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When Is a Property Owner Liable for a Slip and Fall?

When Is a Property Owner Liable for a Slip and Fall?

A slip and fall is one of the most common types of personal injury accidents because it can happen nearly anywhere. Since a slip and fall is a personal injury accident, that means it is caused by the negligence of someone else, in this case, the person who owns or is responsible for the property on which the accident occurred is usually liable. However, responsibility and liability depend on the circumstances of the accident since there can be situations where the property owner is not at fault.

If the property owner is liable for the slip and fall, then they should be held accountable. According to personal injury lawyers Dennis and Paul Grossman, the accident victim has a right to demand compensation from the property owner if the negligence of the owner was responsible for the slip and fall. That compensation is needed to pay for the medical bills and other expenses caused by the accident. So if you were injured in a slip and fall accident that was caused by the negligence of the property owner, then you should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your options. Personal injury attorneys typically offer free consultations so you have nothing to lose by talking to one about your case.

Conditions Where The Property Owner Is Liable

As stated previously, slip and fall accidents are a part of personal injury law, but they fall under a broader subset called premises liability. That means if a property owner is to be held liable for a slip and fall accident, then the following elements must be present:

  • The property owner owes their visitors a duty of care. A duty of care means that a person must act in a reasonable way that does not bring harm to others or put them in danger. A driver for example, owes a duty of care to other people on the road by driving responsibly and avoiding behaviors like distracted driving or driving while intoxicated. A property owner owes a duty of care to their visitors by making sure that their premises are safe.
  • The duty of care was violated, or in other words, the property owner was negligent. That could mean that the property owner failed to take care of a dangerous condition that could lead to an injury to a visitor. For example, if a property owner was aware of a spill that could potentially cause a slip and fall accident but they fail to clean it up or provide a clear warning about it, then they have violated their duty of care to their visitors.
  • The negligence of the property owner caused an accident. It is not enough that the property owner violated their duty of care, that violation had to directly lead to an accident. So, if the property owner failed to clean up a spill and someone slipped and fell on that spill, then the property owner is liable for that accident.
  • The victim of the slip and fall suffered losses because of the accident. Those losses are typically injury related, such as medical expenses for injuries caused by the accident. However, if the injured person experienced damage or destruction of their personal property because of the accident, then that counts as a loss as well.

Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall Case

In order for a property owner to be held liable for a slip and fall, there needs to be proof that they were at fault for the accident. In order for the property owner to be liable for the accident, one of the following must be true:

  • The owner of the property or an employee caused the condition that led to the slip and fall accident.
  • The property owner or an employee knew about the dangerous condition but did nothing about it.
  • The property owner or an employee should have known about the dangerous condition because a reasonable person would have discovered it and then done something to address it.

The last condition can be a tricky one to argue because it is not as clear as the other two conditions. Liability is often determined by common sense and what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation, which means that arguments about what is reasonable can sometimes be subjective.

Situations Where the Property Owner Is Not Liable

A property owner has an obligation to keep their property safe for anyone who was invited onto the premises, but they do not have any such obligation to trespassers. That means if a person entered a property illegally and suffered a slip and fall accident, then the property owner should not be held liable for any injuries suffered by the trespasser.

If a person was legally on the property but the slip and fall was caused by their own negligence or carelessness, then the property owner may not be completely or even partially liable for the accident. A visitor to a property should be cautious about their own safety and not behave in a reckless way. That means they should not run around if that is not allowed and they should pay attention to any warnings about hazardous conditions on the premises. If they fail to do so and suffer a slip and fall accident, then they are at least partially liable for the accident.

If they live in a state with comparative negligence rules, then they can still get compensation, but it will be reduced based on their percentage of the fault for the accident.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney If You Were in a Slip and Fall Accident

If you experienced a slip and fall accident where the property owner was liable, then you should contact a personal injury lawyer to get the help you need. An attorney can help you get the compensation that you need to take care of any losses you suffered in the accident.

You do not have to worry about fees because personal injury attorneys usually get paid on a contingency basis; that means they get paid only if your case is successful, in which case, they get a percentage of your settlement amount. So you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you with your slip and fall accident.

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by Dirk DeBie // Contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.