An extremely common kind of accident is slipping on a wet or otherwise slippery floor, stair, or ground, or tripping over something on a floor or the ground.
It is a normal part of living for things to fall or drip on a floor or the ground, and some things put in the ground -- a drainage grate, for example -- serve a useful purpose there. Therefore, the owner or occupant of property cannot always be held responsible for immediately picking up or cleaning every slippery substance on a floor. Nor is the property owner always responsible for someone slipping or tripping on something that an ordinary person should expect to find there or should see and avoid. We all have an obligation to watch where we’re going.
Read on to learn more about the viability of a slip and fall case.
There is no precise way to explain when an owner or occupier of property is legally responsible for something on which you slip or trip. Each case turns on whether the owner acted carefully so that visitors were not likely to slip or trip -- and whether the person who fell was careless in not seeing or avoiding the thing he or she fell on.
To be held legally responsible for the injuries you suffered from slipping or tripping and falling, the owner of the premises or the owner’s employee:
The third situation is the most common, but is also less clear-cut than the first two because of those pesky words “should have known.” Liability in these cases is determined by common sense. The law determines whether the owner or occupier of property was careful by deciding whether the steps the owner or occupier took to keep the property safe were reasonable.
People who work at, live on, and visit property drop and spill things from time to time, and they do not always pick up after themselves. Floors become cracked, torn, or worn and slippery, and ground can become loose, broken, or unusually slippery. A person who is responsible for property must make some regular effort to check the walking safety of the premises and to do some repair and cleanup with safety in mind. On the other hand, the law does not require a premises owner to stand by round the clock to repair or clean up instantly anything that is broken, dropped, or spilled.
The law concentrates on the reasonableness of cleanup and repair efforts. Someone who makes regular and thorough efforts to keep property safe and clean is less likely to be found liable than an owner who neglects the premises. But usually accident claims arise when the matter of repair or cleanup is not very clear. As a result, you can almost always argue that the owner was not careful enough. The very fact that you tripped or slipped shows that the owner could have been more “reasonable.”
If you have slipped on or tripped over something and fallen, there are some initial questions you can ask to determine whether the property owner may be liable.
If you think you have a viable legal claim for injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident, there are a few things you can do right now to learn more about your potential case and protect your legal rights: