Slip and fall accidents can be hard to determine who the responsible party is. Most courts will often place at least partial responsibility on the injured party – but you’re not always at fault. We’ll look at a few different types of slip and fall accidents and explain who might be liable in each case.
There are several factors at play in determining where the liability is shifted to in each case. Preventative measures, “reasonableness”, and several other things will factor into determining if no, partial or full liability is on the property owner. Before we take a look at the liability side of cases like these, let’s identify what exactly constitutes a slip and fall case and give some examples.
What is a “Slip and Fall Case?”
A slip and fall case arises where someone raises a claim after being injured due to an obstruction, slippery surfaces, or other circumstance that arises out of the fault of the property owner. This fault is usually due to negligence, and the cases can vary widely based on severity of the injury and the nature of the negligence that caused it.
Types of Slip and Fall Cases
Several slip and fall cases arise out of a wet floor in a facility, generally due to the janitorial staff’s insufficient signage after mopping, a leaky roof, failure to clean or label a spill, and similar circumstances. These types of slip and fall cases commonly occur both indoors and outdoors.
Ice and Snow
These cases are similar to wet walkway cases, but occur outdoors on sidewalks, in parking lots or in any area where the property owner has an obligation to eliminate ice and snow to a reasonable degree. Negligence can often be cut-and-dry in these cases, but comparative negligence (negligence of the pedestrian) is always a factor to take into consideration when predicting the outcome of a case.
Damaged Floor Coverings (Rugs, Carpets, etc.)
Rugs and carpets, when damaged or not properly placed, can be a common source of slip and fall cases. Customers in businesses can trip, passersby in shopping malls can stumble over a curled carpet corner and easily get an injury. Fault can be extremely difficult to prove in these cases, and experts are often consulted to determine owner’s negligence, the pedestrian’s negligence, or a combination of both.
Road Hazards and Potholes
Cracks in streets, potholes and other unsafe conditions on roads can lead to slip and fall accidents. These types of properties are generally owned and operated by the cities, towns or villages they reside in, putting the obligation on them to properly sign, place a blockade around or simply fix the hazardous condition.
Damaged sidewalks present similar conditions to road hazards and potholes, but fault may shift, at least partially, to a private property owner, rather than a city or town.
As in any lawsuit, fault must be proven to reach a verdict (assuming a settlement isn’t reached first). With slip and fall cases, the pedestrian will often shoulder at least some of the blame, but there is quite a bit of variability based on the nature of the circumstances that led to the fall, comparative negligence and several other factors. Let’s take a look at a few examples of situations where various parties might be at fault and what exactly constitutes “fault” in these cases:
Instances Where Pedestrian is at Fault
Comparative negligence is a very large factor in any slip and fall case – naturally, property owners don’t want to have to pay for medical bills and lost wages. There are several circumstances in which comparative negligence will absolve the defendant of liability, these may include:
- An obstruction that is reasonably there (a rocking horse in a toy store or a low branch in a forest)
- Inattentiveness by the pedestrian (texting while walking, talking on the phone, etc.)
- Engaging in inappropriate activities immediately prior to the fall (purposefully sliding on ice, etc.)
For example, if there was ice on the sidewalk for a few hours in front of a business, and John Doe got a running start to slide across this ice, slipped and broke his tibia, was witnessed doing this by everyone inside the business, he is not very likely to get lost wages or medical expenses paid in his slip and fall case.
Instances Where Owner is at Fault
In slip and fall cases, liability is often at least partially on the property owner (except in the above example). However, the fault of the property owner must be proven according to a few guidelines before liability can officially be places. Generally, you will have to prove at least one of these things when submitting a slip and fall claim:
- The owner was aware of dangerous conditions and had sufficient time to remedy them
- The owner should have known about the conditions; but, due to neglect, did not.
- The owner or someone representing the owner caused the conditions and failed to remedy them.
One of these must be proven within the realm of “reasonableness.” As in, a “reasonable” person would have known about the conditions or remedied the conditions, given sufficient time.
As another example, let’s say that a business owner has ice on their sidewalk for several days and John Doe, walking along attentively, slips and falls, breaking his other tibia (poor guy). If it can be proven that A) the business owner had reasonable time to address the ice but didn’t and B) John Doe was walking along doing nothing to raise the eyebrow of comparative negligence, he would very likely win his slip and fall case.
Instances Where Fault is Shifted to Third Party
Sometimes, the fault in a slip and fall case is put on the shoulders of a third party. Cleaning companies and landscape companies can often be called on in cases where the dangerous conditions on the property owner’s property were caused by services rendered by a third party company.
Misplaced carpets, slippery floors without signs, dangerous conditions created by neglectful landscaping, etc. – these are all situations in which a third party could shoulder a good part, if not all of the liability in the case, unless this company has a contract with the property owner that absolves them of liability.
For our final example, if John Doe was walking in the bank and tripped over a carpet that was removed and replaced carelessly by a third-party cleaning company, injuring himself, the cleaning company could be partially at fault.
Slip and fall accidents can be complicated, and it can be difficult placing 100% of the fault on any single party; however, there are several circumstances that put at least partial blame (if not total) on property owners and third party contractors. Have you experienced a slip and fall accident? We can help. Call us today for more information.