Whether you can recover damages for a slip and fall accident often depends on who owns the property where you fell:
Business owners, including public stores and landlords, are held to a very high duty of care to protect their customers and other “business invitees” from potentially hazardous conditions.
Private homeowners are held to a much less rigorous standard. Thus the same exact hazard might result in a viable claim against a grocery store, but not against a private landowner.
For example, tripping on a loose piece of carpet in a grocery store could be a good claim; but if you trip over loose carpet in a neighbor’s home, it is much less likely there is a viable claim.
It is important to be able to establish what exactly caused a slip or fall accident. Also that the property owner either actually knew about the hazard or should have known about it.
The longer a problem has existed, the more likely a business owner will be held responsible, since the longer it exists the more opportunity there is to discover and fix the problem. Hazardous conditions that often result in owner liability include things like wet floors, poorly lighted or designed walkways or stairs, untended spills, items left on the floor, inadequate stair railings, bulging or torn carpets, uneven pavement or potholes, or icy conditions.
Sometimes a hazardous condition is actually created by a business owner, such as when they mop a floor and fail to block off the area or otherwise take precautions to keep patrons from walking on the slippery area. In these cases notice is presumed, so the claim is much easier to establish.
A big problem exists if a person is not able to explain why they fell. For example, often patrons will slip on something in a store. However, they will fail to immediately investigate what the substance or thing is that made them fall. This makes it almost impossible to make a claim. It is the injured person’s responsibility to prove the business should have known about the hazard. If you don’t even know what the substance or item was that was slipped or tripped on, proving notice of the hazard simply isn’t possible.
The substance could have been something that another patron dropped just a few seconds or minutes earlier. If this is the case, the business owner is not liable for your fall because the store employees couldn’t have known about it and cleaned it up that quickly. Therefore, it’s critical to take note of your surroundings and to determine why you slipped or tripped. Additionally, an accident report form should be completed if the fall has taken place at a business.
Sometimes a business will maintain daily videotapes. If these are obtained they can establish what happened. Thus, a competent attorney when retained will usually request any such evidence immediately.
As you can see, there are many important considerations in determining whether you have a viable slip and fall compensation claim. Many times a full investigation must take place to even determine if there are grounds for a personal injury case. Consulting with an experienced law firm is the first step to make sure that an investigation is initiated promptly and that your rights to compensation are established and preserved.
We are happy to meet with you to assess whether you have a right to compensation.