If you have been injured in a slip and fall, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other losses caused by the accident.
To help you determine if you have a case, Becker Law Office suggests that you ask yourself the following seven questions. Of course, you should also speak with an experienced slip-and-fall accident attorney in order to address the unique facts and issues of your situation.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout. We will be glad to meet with you right away.
1. Why were you on the premises?
A property owner has a duty to ensure visitors’ safety. However, the extent of that duty will depend on why you are on the premises.
As a visitor to a property, you will fall into one of three categories:
- Invitee – You are on the property at the owner’s invitation (express or implied) and for the owner’s benefit. For instance, when you go to a store, you are the store’s invitee. The store owner would owe you a duty to inspect the property for hidden hazards and to warn you of any dangers that may be hidden to you. If an employee mops a store aisle, the owner should put up a “Wet Floor” sign.
- Licensee – You are on the property with the owner’s permission (express or implied) but for your own benefit. An example is a delivery man dropping off a package. The owner owes a duty to warn you of any hazards but does not owe a duty to inspect the property for those hazards or to warn of any hazards the owner doesn’t know about.
- Trespasser – You are on the property without the owner’s permission. In this case, the owner typically only owes a duty to refrain from willfully or wantonly harming you. However, if there is an “attractive nuisance” on the property – a swimming pool, for example – the property owner owes a general duty to take reasonable steps to keep children out.
Of course, there are a lot more nuances to these above categories and rules. The bottom line is that you need to clearly define why you were on the property where your slip and fall occurred in order to determine the duty owed to you by the owner.
2. Why did you fall?
You must show that your slip-and-fall accident resulted from a hazard that existed on the property, and that specific hazard caused your fall. For example, if a jar of pickles fell from a grocery store shelf and created a puddle, and you slipped in the puddle and fell, the hazard (the puddle) caused your fall. But if you fell several feet away from the puddle, it would be difficult to establish that it caused your fall.
3. Did you injure yourself because of the fall?
Your legal claim after a slip-and-fall accident is for the losses due to your injury. Can you show an injury directly resulted from your fall? One of the important steps to take after a slip-and-fall accident is to see a doctor and get treatment. This is the best way to document that your injury, such as a hip fracture or broken wrist, came from a fall.
4. Was there time to remove the hazard?
If a hazard occurs at a store, business or office, the property owner generally is afforded a reasonable amount of time to identify and remove it. For example, where local ordinances require businesses to shovel or salt ice and snow, they typically provide a number of hours after snow stops falling in order to get the chore done.
What constitutes a “reasonable” amount of time is often open to argument. For instance, if your slip-and-fall accident occurs immediately after a jar of pickles falls from a shelf and spills into an aisle, the grocery store owner may argue there was no time to clean up the spill. If your fall occurs an hour after the spill, however, it would lean towards a finding of negligence.
5. Was there reasonable warning of the hazard?
Some potential slip-and-fall hazards cannot be removed immediately. A property owner may instead provide a warning, such as a sign, to advise of the danger.
We have all seen the yellow cones or other signs warning of slippery floors. In such a case, the warning must be one that would enable a reasonable person to recognize and avoid the hazard. A sign that was not in proper proximity to the hazard might not protect the property owner from a claim. Again, what constitutes a “reasonable” warning is open to interpretation.
6. Was it an “open and obvious” hazard?
Premises liability takes into consideration whether a hazard was one that a reasonable person would recognize and avoid. This is called the “open and obvious doctrine.” If there is a big hole in the ground, for instance, a reasonable person would step around it. You must ask yourself whether you should have known better than to put yourself in the position to fall and be injured.
7. Have you suffered a significant loss?
A slip-and-fall accident claim is undertaken to recover money for the losses you have suffered. You must weigh the cost of your injury against the cost in time and expense that a legal claim represents.
For example, if you only suffered minor cuts and bruises (or a bruised ego) in your fall, filing a personal injury lawsuit may not be worth the time and expense. However, a broken arm, head injury or a back injury that resulted in hospitalization would likely be a reason to pursue a claim.
You should not refrain from bringing a claim because you are concerned about suing a local store owner or a neighbor. Keep in mind that property owners carry insurance that should protect them in these situations. This insurance coverage, not the individual party, should pay for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other losses.
Our Lawyers Can Review Your Slip-and-Fall Accident
Becker Law Office can answer questions about your potential slip-and-fall claim in a free and confidential consultation. If you have a valid claim for compensation, we want you to obtain the compensation you are due. We will fight for you. Contact us today to learn more.