A slip and fall accident can occur just about anywhere, to anyone, at any time. Although we commonly use the term accident when referring to slip and fall injuries, the reality is that true accidents are rare. Most slip and fall injuries are actually the result of negligence on the part of the property owner or the party responsible for maintaining the property. When that is the case, a victim may be entitled to compensation from the negligent party for both the physical injuries and the pain and suffering caused by the accident.
Premises Liability Basics
“Torts” is the broad area of the law that addresses injuries to people and property. “Premises liability” is a specific type of tort that deals with injuries that occur while a victim is on someone else’s property. The law requires property owners to keep the property free from hazards and defects that could cause harm to someone on the property. That requirement may also extend to someone occupying the property, such as a tenant, or to someone charged with maintaining the property, such as a property maintenance company. The extent of the legal duty imposed on a property owner depends on the victim’s reason for being present on the property. Victims are classified as one of the following:
- Invitees and Invited Licensees – a business invitee is someone who is on the property who is invited to enter or remain on land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of the land. A public invitee is someone who is invited onto the property as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public. Examples of an invitee include a guest at a hotel, a shopper at a grocery store, or a visitor to a government office. The law imposes the highest duty of care when the victim is an invitee.This highest duty likewise extends to social guests of the landowner, whom the law designates as “licensees by invitation”.
- Uninvited Licensee – “uninvited licensees” are “persons who choose to come upon the premises solely for their own convenience, without invitation either expressed or reasonably implied under the circumstances.” The law imposes a slightly lower duty of care when the victim is a licensee.
- Trespasser – a trespasser is someone who is not on the property with permission of the owner/occupier. The law actually imposes a slight duty of care when the victim is a trespasser. Specifically, an owner/occupier has a duty to “refrain from inflicting willful or wanton injury.”
The law does not hold a property owner/occupier responsible for every hazard and defect on the property. For an owner/occupier to be liable, one of the following must generally be true:
- The owner/occupier created the hazardous condition.
- The owner/occupier knew about the hazardous condition or defect and did nothing to fix it.
- The owner/occupier should have known about the hazard or defect.
How Do I Know If I Am a Slip and Fall Victim?
Because of the wide variety of circumstances under which slip and fall injuries can occur, it can be difficult to know if your injuries qualify as slip and fall injuries. The best way to determine, with certainty, that you are the victim of a compensable slip and fall accident is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. In the meantime, however, it may help you to know some of the most common scenarios that cause slip and fall accidents, including:
- Liquid spills – may happen in grocery stores, restaurants or bars.
- Obstructions in an aisle – boxes full of merchandise are often left in the aisles or may fall into an aisle when stacked too high on shelves.
- Snow, ice, water on walkways – sidewalks, walkways, and steps can ice over or become packed with snow during the winter months, creating a hazard. Water can be a problem around swimming pools or anywhere that plumbing leaks could be a hazard.
- Chips or cracks in concrete – again, steps and walkways are most vulnerable.
- Inadequate or defective lighting – hallways and parking areas are the common places where inadequate or defective lighting might cause someone to trip.
- Loose handrails or stairs – failing to repair problems such as loose handrails or broken steps often causes a victim to stumble.
Steps to Take If You Are Injured While on Someone Else’s Property
If you find yourself the victim of a slip and fall accident, there are a few important steps you should take to protect both your health and your claim for damages:
- Report the injury. Alert the property owner or manager immediately after the incident to ensure that he or she is aware of your injuries.
- Obtain names and contact information. If your injuries allow, write down the names and contact information for the owner or manager as well as any witnesses to the accident.
- Document the scene. If you are able, take pictures of the scene of the accident with your cell phone or other electronic device.
- Seek medical attention. It is crucial that you submit to a thorough medical examination as soon after the accident as possible for two reasons. First, some of the most serious injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, often do not cause any visible symptoms for hours, even days, after the injury. Only a medical examination will ensure that all your injuries are diagnosed. Second, by submitting to an examination right after the accident you create a clear nexus between the injuries you suffered and the slip and fall. This makes it much easier, down the road, for your attorney to prove that you are entitled to compensation for those injuries.
- Consult with an attorney. The only way to know with certainty that you are the victim of a compensable slip and fall accident is to consult with an attorney. Furthermore, by consulting with an attorney shortly after the accident, you can avoid making any costly mistakes that might diminish your right to recover damages for your injuries.
Why Should You Contact Kirkland, McGhee & Gann?
If you believe you are the victim of a slip and fall accident, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney at Kirkland, McGhee & Gann right away. We are dedicated to helping you with both your physical and financial recovery. Talk to us and tell us your story. We will provide you with a simple to understand analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your potential case. We will also answer any, and all, questions you may have.
To find out how we can help you, contact the team at Kirkland, McGhee & Gann by calling 850-332-6120 or clicking below to schedule an appointment. Your consultation is free and we don’t get paid unless we recover money on your case.