Who is liable for an employee falling down at work? 33 Answers as of March 12, 2012

I have a problem. I had one of my employees fall down the steps behind my store front. It's a day spa and the land lords are not accepting responsibility. It was after work hours when the girl fell. I also found out I didn't have workman's comp insurance at the time. Now the employee is talking to lawyers and I am also worried my landlord will raise my rent or worse kick me out. Any advice?

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Law Office of Melvin Franke | Melvin Franke
Whether or not it is workers' compensation depends on the number of employees you had, the type of business you are in and other more tachmeal things. If the landlord's negligence caused the injury, if it is workers' compensation, then you would have a claim, the landlord for injuring your employee.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 3/12/2012
Ford, Howard & Cornett, P.C. | Bradley Cornett
(1) Get work comp insurance coverage. (2) Report this incident to your commercial liability insurance carrier (although an employee work comp claim may be excluded). If you do not have commercial liability insurance, get it. (3) Report the incident to your umbrella insurance carrier (although an employee work comp claim may be excluded). If you do not have umbrella coverage, get it. (4) Ask your landlord if he/she/it had any liability insurance coverage (i.e., commercial liability coverage) that would provide medical payments coverage to your employee (to pay medical bills for injury on the premises). (You do not mention whether or not some defective condition on the premises caused your employee to fall.) (5) Most states have penalties under the work comp statutes for employers that do not have required work comp insurance coverage. (6) You may need to meet with a good insurance agent to discuss your insurance needs.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 3/12/2012
Goodman & Goodman PA | Bruce Elliott Goodman
If you did not have workers' compensation insurance you should contact an attorney immediately regarding this potential claim.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 3/12/2012
Rags Beals Seigler Patterson & Gray
Rags Beals Seigler Patterson & Gray | Ronald D. Reemsnyder
Workers Compensation is often required of employers who have more than a small number of employees. Failure to have the required worker's compensation coverage may result in liability of the employer for employee injuries arising out of and in the course of employment. Determining whether or not an injury is compensable is fact specific. Defects in the building may be a separate basis for a claim by the injured person against the landlord/owner. This can also result in shared liability between the owner and employer for jointly caused injuries. The lease itself will determine if the landlord has eviction remedies for this type of incident. Similarly the lease will control the right of the landlord to raise rent during the term of the lease. After the lease expires, the landlord typically can ask for whatever rent it wants- either higher or lower.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 3/9/2012
Lennon Miller O'Connor and Bartosiewicz PLC | Christopher Morris
Normally if an individual is injured on the premises of the employer a reasonable time before and after work hours, then the exclusive remedy is a claim for workers compensation benefits. On the other hand, an employee injured while coming and going to the workplace is not covered by workers compensation. In your example, if the employee was going down steps on her way to an employer designated parking lot, then it would be covered by workers compensation. If the injury was the result of negligence by third-party, in this example the landlord's failure to properly maintain the steps, then the workers compensation insurance company which paid the benefits and the plaintiffs have a claim against the negligent party (landlord). Unfortunately, it is a misdemeanor to fail to properly protect workers by obtaining workers compensation insurance. Business owners who fail to obtain proper workers compensation coverage are personally liable for any workers compensation benefits which should have been paid. Whether you were an employer required to obtain workers compensation coverage and whether the injury in this case is covered by workers compensation depends on many factors which are not detailed in your question. Much will depend on these factors. You should be seeking competent legal advice immediately in this situation because all of your personal assets are potentially at risk.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 3/9/2012
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    If it is after hours, it may be not work related. Do you have premises liability insurance? If so call the carrier. If not, hire a real estate land lord tenent attorney. Do not share one with the land lord.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    It's too late to say that you should have had insurance. Both Workers Compensation and premises liability. No you may have to pony up for a lawyer to defend you if you are sued.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Salladay Law Office | Lance Salladay
    Depending on the facts surrounding the fall- e.g. was the employee leaving work or on the premises for some other reason, you may have liability s the employer. If the stairs were in poor or faulty condition, the landlord may have responsibility. It is doubtful that the landlord can evict you as a result of the fall unless by the terms of your lease you assumed all responsibility for maintaining the exterior of the premises, including the stairs. There are a number of factual questions that need to be answered before liability can be determined. You should get an attorney to assist you.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Law Office of Patrick E. Donovan, PLLC
    Law Office of Patrick E. Donovan, PLLC | Patrick E. Donovan
    You need to get worker's compensation insurance first. NH requires that coverage. If the steps are in the common area, your landlord is liable for any damages caused by a defective or potentially dangerous condition. At the outset, I would advise that you offer to cover your employee's medical bills. You can thereafter assert a lien against any case she might initiate against the landlord for the bills you paid on her behalf.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm | Thomas Bulman
    Not having workers comp and having employees is crazy stupid. Unfortunately, your employee has a claim against you and possibly the landlord if the stairs were not compliant with the building code or not maintained as a common area of the building. Your employee can file a claim with the Uninsured Employers Fund. The UEF pays the bills, then sues you to get the money back. You can only hope your employee's injuries are minor and not permanent.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Kelly A. Broadbent, Esq.
    Kelly A. Broadbent, Esq. | Kelly Broadbent
    It's difficult to determine liability in this case. As an employer, your employee may be able to go after you for the workers compensation benefits, even of you do not have insurance. With regard to the property owner, they could potentially be liable if there was a dangerous condition on the steps that caused your employee to fall.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    If she had an "accident" in the course and scope of her employment she is covered. Pay her. If not in course and scope then it is a question of who is liable for negligence. Assuming some negligence caused her fall.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C.
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C. | Steven A. Schwartz
    Unfortunately, your landlord can kick you out or raise your rent at any time if you are an at-will tenant. If you have a lease, then the terms must be honored until the lease ends. You need to obtain worker's compensation insurance immediately. It is the law, so don't let this happen to you again. My best suggestion for the fall is to hope that there is responsibility on the landlord. If the landlord was responsible for the maintenance of the steps, and there was a hazardous or defective condition with the steps, then there may be liability. If that is the case, the claim will be made against the landlord. Unfortunately, you may have some trouble by virtue of the fact that you have no wc insurance - this company would normally pay for the injured party's medical bills and time out of work. You may be personally responsible for this.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Law Office of Ronald G. Draper | Ronald G. Draper
    Consult with a lawyer about the circumstances of the injury as to whether it occurred in performance of her employment and whether it occurred at a place you did not control or own.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Law Office of Dean B. Gordon
    Law Office of Dean B. Gordon | Dean B. Gordon
    It appears from your message that your employee was working at the time. If so, it would be an industrial accident covered by worker's compensation. If she files a WC claim, the uninsured fund would pay any benefits due her. Then it can come back and try to collect them from you. Also, since you did not have WC insurance, she can sue you in civil court for personal injury, and there may be a presumption that your business was negligent in that action because you did not have WC insruance. She can also sue owner of building and perhaps others. You should see an attorney to get advice on how best to handle the situation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Adler Law Group, LLC
    Adler Law Group, LLC | Lawrence Adler
    If you have corporate liability insurance should turn the matter over to them. but you did not stay in your question was the cause of the woman's fall . If there was a defective condition the person responsible would be whoever should've known of the condition. Third parties are not responsible is fall was the employees own fault. If the employee was working at the time of the fall she would be able to make a workers compensation claim regardless of fault. There is a second injury fund the state of Connecticut has to provide when employers are not insured.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Pingelton Law Firm | Dan Pingelton
    If you are required to have workers' compensation insurance, you should talk to a lawyer ASAP. You may be liable through workers' comp laws, depending on the circumstances; and the landlord may also be liable.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    You "found out" you didn't have worker's compensation insurance? You might have a cause of action against your insurance agent. Other than that, in order to make a claim against a property owner (including stores, parking lots, apartments, etc) the injured party has to show that the owner knew or should have known of the hazard, had an opportunity to correct it, and failed to take action. So, she would have to produce evidence that she fell due to some hazardous condition of the steps that the landlord knew or should have known about and failed to correct timely. She could go after you since you didn't have comp on her, but she'd have to have the same kind of proof, plus she'd have to show that you had legal control over those steps. If she does, then you can make a claim over against the landlord. Of course, she could go after both of you.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Quitmeier Law Firm, P.C.
    Quitmeier Law Firm, P.C. | William M. Quitmeier
    I would have to see your lease. Rarely is anyone absolutely liable. You almost always must find fault or what we call negligence. Some falls are the falling person's own darn fault. A person is not liable just because it happens on the property they own or lease; they must have done something negligent, like leave a big hole, only remove part of the ice, or breach some other duty owed to the public. Plus it depends on what category of guest (invitee or trespasser) the faller is. Your lease may include insurance requirements and subrogation waivers and provisions for termination.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C. | Robert Kelly
    This free response is not "legal advice" (see disclaimer on website). Normally, employees can only collect from L. & I. for workplace injuries. Their website is at http://www.lni.wa.gov/ The category of cases dealing with situations like that is called "premises liability". An analysis of a premises liability case starts with determining the status of the injured person as trespasser, licensee, or invitee. The most favorable scenario for a plaintiff is that of a business invitee. "The possessor of land is liable for injuries to a business visitor caused by a condition encountered on the premises only if he (a) knows or should have known of such condition and that it involved an unreasonable risk; (b) has no reason to believe that the visitor will discover the condition or realize the risk; and (c) fails to make the condition reasonably safe or to warn the visitor so that the latter may avoid the harm." Huston V. Church Of God, 46 Wn. App. 740, 732 P.2d 173 (1987). (You can read relevant cases on the MRSC website.)
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Hynum Law Office, LLC
    Hynum Law Office, LLC | G. Wayne Hynum
    The girl will probably have a workers' comp claim against you (if you had enough employees to be required to provide workers' comp) and she may also have a third party claim against the landlord if she can show that her fall was caused by the landlord's negligence such as improper maintenance of the premises. On the other hand, if it was completely her fault that she fell, she would not have a valid claim against the landlord. If you as the employer were supposed to carry workers' comp insurance but did not carry it, you can be held individually liable for the workers' comp benefits. On a workers comp claim it does not matter whether the employee was at fault or not. I would advise you to either incorporate your business or form an LLC to protect you from individual liability in these situations. You should also carry workers comp insurance and liability insurance coverage. Of course doing that now won't protect you from something that has already happened. As for your landlord raising your rent or kicking you out, do you have a written lease on building? If so, read the lease provisions carefully (or get a lawyer to read it) and see what the lease says about the landlord being able to terminate the lease and/or raise the rent. If you don't have a lease, the landlord can evict you or raise the rent on 30 days notice.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C.
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
    You are primarily liable for the injury to your employee. You should consult an attorney and if you employee comes after you for the worker compensation claim, you should see if you could go after the landlord for contribution to pay the employee.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC | Stephen R. Chesley
    As an employer you are required to carry worker's compensation. An employee may not sue the employer for injuries that occurred during work hours. Depending on who has control of the area where your employee fell would depend on the landlords liability. You should review your lease to see who has control of the area that caused your employee to fall to see who is culpable.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC | Russell D. Gray
    Workers compensation should cover any employee on the job injuries. If you didn't have workers comp insurance at the time there could be some legal ramifications. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Austin Law, P.A. | Jeffrey S Austin
    If you have employees that earn more than $20,000 in a year total, you are obligated to have WC insurance and it is a crime to not do so. You will be liable along with a State Fund that steps in in such situations. That Fund will have the right to recover all of its costs and expenses from your business. If the accident itself is not "compensable" then the employee may have to bear her own costs. That is a workers' compensation question that an attorney needs more facts to answer.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Bruce Plesser | Bruce Plesser
    Wait for a lawsuit or the attorney letter on behalf of the girl. There is nothing that you can do now. Nothing has happened yet.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Holcomb Chaffin Rogers & Finn | William M. Chaffin
    It could be you assuming you did something negligent. Without much more information any informed advice is impossible.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    Landlord not liable unless they did something to cause accident. Talk to an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Law Offices of David W. Hibbert
    Law Offices of David W. Hibbert | David W. Hibbert
    The details of the incident are important. It may be both a Workers Compensation claim as well as premises liability claim depending upon the fact. Both of these determinations will be governed by your local state's laws. You say it was after work hours, so had this person employed by you signed out and gone on her way and returned for some other purpose? Are the steps dangerous or has there been a failure to maintain the steps? Get an attorney to consult on this. Money spent now will likely save you money in the long run.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    Pay her bills and time off work. It could get quite ugly without comp insurance.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Paris Blank LLP
    Paris Blank LLP | Irving M Blank
    You need to talk to a workers' comp lawyer ASAP. You might be required to have Comp insurance and if so, you could face a substantial liability.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 3/8/2012
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    Advise is seek counsel. If you did not have worker's comp you may have a personal liability if the employee was injured in the course of her employment. The facts are too sketchy for a firm opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/8/2012
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