Slip & Fall Accidents - Who Is Responsible?

Torn carpeting, changes in flooring, poor lighting, ice, narrow stairs, a pothole, broken stairs, or a wet floor… What do all of these things have to do with one another? They are all common causes of “slip and fall” accidents.

PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIMS

Slip and fall accidents usually fall under the broader category of cases known as “premises liability” claims. This is because they usually occur on property owned or maintained by someone else. The property owner may be held legally responsible but every case is different and the details matter which is why it’s important to speak to an attorney if you think you have a case.

TYPES OF SLIP & FALL ACCIDENTS

There are four basic types of slip / trip-and-fall injuries, all equally severe.

  • Trip and Fall: Caused by an object placed in a normally clear walkway, such as a box in the aisle of a store.
  • Slip and Fall: When a surface is left greasy, wet, or icy with no indication of its hazardous condition.
  • Step and Fall: Caused by stepping into an unanticipated hole in the ground, such as an uncovered manhole or a broken stair.
  • Stump and Fall: When a dangerous obstruction is placed in a passageway, such as a jutting brick in a brick sidewalk or a door jam that is higher than the surrounding floor.

When a person is injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s property, they must prove that the cause of the accident was a “dangerous condition” and that the owner or possessor of the property knew of the dangerous condition. A dangerous condition must present an unreasonable risk to a person on the property, and it must have been a condition that the injured party should not have anticipated under the circumstances. This latter requirement implies that people must be aware of, and avoid, obvious dangers.

In order to establish that a property owner or possessor knew of a dangerous condition, it must be shown that:

  • The owner/possessor created the condition;
  • The owner/possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or
  • The condition existed for such a length of time that the owner/possessor should have discovered and corrected it prior to the slip and fall incident in question.  

There are three types of property we will cover here: Commercial property, Residential property, and Government property. The requirements the claimant must prove and the responsibility of the owner/possessor for each of these types of properties differs.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

If you slip and fall in a commercial property, it must be shown that the owner/possessor of the store, restaurant, or other business (or employee of the business):

  • Caused the spill, worn or torn spot, or other dangerous surface or item underfoot;
  • Knew of the dangerous surface but did nothing about it; or
  • Should have known of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.

In slip and fall cases on commercial property, there are often a number of people or entities that may be held responsible for someone's injuries. As you share your story with an experienced attorney, s/he can identify each of these people.  

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

In residential settings, homeowners or landlords may be held liable to tenants or third parties for slip and fall injuries on rental property. To be held liable, a tenant or visitor to the property must show that:

  • The homeowner or landlord had control over the condition that caused the slip and fall;
  • Repairing the condition would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult;
  • A serious injury was the foreseeable consequence of not fixing the condition; and,
  • The landlord’s failure to take reasonable steps to avoid an accident caused the tenant’s slip and fall injury.

GOVERNMENT PROPERTY

When a slip and fall injury occurs on property owned by a local, state, or federal government entity, special rules apply. Specifically, there are very stringent notice requirements and broad immunity provisions that sometimes shield government entities from liability for injuries that occur on their property.

If you or a loved one have had a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to receive a settlement. The two most important things for you to do are to keep a detailed record of the incident and your injuries and to contact an experienced attorney to help determine if you have a case.