Most people are nominally aware of the term “slip and fall accident” as it relates to civil law. Someone takes a spill on someone else’s property like a store, a home, or any other premises. Under the right circumstances, a victim of a slip and fall could be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries, but this is not a universal outcome for everyone that takes a tumble outside their home.
In fact, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before predicting a positive outcome. Here is a short guide to slip and fall accidents and how they work.
What Is the Law Behind Slip and Fall Cases?
“Slip and fall accident” is a colloquial phrase used to categorize a type of lawsuit, but that is not the technical name for them. More appropriately, a slip and fall is a type of personal injury lawsuit that utilizes the legal theory of negligence. Negligence is a legal cause of action that can describe any number of accidents.
It is defined as the failure of a person or entity (a business, for example) to act with an appropriate level of care that someone under the same circumstances would exercise. The person or entity owes others a duty of care through certain actions, and sometimes inaction, to prevent injury.
With a slip and fall case, the one that owes the duty is the property owner. If someone slips and falls on their premises through reckless maintenance, they have breached that duty, and could owe the injured party for their damages. As simple as this sounds, it is not the end. Because another legal principle also applies to most slip and fall cases that can change a case’s outcome.
What Is Premises Liability and Visitor Status?
Premises liability is when someone is injured on another’s property due to the property owner’s negligence. But a vital part to premises liability is how the injured person is classified under the law. This is known as their visitor status. Most states divide all visitors into three separate categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Each group by law receives a different duty of care from the property owner. These groups are as follows:
- Invitees: An invitee has the express or implied permission to enter the property for the owner’s benefit, or that property is open to the public. One of the most common examples is a customer patronizing a store. The property owner has an affirmative obligation to keep their premises safe and inspect it for dangers. This group receives the highest legal protections of the three group;
- Licensee: This type of visitor also has the express or implied permission to enter someone’s property, but is there for their own purpose. Someone like a salesman would qualify, but most often includes friends, family, and other social guests. If the owner knows of a dangerous structure or condition on his or her property that cannot be easily spotted by their guest, they have a duty to warn them to prevent accidents; and
- Trespasser: As the name suggests, this group has no permission to be on the person’s property. As a result, they are owed no duty. A rare exception to this rule relates to children and artificial hazards that may attract them, like open swimming pools.
Are There Defenses to a Slip and Fall Accusation?
Under certain circumstances, a property owner can assert a defense against the accuser’s negligence claim, despite proven injury. One of the easiest, and most commonly missed, is that the owner owed no duty at all to the plaintiff. It might be through a trespasser status, but can also be that the property owner was not responsible for the area where the person was injured. If someone falls in a parking lot owned by Company B, Company A cannot be held liable for the victim’s injuries.
The property owner can also argue that all reasonable attempts to keep their guests safe were made, and the injury resulted in spite of that. If there is a spill in a grocery store, and the employees quickly mopped up the mess and placed caution signs all around the slick area, they can claim all reasonable steps were taken to prevent someone slipping. For more information on common slip and fall defenses, click here.
Do I Need an Attorney for My Slip and Fall Case?
Whether you are the victim of a slip and fall accident or being sued for one, you need to seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney for help.
Every state has different laws, and a local attorney experienced in these cases can help you formulate the best legal strategy for a positive outcome. They will be your advocate every step of the way and make sure your rights are being asserted.