When a slip-and-fall incident occurs, sometimes it's difficult to see the difference between an unpreventable accident and a viable personal injury claim, (at least from a legal standpoint). The cases detailed below should give you a pretty good sense of what is (and isn't) a viable slip and fall claim.
To get a better sense of how your own potential claim might fare, check out our article, What Makes a Slip and Fall Accident a Personal Injury Case?
Example #1: Neglected Hazard
On a crowded train platform, Clarence slips on a banana peel. The banana peel was dry and black—evidence that it had been dropped a long time before the accident. The train management is likely to be liable for Clarence’s fall because the fact that the banana peel had been on the ground for a long time means that management was not doing a reasonable job of regularly cleaning up the platform.
Example #2: Potential For Hazard
On another train platform, Barbara slips on a yellow, moist banana peel. Since the banana peel had not been there long, nothing indicates that the train management was not sweeping the platform often enough. But at this train platform there is a snack bar that sells bananas, and only one trash container, which is overflowing. The train management could be held responsible for creating the situation where banana peels need to be disposed of but providing no place for them to be thrown away. In other words, the danger of slipping on a banana peel was much greater than it needed to be because of the train management’s conduct.
Example #3: Plaintiffs' Carelessness
Martina is walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood. She sees some people unloading a truck behind a warehouse, and she goes through a gate to ask them directions. As Martina approaches, she slips on an oil spot, falls, and hurts herself. A large sign on the gate reads “Authorized Personnel Only.”
The owner of the warehouse probably would not be liable for Martina’s injuries. Martina was not on the premises as a shopper or regular business visitor, and the warehouse had no reason to expect that she would enter the loading area. It is not “reasonable” to require the owner to do enough cleanup to protect people who are not expected to be there. Also, anyone who enters a truck loading area should be careful where he or she steps; if Martina slipped on oil there, she probably was not careful. And the sign warned her not to enter.
Even though Martina’s claim for damages would not be very strong, she might still be able to collect something for her injuries from the warehouse owner’s liability insurance company. Although she was not invited into the loading area, the gate was open, and it is not totally unexpected that someone should step in there to do something normal like ask directions. The warehouse owner might be considered at least partly at fault for not having protected against danger to a person like Martina whose actions might be considered careless but weren’t all that unusual.
Want to learn more? Check out the other helpful articles in our Slip and Fall Accidents section.
This article is excerpted from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo).