Slip & fall
The Property Owner’s Duty of Care
While many states require the property owner to exercise reasonable care in ownership and maintenance of the property with respect to all persons who might enter onto the property, other states still apply an old rule that can limit the landowner’s duties depending on the status of the visitor.
In those states, all visitors to the property are divided into three categories:
• Licensees, and
An invitee is someone who has the landowner’s express or implied permission to enter the property. Invitees are usually people like friends, relatives, and neighbors. The landowner traditionally owed an invitee a duty of reasonable care to keep the property reasonably safe for the invitee.
A licensee is someone who has the landowner’s express or implied permission to enter the property, but is coming onto the property for his or her own purposes. Licensees are usually people like salesmen. The landowner traditionally owed a licensee a lesser duty only to warn the licensee of dangerous conditions that create an unreasonable risk of harm if
• The landowner knows about the condition and
• The licensee is not likely to be able to discover it.
A trespasser is someone who is not authorized to be on the property. Traditionally, landowners owed no duty to trespassers unless the trespasser was a child. In that case, the landowner owed the duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm to children caused by artificial conditions on the land (i.e., swimming pools).
Because these rules can get pretty complicated and they differ from state to state, you should contact an experienced local lawyer if you have questions about a potential premises liability case.
Slip and Fall occur when you slip (or trip) and fall on someone else’s property. Some common conditions that can lead to a slip or trip and fall are:
• Defective staircases
• Accumulation of ice or snow
• Wet floors
• Oily floors
• Hidden extension cords
• Unsecured rugs or carpets
• Thresholds, and
• Loose or broken floors, sidewalks, steps, or stairs.
To be legally responsible for the injuries you suffered from slipping or tripping and falling on someone else’s property, one of the following must be true:
• The owner of the premises or an employee must have caused the spill, worn or torn spot, or other slippery or dangerous surface or item to be underfoot.
• The owner of the premises or an employee must have known of the dangerous surface but done nothing about it.
• The owner of the premises or an employee should have known of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.
The third situation is the most common, but is also less clear-cut than the first two because of those pesky words “should have known.” Liability in these cases is often decided by common sense. Judges and juries determine whether the owner or occupier of property was careful by deciding if the steps the owner or occupier took to keep the property safe were reasonable.
Why you should retain a Slip & Fall Attorney?
for two main reasons. First, fault for a slip and fall accident isn’t usually clear, and property owners (and their insurers) aren’t in the business of accepting legal responsibility for an accident unless liability is obvious. Second, it’s pretty common for slip and fall defendants to argue that the plaintiff’s injuries (damages) aren’t as bad as they claim.
An attorney’s first job in a slip and fall case is to get the attention of the defendant and the insurance company, who might not take a self-represented claimant all that seriously. But since these cases usually boil down to liability and damages, let’s take a closer look at how a lawyer’s assistance can be crucial on these key issues.
A Lawyer Can Establish Fault For Your Slip and Fall
In order to get your slip and fall case in a position to reach a fair settlement or go to trial, you and your lawyer have to be ready to prove that, more likely than not, the property owner was negligent, and that that negligence played a big part in causing your injury.
The first thing your lawyer will do is investigate exactly how your injury occurred. Falls happen very quickly, and many people do not understand exactly how they went from walking down a store aisle (or walking down a flight of stairs) to being on the ground and injured.
Let’s say you fell down some stairs. That’s just the beginning of the inquiry. Did your foot miss a step? What were you wearing on your feet? Were you holding onto the handrail? What, if anything, were you carrying? Which hand were you carrying it in? Did your foot trip or slip? Where were you looking while you were going down the stairs?
All of this information is critical, but it only addresses how you fell. Now the attorney has to figure out how to hold the defendant legally responsible for your slip and fall. So:
• Did you really miss a step?
• Did you slip on some substance or defect on the step?
• Did you trip over your coat, a bag strap, or something else?
• Did you reach for something (perhaps a handrail that wasn’t at optimal height) and lose your balance?
• Were you using your phone or were you otherwise distracted?
• Were the risers (the height of each step) of varying heights, which might have caused you to lose your balance and fall?
A good lawyer will examine the scene, discuss all of these possibilities and more with you, and determine exactly why and how you fell.