Who Is Responsible to Pay for a Slip and Fall Injury?

If you slip or trip and injure yourself on someone else's property, and believe the accident was caused by some fault of the property itself, the owner or agent may be liable to pay you.

If you slip and fall on someone else's property, the owner of the property may be responsible for your injuries. Determining liability in any personal injury incident is a key element in any case. Thousands of people are injured each year when they trip, or slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, an uneven floor, a flight of stairs, or a rough patch of ground. In some cases, the property owner or manager may be held liable if they knew about the situation prior and did nothing to fix or remedy the hazard. Slip and fall accidents can occur in department stores, people's homes, hotels, shopping malls, and many other locations.

If you were injured in a commercial location – like a store or mall – the business can be sued. In a residential location, the homeowner (or rather, their insurance) should pay. If you were injured at work, a workers compensation claim is almost always the exclusive remedy.

Determining Who is Responsible

Premises liability law covers slip and fall and other types of accidents caused by dangerous conditions on someone else's property. In order for a property owner to be held legally responsible for injuries sustained by an individual slipping and falling, one of the following must be true:

  • That the property owner knew about the dangerous condition and did not attempt to correct it
  • The property owner should have known about the dangerous condition and should have taken steps to prevent injuries, as a "reasonable person" would have done
  • That the property owner created the dangerous condition which led to the accident

Liability is often decided by common sense. Most judges and juries determine whether the owner or occupier of the property was careful by deciding if the owner or occupier took the proper steps to keep the property safe. When making this determination, the law concentrates on whether the owner makes a regular effort to keep the property safe, clean and up to the proper code.

Other factors that may be taken into consideration when determining fault may include:

  • How long had the dangerous condition existed and did the owner have time to be knowledgeable about the situation and fix it?
  • If the owner did attempt to remedy the situation, were his or her actions appropriate and reasonable?
  • Was the victim careless in his or her actions, thereby contributing to the accident?

Some states have what's called "comparative negligence" laws, which means that the injured person can also be held to varying degrees of responsibility for an injury. If the victim ignored posted warning signs or acted carelessly, they can also be held liable for the accident. Comparative negligence statutes will determine who will receive compensation for their losses and how much they are eligible to receive.

How Much Should Be Paid?

Generally speaking, the amount of money the liable party is made to pay is based on your damages – that is the cost of your medical bills, lost income if you missed work due to the injury, and some compensation for your pain.

Determining the amount of your actual losses – medical bills and lost income – is easy, and just requires that you gather your medical bills and add up time off of work. The hard part is calculating your pain and suffering. There is no law that says this person should get X dollars for pain, because she slipped down some faulty stairs and suffered an ACL injury. There are some commonly used formulas to get started – like the reference link above – but it's all estimates and negotiation. In most cases, you'll settle your case out of court, and negotiate some acceptable amount for pain. If you sue and go all the way through a trial, the jury will assign a value for your pain in the award, assuming you win. Every case is different, but the general rule is the greater the injuries and their impact on your life, the greater the compensation for pain and suffering.

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