Slip and fall accidents are common, but they make for difficult lawsuits to win in court. Although a good personal injury attorney can help give you an edge, liability is murky territory. In general, property owners are liable for any accidents or injuries sustained on their property as long as their negligence caused the injury. Perhaps a property owner neglected to hang a wet floor sign in a freshly mopped room. In such a scenario, proof is no easy task: Is it possible to prove that a property owner’s malicious action or inaction caused your accident?
In order to get to the bottom of a slip and fall case, make sure to ask yourself some preliminary questions.
Why Were You on the Property?
The law makes distinctions on rulings for slip and fall cases based upon the plaintiff’s reasoning for entering the property. Does the plaintiff have a reasonable argument for being there at the time of the incident? Did he or she have explicit permission or invitation to access the property? Was the plaintiff’s arrival expected? Trespassers who were on the property without permission may be viewed differently in the eyes of the law.
Could the Property Owner Have Prevented the Slip or Fall?
This is where the property owner’s negligence comes in. In general, there are three possible scenarios under which a property owner can be deemed liable, and each has its own considerations in a court of law:
- The property owner should have known about the hazardous conditions that would cause someone to trip, slip, or fall
- The property owner knew about the safety hazard but didn’t rectify it
- The property owner’s actions somehow created the safety hazard
The first scenario is the most common approach to slip and fall cases, and unfortunately, the most difficult to prove because it becomes hard to define what a property owner “should have known.”
However, property owners are expected to take reasonable steps to make sure that their property is safe for visitors. It comes down to whether or not the property owner could have been more careful or accommodating, and if this extra effort would have prevented an injury. Evaluate the situation:
- Was the property obviously poorly maintained?
- Was the injured person informed of any hazardous conditions?
- Does the injured person have any valuable information or documentation about how the property owner failed to maintain the area?
- Did the property owner ignore the hazardous condition for an unreasonable amount of time given the risk for a slip, fall, or injury?
While the property owner is liable for the safety of all patrons and expected visitors on the property, there is a limit to that liability. In the case of a slippery floor, a property owner might not be responsible for your injuries if a drainage grate was nearby and operational at the time. In this case, the property owner has taken preventative action and it won’t be easy to prove otherwise unless some other significant factor contributed to the incident. Other obstructions that could be argued as ordinary to their environment, such as a loose rake in autumn, are not likely to be a case for liability on behalf of the property owner.
Could You Have Prevented the Slip or Fall?
A plaintiff in a slip and fall case will be asked if he or she took any action to prevent his or her injury. Slip and fall cases operate by “comparative negligence”, meaning that, if the plaintiff did something causally related to the accident, supporting evidence could limit recoverable damages. If the plaintiff risked injury regardless of clearly visible warnings or barricades, or if he or she was otherwise negligent, that will affect the case to the defendant’s advantage. If the plaintiff sustained injury regardless of preventative action, such as holding onto handrails in an icy area, recoverable damages may become more valuable. Do you think you have a case?
Injured from a Slip and Fall Accident? Our Premises Liability Attorneys Want to Help
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to damages as a result of your accident. These damages can include medical bills, any lost earnings from an inability to work, physical or emotional trauma, or any permanent or long-lasting disfigurement. Consult an Indianapolis premises liability attorney before you move forward with a lawsuit. Call our firm today at 317.920.6400 for a free case evaluation. You can also fill out an online form and one of our premises liability attorneys will get in touch at your convenience.