Slip & Fall Accidents: Who’s Responsible?
The term “slip and fall” generally conjures up an image of someone slipping on a banana peel in a grocery store, and getting minor cuts and bruises. While that can certainly occur, the truth of the matter is that in many falls the person lands on hard concrete, or tile covering rock hard concrete, and the human body has to absorb the force generated. The result of that force can result in serious broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and even death. When a serious slip and fall accident occurs, it’s important to answer the question, “Who’s responsible?”
The Challenges of Determining Liability
Determining liability in slip or trip and fall cases can be challenging, because the law changes. In the example of someone slipping on a banana peel in a grocery store, it may seem obvious that the store owner is liable – especially if the peel is black and sticky and had been left on the floor for a long while. However, what if the peel had just been dropped 5 seconds before by another customer and the store did not have the chance to inspect and remove it? In that case, liability becomes less clear. At the same time, shoppers are responsible for looking out for their own safety. While these examples certainly oversimplify the matter, it shows that the responsibility is not clearcut. “Premises liability cases can require a complex analysis, because the jury has to apportion the responsibility for all of the parties involved,” explains Greg bubalo, Managing and Head Attorney at the Becker Law Office. “We’ve taken a case to the Supreme Court and had the law changed favorably for all injured claimants. I’ve been handling these types of cases for 30 years and want to put that experience to work for my clients.”
Determining “premises” liability varies by the type of property where the accident occurred and the circumstances of the presence on the property.
Here’s how it works for these property types:
- Commercial Property. To be legally responsible for slip and fall injuries, the owner/tenant of a commercial property generally must have invited the person onto the property for a business purpose, and:
- caused the spill, or allowed a worn or torn walking surface, or other slippery or dangerous hazard or item, to be underfoot
- known of the dangerous hazard, but failed to remove it or warn the customer of its existence until removed
- generally failed to act like a “reasonable” business owner should by allowing a hazard to exist without finding and removing or repairing the hazard
- Residential Property. To be legally responsible for slip or trip and fall injuries, the owner/tenant of a residential property has a lesser duty to guests on the premises, but must still generally have:
- control over the condition or hazard that caused the slip or trip and fall
- known that repairing the condition would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult to correct
- known that a serious injury was likely to occur if the condition was not fixed, or
- known that there was a hidden hazard without warning the guest on the property of its existence
- Government Property. Recovering compensation for slip or trip and fall injuries on government owned property is limited by the law, and depends upon whether the property was owned by a local, state or federal governmental entity. In many cases, the government has at least limited immunity, and limited exposure to pay damages. If it doesn’t, it’s important to know that strict notice requirements for filing a claim may apply. If the rules the government sets are not followed, the claim is barred.
In addition to the type of property involved, liability for injuries may also depend upon why the person was on the property in the first place. A trespasser will have very few rights to make a claim as opposed to a customer who visited a store or restaurant, or a guest invited into someone’s home.
Never Assume You Don’t Have a Claim
While the above are general requirements for premises liability cases, every case is different and is dependent upon the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and the extent of the injury. This may be true even if you were partially at fault, so never assume that you don’t have a claim until you’ve spoken with an experienced premises liability attorney. According to Greg Bubalo, Managing Partner and Head Attorney at the Becker Law Office:
“My own mother tripped and fell on a commercial property and suffered a severe fracture of her arm. I how serious slip and fall injuries can be, and the pain and hardships that victims and their families face when forced to undergo lengthy and expensive medical treatments and rehabilitation. Anyone who has been injured should keep in mind that the law allows them fair compensation, and to be ‘made whole’ for these losses. My office provides a FREE consultation, so finding out whether you might have a claim doesn’t cost you a dime.”
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall injury, contact an experienced premises liability attorney today to discuss your situation and determine whether you might be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, physical and emotional pain and suffering, rehabilitation and more.