Slip and Fall Accidents: Liability in Lawsuits

Slip and Fall Accidents: Liability in Lawsuits

Slip and fall accidents occur when a person slips (or trips), falls and sustains an injury. Under certain circumstances, that person may choose to pursue legal action against the person or company responsible for the accident.

Slip and fall lawsuits are regulated by a fairly complex body of laws. If you have sustained a slip and fall injury and would like to explore your legal options, you may want to contact a personal injury lawyer in your state who can clarify state laws, liability definitions and more.

Here’s a general outline of how liability is determined in slip and fall lawsuits.

What Is Liability?

In legal terms, liability essentially means fault. In slip and fall cases, the party who is determined to be liable may have to compensate the non-liable party for injuries caused by the slip and fall accident

What Can Cause Liability in Slip and Fall Cases?

Personal injury cases are regulated at the state level, so specific laws may vary depending on where you live. In general, though, liability may be assessed if one of these conditions was present:

  • The owner or an employee of the property on which the slip and fall accident occurred directly caused the condition that led to the injury. In other words, the owner or employee caused a spill, worn spot, or dangerous item to be where it caused the person’s injury.
  • The owner or an employee of the property knew about the dangerous conditions but did not take action to correct them.
  • The owner or an employee should have known about the dangerous conditions because he or she would have come across them during the course of “reasonable” caretaker duties.

Obviously, these conditions are all open to interpretation and may be difficult to prove in a court of law. The word “reasonable” may pay a particularly important role in determining whether a property owner, manager, or employee is liable for a slip and fall injury.

How Do Courts Determine Liability in Slip and Fall Cases?

A slip and fall lawsuit tried in court may require a judge or jury to rule on which party is liable. In many cases, the court attempts to answer the question of whether responsible parties in the case acted “reasonably,” or according to the rules of common sense.

In order to determine a party’s reasonableness, the court may look at:

  • Duration of dangerous condition: Were the dangerous conditions present long enough that an owner or employee would have noticed them?
  • Maintenance routine: Does an employee have a routine for examining the property? Is there any proof that this routine was conducted before the accident?
  • Reason for dangerous condition: Was there any reason that the dangerous conditions were present? For example, if an object caused a fall, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be present?
  • Sufficient precaution: Could the owner have easily made the conditions safer (with a label, sign, or cover)? Could the owner have used a simple barrier? Could the owner have placed an object elsewhere without significant expense or effort? Did poor lighting play a role in the accident?

In order to answer these questions, a court may rely on evidence from the involved parties. For information on what counts as evidence in personal injury cases, you may want to consult an attorney.

Can I Be Liable in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?

When determining liability, courts also often consider something called “comparative negligence,” which refers to the injured person’s contribution to the accident. When determining whether or not the victim contributed to the accident, a court might ask the following:

  • Did the victim have a legitimate reason to be in the dangerous area?
  • Would a careful person have avoided the dangerous place or proceeded in such a way as to avoid the danger?
  • Were any warning signs of the danger present?
  • Was the victim distracted at all?
  • Was the victim moving in a way that made her more likely to fall (e.g. running or jumping when walking would have been appropriate)?

In many personal injury cases, the liable party is often found to be the one that was less careful. That is, if both the victim of a slip and fall accident and the property owner were negligent, whoever was more negligent may be considered liable, depending on your state’s laws.

What Should I Do after a Slip and Fall Injury?

If you have experienced a slip and fall accident, you may want to contact a personal injury lawyer, even if you don’t plan to press charges. Slip and fall injuries may cause serious damage, even if that damage is not apparent until days or weeks after the incident.

To protect yourself in case of a slip and fall lawsuit, you may also want to:

  • Visit a doctor for a physical examination and, if necessary, x-rays.
  • Record your memory of the incident before you begin to forget.
  • Photograph the scene of the accident (if possible) to document any conditions that contributed to the fall.

Personal Injury News

California Doctor Sued for Playing Prank on Unconscious Patientposted on: October 3rd 2013

By John Clark A California doctor is facing a ... read more

Alex Rodriguez to File Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against Yankeesposted on: August 28th 2013

By John Clark Embattled baseball star Alex Rodriguez is planning to file a ... read more

Virginia Woman Wins Lawsuit After Treatment for Nonexistent Cancerposted on: July 19th 2013

By John Clark A Virginia resident has won a personal injury lawsuit against a doctor who treated her for cancer, despite the unfortunate fact tha... read more