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Establishing Liability in Slip and Fall Incidents

Key Considerations for Determining Responsibility in Slip or Trip and Fall Cases on Another’s Property

Every year, a significant number of individuals sustain injuries, some of which are quite severe, due to slipping or tripping and falling on hazardous surfaces such as slick floors, staircases, or uneven terrain. Whether the proprietor of the property where the mishap occurred is liable can vary on a case-by-case basis.

If you've been harmed in a slip or trip and fall incident, it’s crucial to understand that it's a common occurrence for objects to fall or liquids to spill onto floors or the ground, and for smooth surfaces to become irregular over time. Additionally, there are installations like drainage grates that are intentionally placed in certain areas for practical purposes. As a result, property owners and occupiers cannot be held liable for instantly addressing every slippery or tripping hazard. Furthermore, they are not always at fault if a person slips or trips on an obstruction that an average individual would typically notice and avoid. We all bear the responsibility to be aware of our surroundings.

Nevertheless, property owners are obliged to maintain their property with diligence. While there is no definitive method to determine when someone else is legally answerable for an accident, the crux of the matter lies in whether the property owner managed their property with enough care to prevent such incidents, and whether the injured party was negligent in not noticing or sidestepping the obstacle they stumbled upon. To assist you in assessing if another party may be accountable for your injuries, here are some general guidelines.

Assessing Liability

For a property owner to be legally accountable for the injuries you incurred from slipping or tripping and falling on their premises, one of the following must apply:

  • The premises owner or an employee caused the spill, wear, tear, or any other slippery or perilous conditions.
  • The premises owner or an employee was aware of the hazard but neglected it.
  • The premises owner or an employee should have been aware of the danger because a “reasonable” caretaker would have identified and rectified the issue.

Out of these scenarios, the third is the most prevalent but also the most ambiguous due to the phrase “should have known.” Common sense is often a determining factor in these cases. Judges and juries evaluate whether the property owner or occupier took reasonable steps to ensure safety.

Defining “Reasonable”

When it comes to judging the reasonableness of a property owner in maintaining their premises, the primary focus is whether regular and systematic efforts are made to keep the property in a safe and clean condition. Here are questions to ponder when trying to figure out if a property or business owner may be liable for your slip or trip and fall injuries:

  • Had the risky area been present long enough that the owner ought to have been aware of it?
  • Is there a protocol in place for regular inspection and maintenance of the property, and can the owner provide evidence of such procedures?
  • If the hazard was an object left on the ground, was there an acceptable reason for its placement?
  • If the object’s placement was originally justified but no longer is, could the object have been removed or secured to prevent danger?
  • Could the object have been situated somewhere else or in a safer manner to reduce the risk without significantly inconveniencing the property owner?
  • Could warning signs or barriers have been installed to alert individuals of potential dangers?
  • Did inadequate lighting play a role in the incident?

If the answers to one or more of these inquiries are in your favor, you might have a compelling case for compensation. However, it's also vital to consider if your actions may have contributed to the accident.

Evaluating Your Own Actions

In the majority of slip or trip and fall cases, your own behavior leading up to the accident is also scrutinized. The principles of “comparative negligence” assess whether your actions were reasonable given the circumstances of the accident. Consider the following questions regarding your behavior – they are likely to be raised by an insurance adjuster as well:

  • Were you in the hazardous area for a legitimate reason—a reason the owner might expect?
  • Might a careful individual have spotted the danger and either avoided it or proceeded with enough caution?
  • Were there any indicators or warnings of potential risk in the area?
  • Were you engaged in any activities that diverted your attention, or were you behaving in a manner that increased the likelihood of a fall?

You are not required to prove to an insurance adjuster that your conduct was cautious, but providing a clear account of your activities will help convince the adjuster of your prudence.

For professional legal guidance, contact Flaxman Law Group at 954-987-0099 for your free accident consultation. Let us help you ascertain your rights and pave the way to the compensation you deserve.

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