If you have suffered damages as a result of a slip and fall incident, then the owner of the property where you were injured may be legally responsible to compensate you for your injury.
Slip and fall injuries fall under the general category of personal injury lawsuits, specifically under the legal theory of premises liability. Personal injury lawsuits are civil lawsuits that are filed on behalf of the injured party to recover for damages arising from their injury. As an injured party, you have the right to recover for your injuries, lost income, and other damages that arose from the incident.
Injury laws vary from state-to-state. However, generally speaking, in order for a property owner to be liable for damages suffered from a slip and fall injury, it must be proven that they were negligent. In order to demonstrate that a property owner was negligent, you must typically prove:
- That the property owner had a duty to warn or protect you from harm;
- That the property owner breached that duty; and
- That due to the breach of duty, you were injured and suffered measurable harm.
It is important to note that a property owner owes different duties to different types of people. For example, a property owner likely will not be held liable for a slip and fall incident suffered by a trespasser.
As noted above, in order for a property owner to be held liable for a slip and fall injury that occured on their property, the injured party must prove that they were owed a duty. When a property owner owes a duty to someone, they must keep the property reasonably safe and warn people who enter the land of any dangerous conditions that they know or should know exist.
The following list is a summary of the duties owed by property owners to persons on their property:
- Invitees: Invitees are people that were openly invited onto the property owner’s property. For example, patrons of a grocery store are all invitees, as the grocery store is a business that is open to the public. As an invitee, a property owner owes you the duty to inspect the premises for any dangerous conditions and warn you if there are any present dangerous conditions. Therefore, if you were injured due to a slip and fall incident in a business that is open to the public, the property owner may be liable to compensate you for your injury;
- Licensees: A licensee is a person that enters the property of another, even though the property is not open to the public, for their own purposes. For example, a licensee may be a person that visits the property for a social gathering. A property owner owes a duty to warn licensees of any harmful conditions that they were aware of;
- Trespassers: Trespassers are people who enter a property without the owner’s permission. Unlike invitees and licensees, who property owners do owe a duty of care to, property owners do not owe trespassers a duty to warn or protect. In fact, a trespasser may be liable to the property owner for a civil claim of trespass to land; and
- Children: Property owners generally owe children a greater duty than others. This is especially true if there is an attractive nuisance on the property, such as a swimming pool or trampoline. Thus, a property owner may be liable for a slip and fall incident suffered by a child, even if the child was a trespasser. For example, if a child trespasses on a property owner’s land and then slip and falls into their unfenced swimming pool, the property owner may be held liable for their injury or death.
As noted above, even if property owners did not cause the dangerous condition, they may still be liable if they knew of the dangerous condition and did nothing to correct it. For example, suppose that a patron of a grocery store informed an employee or management of a spill on the floor. If they did nothing to clean up the spill or warn other patrons, they may be held liable for injuries caused by the spill.
Additionally, property owners may also be held liable for injuries resulting from dangerous conditions that they should have known about. Unlike dangerous conditions that property owners were made aware of, proving that a property owner is liable for dangerous conditions they were not aware of is more difficult.
For example, if a patron in a grocery store spilled something on the floor, and left without notifying anyone, and another patron slipped moments later, the property owner will likely not be held liable for the injured patron’s damages. In contrast, if a person spilled something in the store, and someone slipped in the puddle hours later, the property owner will likely be held liable for the injured person’s injuries.
In both of the above scenarios, it is still difficult to prove that a property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Therefore, it is important that you conduct civil discovery in order to obtain evidence of the property owner’s knowledge of the dangerous condition. This can include evidence such as video tapes proving how long the spill was there or testimony from employees or patrons regarding the dangerous condition.
As can be seen, proving that a property owner is liable for your injuries suffered from a slip and fall incident is often a difficult task. Therefore, if you have suffered from a slip and fall injury, it is in your best interests to immediately contact a knowledgeable and well qualified personal injury attorney.
It is important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately, as most states have a two year statute of limitations (deadline for filing a civil lawsuit) in which you must bring your lawsuit against the property owner. An experienced attorney can advise you of your best legal course of action against the property owner. They may also represent your interests in court, as necessary.