Premises Liability Law

Who Pays After a Slip and Fall Injury?

Although slip and fall accidents may be frequently used as jokes on sitcoms, those who end up being injured often find that they are no laughing matter. First, it can be difficult to determine who is responsible when someone trips on a sidewalk and suffers an injury. Getting to the heart of the matter and analyzing whether or not the accident occurred as a result of negligence is crucial.

Premises Liability

Under the concept of premises liability law, when a person is injured on another person's property, the property owner may be held liable for the victim's injuries. Property owners are generally responsible for maintaining a safe environment, and failure to do so could result in civil lawsuits and fines. A property owner could be held responsible if a person enters their property and slips and falls due to a spill on the floor, for example.

Who Is Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident?

When a slip and fall injury occurs, there are several parties that may potentially be held liable depending on the circumstances. These might include one or more of the following:

  • The property owner - For an injury that takes place at a residential property, it is possible that the homeowner can be held liable for damages if they failed to warn guests of potential dangers that they were aware of. In a commercial setting, such as a store or hotel, the owner of the building can often be held liable for injuries that are sustained on the property due to negligence. The management company that maintains a property could also be held liable.
  • The tenant/possessor - If a commercial property is owned by one party but is being rented by a business, then both parties may be considered liable for any injuries. The tenant is considered to have a duty of care to keep guests of the business safe from harm.
  • Landlords - In residential settings, if a landlord is aware of an issue that could cause injury but fails to fix it, they could be held liable. For instance, if a pipe leaks water onto the floor and the renter has already notified their landlord of the issue but it does not get fixed and results in an injury, the landlord could be responsible for paying damages.
  • Government entities - In some cases, poorly maintained sidewalks in public areas can result in slip and fall injuries. In such cases, the city could be held responsible for paying for damages.

In order to successfully bring a premises liability claim for a slip and fall accident, the plaintiff will need to be able to prove that the other party was at fault. They'll need to be able to show one of the following:

Mitigating Factors

Just because a person sustains an injury on another person's property does not automatically guarantee that the property owner is liable for damages or that the injured person is eligible to receive the full amount of compensation. Oftentimes, the injured victim's actions need to be considered too. Under the concept of comparative negligence, if an injured party is partially responsible for their own injuries, they may find their compensation reduced by the amount that they were found partially at fault. Depending on the state where the incident took place, the injured party may even be barred from collecting damages at all.

Examples of such cases include:

  • The property owner, or one of their employees, caused the dangerous condition.
  • The property owner, or one of their employees, knew about the dangerous condition but failed to fix it.
  • The property owner, or one of their employees, should have known about the dangerous condition. "Should have known" is determined by whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would have known about, and fixed, the issue.

Seeking Help in a Slip and Fall Case

A person who is injured in a slip and fall case may find it difficult to determine who is at fault for their injuries. In such cases, a personal injury lawyer may be able to look at the facts of the case to determine which of the parties involved might be liable. In addition, a lawyer could help a victim to prove that they were not responsible for their own injuries, which could ultimately help them to receive the maximum amount possible in a slip and fall settlement.

  • The injured person was trespassing - Property owners generally do not owe a duty of care to people who trespass on their property, except in the case of children.
  • The property owner gave warning - If the property owner was aware of a potential danger and took efforts to protect visitors from it, the injured visitor might be held partially responsible. For example, a property owner may put barriers up around potential hazards or may erect caution signs.
  • Horseplay or reckless behavior - If the person who was injured was acting recklessly, they might be held partially responsible for their injuries. Examples might include if a person was running, jumping, skipping, sliding across the floor, or texting while walking.
  • The injured person was not reasonably cautious - In some situations, people are expected to be reasonably cautious in order to avoid injuring themselves. If a reasonable person would have noticed a danger and taken action to avoid injury, an injured victim who failed to do so could be held partially at fault. For example, a reasonable person may be expected to have held onto a handrail on a staircase.