You can slip and fall anywhere, and sometimes a fall may result in severe injuries with serious financial repercussions. When the property owner’s negligent action caused the accident and the resulting injuries, you have the right to file a lawsuit in civil court and seek recovery for the damages you suffered. Whether your fall occurred in someone’s home or at a business location, this is true as long as you can prove that the property owner is at fault.
To Whom Do Business Owners Owe a Duty of Care?
The concept of premises liability governs slip and fall accidents. Under premises liability, anyone that owns a property owes a duty of care to all visitors, meaning they must keep it safe for everyone legally allowed to be there. The visitor’s legal status on the property directly affects their ability to seek compensation if a slip and fall accident occurs. Individuals legally allowed on the property include:
- A guest is someone welcomed onto the property by the owner. This typically refers to someone invited to visit the residential property for social reasons.
- An invitee could include store customers or anyone with a direct or implied invitation allowing them to be on the property lawfully.
- A licensee may refer to a salesperson or anyone that has permission to enter the property but does so for their own purposes.
Property owners must maintain a reasonably safe space for these three visitors. However, in some states, the duty of care varies among them. For example, a property owner does not owe the same duty of care to a salesperson or solicitor as they do to an invitee or guest. Additionally, premises liability does not protect a trespasser. For example, suppose you slip and fall at a business location during non-operational hours when you should not be there. In that case, the property owner is not responsible for any damages incurred from the accident.
What Is the Standard for Reasonableness?
The court determines liability on the somewhat vague concept of how a reasonable person would behave under the same circumstances as the property owner. For example, some reasonable attempts to maintain a safe business property include:
- Regularly monitoring the condition of the parking lot and walkway pavement and making necessary repairs
- Establishing a procedure to ensure consistent shift checks for potentially hazardous conditions within a store
- Creating a written documentation system for safety checks during employee shifts
- Keeping a rug near the entrance of the property to help avoid puddled water caused by customer traffic
- Outlining a strict cleaning policy and training employees to follow it
- Possessing proper warning signage for dangerous conditions not easily removed
Ultimately, the court decides whether or not a business acted within the standard of reasonable care. However, the burden of proving liability falls on the plaintiff.
Who Is Liable in a Slip and Fall Accident in a Business?
If you suffer an injury caused by a dangerous condition in a business location, the property owner is generally liable. If the site is a retail store, supermarket, or restaurant, the property and store owners may not be the same person. If the property owner rents the location to the store or restaurant owner, who is liable depends on the condition that caused your accident. For example, if you slipped on a hazard caused by structural issues, such as a leak in the ceiling, the property owner is likely liable. If the staff in a business operating in a rental property caused the hazard, either negligently or intentionally, the business owner is responsible rather than the property owner.
How Do You Prove Liability in a Slip and Fall Accident?
To file a personal injury lawsuit, you must suffer damages. Slipping and falling alone is not reason enough to sue. You must also prove that the accident resulted from a breach of the duty of care owed to you and that you suffered harm because of that breach. To prove negligence, one of the following must be true about your case:
- The property owner or staff was aware of the dangerous situation and knowingly left it where your accident occurred.
- The property owner or staff placed the hazard there knowing that it was dangerous and did not remove it in time to keep visitors safe.
- Any reasonable person would have recognized the condition as dangerous and removed it. Therefore, the property owner or staff should have recognized it as hazardous and removed it.
In addition to proving the owner’s negligence, you must also prove that you suffered damages because of the accident.
What Damages Might You Sustain From a Slip and Fall Accident?
Damages refer to economic and non-economic losses you may incur from a personal injury. Examples of damages caused by a slip and fall accident include:
- Medical expenses include the cost of current treatments for injuries and the cost of future therapy when injuries require long-term care.
- Lost wages cover the income you would have had you not missed work because of your injuries.
- Loss of earning capacity refers to damage to your ability to make the same income you earned before your injuries.
The above damages are economical because they have an implicit monetary value. However, you may also request compensation for non-economic damages, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- The inability to enjoy life as you did before the accident
You may quantify non-economic damages using a number of methods, including referring to cases from the past with similar circumstances. Additionally, family, friends, and relative professionals may provide testimonies to support your claims.
When Is the Business Owner Not Liable?
Slip and fall accidents may have similar circumstances, but every situation is different in one way or another. Some common examples of slip and fall accidents where the business owner is not liable include:
- When you cannot prove a correlation between the business owner’s negligence and the resulting damages
- When the business owner was not negligent
- When another person or party on the premises causes the dangerous condition
- When the business owner acted within the standard of reasonableness to maintain a safe space for visitors
- When the business owner negligently caused an accident, but no one suffered an injury
Liability in a slip and fall accident is often nuanced and complex. You should expect the defendant to challenge your claim with accusations claiming you were either at fault or shared some responsibility for the accident.
Should You Contact a Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer?
An experienced slip and fall accident attorney can offer many advantages. If you choose to hire one, they investigate your accident and collect evidence to support your claim. They understand the complexities of proving fault in a slip and fall case and can help you more accurately value your damages, particularly the non-economic damages. More importantly, they work on contingency.
The financial consequences of a slip and fall accident are often heavy. In order to alleviate that burden, Jason Stone Injury Lawyers require no upfront fees to get started on your case. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures that we get paid only after you get paid. If you sustained an injury in a slip and fall accident, we are here to help you get your life back and recover the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.