More than 8 million people end up in the emergency room every year after a fall, and more than 1 million emergency room visits are due to slip-and-fall accidents. These accidents can be serious, leading to long-term medical expenses and lost wages. You may have a personal injury case when the accident occurs on someone else’s property due to the property owner’s or tenant’s negligence.
Proving negligence in a slip-and-fall case isn’t easy. It requires an in-depth understanding of premises liability and personal injury laws and experience handling these types of claims. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers can help you determine if you have a case and provide you with your legal options. If you decide to pursue a claim, we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Understanding Property Owners’ Duty of Care
Property owners or their tenants have a legal responsibility — or duty — to maintain a safe environment for visitors to their property. They must keep the property free from hazards and repair any dangerous conditions. When they can’t get to repairs immediately, they need to provide notice that the threat exists, taking measures to ensure visitors are aware of the danger. Four general property categories that are subject to owner duty of care responsibilities:
- Commercial: This category includes most businesses, including retail outlets, restaurant and bar establishments, theaters and other entertainment venues, sports arenas, marinas, private schools and universities, offices and parking garages.
- Industrial: This category covers warehouses, factories and construction sites.
- Residential: Houses, duplexes, condos and co-ops fall under this category.
- Public: Any property owned by a state or municipality falls within this category. This would include parks, streets, sidewalks, government buildings and public schools and university properties.
It’s important to note that property owners don’t owe everyone the same duty of care. They owe the greatest duty to guests. In other words, their primary responsibility is to people who are on their property legally. If a person trespasses on the property, the owner has far less responsibility for accidents due to hazardous conditions.
Proving Liability for a Slip-and-Fall Accident
Property owners or their tenants may have a duty of care to maintain a safe environment for legal visitors, but that doesn’t automatically make them liable for injuries on their property. Proving liability in these cases is more complex than showing that the defendant owed you a duty of care.
Status of Visit
Establishing a duty of care is the first step in the process, and it tends to be the easiest. You must be able to demonstrate that you were legally on the property. You need to establish an actual or implied invitation that explains your presence on the property. If you were walking through the parking lot during regular business hours, your right to be there as a consumer is implied. However, if you were there after hours, it may take more work to prove that you had an invitation to be on the property.
In some instances, the property owner may not be responsible for dangerous conditions or hazards. In many states, including Massachusetts, property owners who allow the public to access their land for recreational purposes are generally not responsible for accidents that occur on their land as a result of participants engaging in allowable activities. In other words, if you get hurt on a downhill ski run, you would have a much harder time establishing that the property owner owed you a duty of care.
Breach of Duty
The claimant must demonstrate that the property owners or tenants breached their responsibilities. To do this, you need to establish all the following:
- A hazard or dangerous condition existed on the property, and the owner, tenant or employee was responsible for the situation. The presence of obstacles, cracked sidewalks and spills are examples of dangerous conditions that a property owner may be responsible for.
- The property owner knew or should have known that the hazard existed. The defendant cannot claim ignorance to avoid liability. If the claimant can demonstrate that the responsible party had plenty of opportunities to discover the danger or that a reasonable person would have realized the threat existed, the property owner could be held liable.
- The property owner did nothing to repair the dangerous condition or warn visitors of its presence. If there is a spill and the responsible party places a “Caution” sign by it, but the claimant walked across the wet surface anyway, the property owner would probably not be responsible for the accident.
If you cannot demonstrate all three components, you can’t establish that the property owner breached a duty of care.
Defendants, their insurance claims adjusters or their attorneys will undoubtedly attempt to prove that there was no breach of duty. Without understanding their tactics or what kind of evidence you need to establish a breach, you may not get the settlement you deserve. An experienced slip-and-fall attorney from Jason Stone Injury Lawyers can help you build a strong case against the responsible party’s attempts to escape responsibility.
Cause of Accident
Next, you need to show that you could not have reasonably known about the existence of the hazard and the dangerous condition that caused your accident. In other words, if the hazardous condition was apparent, and you should have seen it before encountering it, the property owner would not likely be held accountable for the accident.
The defendants are likely to look for ways to show that you should have known about the danger. How successful they might be in their attempts depends on the circumstances of your case. However, you still need to be prepared to counter the other side’s arguments, and it helps to have someone on your side who knows what arguments the defendants are likely to use and what kind of counterargument is needed. Jason Stone’s team is here to help. One of our lawyers can assess the particulars of your case and determine its strength and where you may face challenges.
Presence of Injuries
Once you establish that the property owner owed you a duty of care, breached that responsibility and caused your accident, you need to prove that you sustained injuries from the accident. You also must demonstrate that your injuries were severe enough to require medical treatment. Minor injuries that only require on-site first aid would not likely result in a successful lawsuit.
Understanding Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Massachusetts and 32 other states follow a modified comparative negligence rule for personal injury cases. The courts consider claimants’ responsibilities for accidents that lead to injury. In Massachusetts, if the court determines that you were more than 50% responsible for the accident, you can’t collect any damages. If you are less than 50% liable, you receive a settlement percentage equal to the defendant’s percentage of responsibility.
Getting the Help You Need for Your Slip-and-Fall Accident
Jason Stone Injury Lawyers are here to help you with your slip-and-fall case. We know how hard it is to navigate the claims process while recovering from your injuries and getting your life back. We want to ease the burden by offering legal assistance in pursuing the settlement you deserve so that you can focus on your physical and emotional health. We don’t charge any upfront fees, and we only get paid when you do. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation. There’s No Obligation, Just Information®.