decides to bring a lawsuit, and also, prevent future accidents. You should take these steps as soon as possible.
- Gather Information: Gather any information about the accident that you can. This information could be very helpful if the injured party decides to try and find you legally responsible. Write down the names of any people involved in the accident, other people who were in the area or on the property when the accident happened, and anyone who might have seen the accident. Witnesses to the accident may be especially helpful to show that the injured person was acting carelessly or recklessly. If you have a camera or phone, you can take photos of the area where the accident occurred. Take any notes about the details of the accident or people involved that you can remember. The facts of your specific case are important, and the more information you have, the better prepared you will be.
- Find Out If You are the Property Owner: Most often, you can only be legally responsible for a slip and fall accident that happens on your property. Make sure to check that the place where the accident happened is actually on your property. For example, if the accident happened on the edge of your property, you should find out the exact location of the property boundary line. Remember that in some cases, you are also considered the property owner if you had control over the condition that caused the slip and fall accident.
- Contact Your Insurance Company: If you have insurance, you should call the company and let them know about the accident as soon as possible. Depending on your insurance company and policy, your insurance may cover you if you are legally responsible. It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible because there is often a requirement that you tell them about any incidents within a specific period of time, usually a very short amount of time. If you do not contact them within the required time, you might lose coverage that your policy offers.
- Fix the Dangerous Condition: If the slip and fall accident on your property was the result of a dangerous condition, you should fix the problem right away. The accident has given you “notice” that there is a dangerous condition on your property. If another slip and fall accident were to happen, you would be much more likely to be held legally responsible for the injuries because you knew about the condition and did not fix it.
- Talk to a Lawyer: It is a good idea to speak with a lawyer. Since legal responsibility for a slip and fall accident on your property will depend on the specific facts in your case, talking with a lawyer will help you understand your situation. An experienced attorney can review the law in your state, the facts of the slip and fall accident on your property, and give you advice about what actions you should take to best protect yourself.
Should I Hire an Attorney if There Is a Slip and Fall Accident on My Property?
Slip and fall cases are often very dependent on the facts of your specific case. An attorney can review the facts and laws involved in your case. Therefore, it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney will advise you of any possible legal responsibility, as well as any defenses available for your particular case. Finally, an attorney can represent you if the injured party decides to sue you.