When the owner of a small business opens its doors to the public, potential slip and fall liability also opens. Below is an overview of slip and fall accidents, including a look at personal injury cases arising from a slip and fall.
«Slip and fall» Overview
“Slip and fall” is a term used for a personal injury case in which a person slips or trips and falls and is injured on someone else’s property. These cases generally fall into the broader category of cases known as ”premises liability‘Because slip and fall accidents generally occur on property (or’ premises’) maintained by someone else, and the owner or holder of the property can be held legally responsible.
Dangerous conditions like ripped carpet, floor changes, poor lighting, narrow stairs, or a wet floor can cause someone to slip and injure themselves inside a building. Other slip and fall incidents can occur when people trip on broken or cracked public sidewalks, or trip and fall on stairs or escalators. Additionally, a slip and fall case can arise when someone slips or trips and falls due to rain, ice, snow, or a hidden hazard, such as a pothole in the ground.
Failure check in slip and fall cases
There is no precise way to determine when a business owner is legally liable for a customer’s injuries in a slip and fall accident. Each case revolves around whether the business and / or property owner acted carefully so that the slip or trip did not occur, and whether the client was careless by not seeing or avoiding the condition that caused the fall. Here are some general rules of thumb for determining the fault of a slip (or trip) and fall injury.
In most cases, a person injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s property must prove that the cause of the accident was a “dangerous condition,” and that the owner or possessor of the property knew of the dangerous condition. A dangerous condition must present an unreasonable risk to a person on the property, and it must have been a condition that the injured party should not have anticipated under the circumstances. This last requirement implies that people must be aware of the obvious dangers and avoid them.
To establish that a business / property owner or possessor knew of a hazardous condition, it must be shown that:
- The owner / possessor created the condition;
- The owner / possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or
- The condition existed for such a period of time that the owner / possessor should have discovered and corrected it prior to the slip and fall incident in question.
For an entrepreneur / owner or possessor to be held liable, it must have been foreseeable that their negligence would create the hazard in question. For example, if a paint can falls to the ground and spills in a hardware store aisle and, a day later, the store has not noticed or cleaned up the spill, and someone slips on the paint and is injured, one You could argue that it was foreseeable that the store’s negligence in failing to inspect its aisles and clean up spills would result in someone slipping and injuring themselves on a spilled item.
Occasionally, a person injured in a slip and fall case can prove negligence by showing that the property owner violated a relevant law. For example, building codes often dictate when and where handrails and other similar features must be installed. If a customer falls on a ladder that lacks proper handrails, and the missing handrail caused the injuries, the customer may have a valid claim against the building owner based on their violation of the building code.
In order to recover a slip and fall injury sustained on someone else’s property, there must be a responsible party whose negligence caused the damage. This sounds obvious, but many people do not realize that some injuries are simply accidents caused, if at all, by their own negligence. For example, if someone falls simply because they were not looking where they were walking, they cannot recover against the business owner / landlord if the owner was not at fault in any way, no matter how serious the injury. If an injured person is only partially at fault for their own injury, they may still be able to recover from another, but the dollar amount of their recovery may be reduced.
Condition of the Commercial, Business or Property premises
To be held legally liable for injuries someone sustained from slipping or tripping and falling on someone else’s business property, the owner / possessor of a store, restaurant, or other business (or a business employee):
- It must have caused the spill, worn or torn stain, or other slippery or dangerous surface or item, to be under foot;
- He must have known the dangerous surface but did nothing about it; or,
- You should have known about the hazardous surface because a “reasonable” person who takes care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired the property.
The third situation is the most common, but it is also less clear than the first two because of the phrase “I should have known.” Responsibility in these cases is decided with common sense. The law determines whether the owner or occupant of the property was careful in deciding whether the steps the owner or occupant took to keep the property safe were reasonable.
In slip and fall cases on commercial property, there are often a number of people or entities that can be held liable for someone’s injuries. For example, if a business rents space from a property owner, both the property owner and the tenant (the business) can be named as sued by someone injured on the property. In that case, the tenant is known as a possessor of the property, and has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent damage to those in the premises under his control. A holder can also be a party that manages or maintains the property, such as a management company.
Defense of a slip and fall injury lawsuit
If you are a small business owner faced with a potential slip and fall injury claim, you should discuss your case with an experienced small business attorney. An attorney will explore all of the possible defense options and strategies available to you, and will protect your business liability at every step of the way.