Trip Slip and Fall Accidents
A slip and fall accident can occur anywhere. It can happen from a wet floor in the grocery store or because of a dangerously or uneven sidewalk. Not every situation gives rise to a legal claim. However, valid slip and fall claims can be filed and settled. It is important to understand liability, and the key factor is negligence. If you have been injured because of a slip and fall accident, remember that it is a normal part of living. Things fall on or to drip onto a floor or the ground. Smooth surfaces become uneven. Also, some things such as drainage grates serve a useful purpose. So a property owner cannot always be held responsible for immediately picking up or cleaning every slippery surface. Nor is a property owner always responsible for someone slipping or tripping. We all have an obligation to watch where we’re going.
Property owners need to be careful in keeping their property in good order. You may not precisely determine when someone else is legally responsible. However, cases are decided on whether the property owner acted carefully to avoid slipping or tripping. There is consideration whether you were careless in not seeing or avoiding a hazardous situation.The important factors are that the owner of the premises or an employee:
- Must have caused the spill, worn or torn spot, or other slippery or dangerous surface.
- Knew of the dangerous surface but done nothing about it.
- Should have known of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.
The third situation is the most common, but is also less clear-cut. Common sense typically determines liability. Judges and juries determine whether the property owner was careful. Did the owner take reasonable steps to keep the property safe? We evaluate these factors during our initial consult.
Negligence often hinges on whether the defendant acted reasonably. In determining “reasonableness,” the law asks if the owner made regular efforts to keep the property safe and clean. Here are some important questions:
- Did you trip over a torn, broken, or bulging area of carpet, floor, or ground?
- If you slipped on a wet or loose area, had the dangerous spot been there long enough that the owner should have known about it?
- Does the property owner have a regular procedure for examining and cleaning or repairing the premises? If so, what proof does the owner have of this regular maintenance?
- In cases where you tripped or slipped on an object someone had placed on the floor or ground, was the object there for a legitimate reason?
- Had there been a good reason for the object to be there but that reason no longer existed. Could the object have been removed or covered or otherwise made safe before the accident?
- Was there a safer place the object could have been located? Could it have been placed in a safer manner, without causing the owner much greater inconvenience or expense?
- Could a simple barrier have been created or a warning been given to prevent people from slipping or tripping?
- Might poor or broken lighting have contributed to the accident?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is in your favor, you may have a good claim. However, you must still think about whether your own carelessness contributed in any significant way to your accident.
Your Own Negligence
In almost every slip or trip and fall case, you must decide whether your carelessness contributed to the accident. The rules of “comparative negligence” help measure your own reasonableness in going where you did, in the way you did, just before the accident happened. There are some questions you should ask yourself about your own conduct. Keep in mind that an insurance adjuster will almost certainly ask them after you file your claim.
- Did you have a legitimate reason — a reason the owner should have anticipated — for being where the dangerous area was?
- Would a careful person have noticed the dangerous spot and avoided it, or walked carefully enough not to slip or trip?
- Were there any warnings that the spot might be dangerous?
- Were you doing anything that distracted you from paying attention to where you were going, or were you running, jumping, or fooling around in a way that made falling more likely?
You don’t have to “prove” to an insurance adjuster that you were careful, but think about what you were doing and describe it clearly so that an insurance adjuster will understand that you were not careless.