Slip and fall accidents often cause devastation for their victims. One minute, the victim chose to walk normally across a seemingly safe area of ground. The next minute, the victim may have a broken hip, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury, or broken bones.
Those injuries may leave the victim with substantial medical expenses and, in many cases, long-term changes to their ability to take care of themselves, go to work, or engage in the activities that usually fill their leisure hours.
If you suffer injuries in a slip and fall, you deserve compensation. Identifying the liable party in your accident can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Who bears liability in a slip and fall accident? An attorney can help break down all the circumstances related to your slip and fall accident and give you a better idea of what parties may bear or share liability for your injuries.
Breaking Down Basic Liability
To find the liable party in your slip and fall accident, an attorney will start with the basic questions that help determine who caused or contributed to your injuries.
1. Who bore a duty of care to you at the time of the accident?
Most premises owners bear a basic duty of care to everyone who visits those premises. They must exercise caution to help prevent slips, trips, and falls, according to basic OSHA regulations.
That liability holds true when you visit a hotel, a restaurant, or a store. While private property owners may hold less responsibility for maintaining the property, they must also offer basic protections that will prevent you from slipping and falling because of property negligence.
In addition, property owners, or the businesses operating on a property, must issue warnings about potential dangers. For example, store owners might put up a “wet floor” sign to warn customers about fall hazards immediately after mopping the floor or taking care of a spill, or if customers track snow in on their shoes.
2. How did the liable party violate its duty of care to you?
Violations of the duty of care can occur in several ways before a slip and fall accident. For example, you might find that a liable property owner violated his or her duty of care by failing to properly repair the floor or needed handrails, or a liable business owner or management team might have failed to promptly take care of a spill, causing you to slip on the wet flooring and fall.
3. How did that negligence contribute to your injuries?
To show that a specific party bears liability for your injuries, you will need to show that the act of negligence led to your injuries. If you slip and fall, but get back to your feet with nothing bruised or damaged other than your dignity, you may not have grounds for a slip and fall claim. On the other hand, if your fall leads to serious injuries, you may have grounds for a slip and fall claim, and the party whose actions contribute to your injuries may bear liability for your expenses.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
In general, property owners, or the company operating on a specific property, will bear liability for a slip and fall accident. Typically, the property owner will bear liability when large-scale maintenance issues lead to an accident. However, sometimes, the company operating on the premises will bear liability for a slip and fall.
Wet, Slick Floors
Most of the time, the business bears liability for keeping floors dry and clean. When a spill occurs, they must clean it promptly. Employees who observe a spill should know how to clean it up, including where to find the right supplies to clean up the spill and how to handle it. For example, they may need to post a wet floor sign to help customers recognize the potential hazard and avoid a dangerous fall.
Sometimes, employees may not have the reasonable ability to observe a spill, based on their location or the timing of the spill. In that case, the facility may still, in some cases, bear liability for the problem. Talk to an attorney to learn more about how to determine liability.
Premises owners bear a high duty of care to make sure that flooring does not present an unnecessary hazard. Damaged, uneven flooring can prove difficult for many people, particularly seniors, to navigate. Your shoe can catch on the floor, causing you to lose your balance and fall to the ground. Unfortunately, some people may have poor balance and struggle to catch themselves and prevent the fall.
While premises owners most often bear liability for damaged flooring, sometimes, a business operating on the premises will bear liability for the damage to the floor. The business must report the damage to the owner to get the floor repaired. The business may also need to put up signs that will notify customers of those potential hazards.
Cords and Hazards in the Floor
Cords and hazards on the floor can cause a serious fall hazard for anyone walking by. Often, people can catch a foot in the cord, making it impossible for them to safely navigate. Most often, the business bears liability for those cords. The business should tape cords down or place them in areas where people do not have to walk to reduce potential risks and help avoid potential falls.
Unsafe or Broken Handrails
Near stairs or ramps, handrails give visitors to the property something to hold on to as they navigate up or down. Many people, including disabled individuals and seniors, rely on handrails to help them keep their balance and safely navigate stairs and ramps. If those handrails wear down over time or break due to poor construction, however, those handrails may no longer offer adequate support and protection. The victim can crash down the stairs, often resulting in severe injuries.
Uneven or Unsafe Sidewalks
In addition to providing a safe environment for guests inside the business, many business owners also bear responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk outside the business. While the state or local government may bear liability for maintaining public spaces—which can leave that government entity liable for any injuries that occur as a direct result of a slip and fall in those spaces—business owners may bear some liability for maintaining their parking lots or the sidewalks directly in front of their stores.
If you fall outside a local business, particularly in a space owned by the business, consult an attorney to learn more about who may bear liability for those injuries.
Improper Safety Measures
You may suffer a slip and fall accident at work because your workplace does not insist on adequate safety practices—or does not provide the tools necessary to keep you safe. Your employer might, for example, require you to work in slick conditions in the kitchen, but fail to offer adequate signs to help keep you safe; or might have employees walking across dangerous, uneven flooring in back rooms and warehouses because the business owner has failed to maintain and remediate those spaces as needed.
If you suffer an accident at work because of negligence on your employer’s part, including failure to provide you with adequate safety equipment or to maintain employee areas properly, you may have grounds for a slip and fall claim against your employer.
On the other hand, if you suffer any type of slip and fall accident at work, whether due to your employer’s actions, your actions, or the actions of a customer, you may have grounds for a workers’ compensation claim.
Through a workers’ compensation claim, you can claim compensation for all of your medical expenses and a percentage of your lost wages after the accident. Unlike in a regular slip and fall claim, your workers’ compensation insurance will pay your medical bills directly, rather than paying out compensation directly to you.
Negligent Nursing Home Staff
Falls in elderly nursing home patients can prove devastating. Seniors have a higher risk of suffering severe injuries, including broken hips, in a slip and fall accident. In addition, seniors may have higher fall risk depending on their current mental and physical capacity, including existing disabilities and other challenges.
Nursing homes bear a high duty of care to all of their residents. In addition to ensuring that patients receive prompt care and assistance when they need it, nursing homes must make sure that patients have the mobility and accessibility tools at hand to reduce fall risk.
Nurses may need to respond quickly to prevent a patient from climbing out of bed when he has a known fall risk, and nurses should not leave at-risk patients in dangerous environments. While patients can fall even with the best possible care from their nursing home providers, if a nursing home commits an act of negligence, including ignoring a patient’s needs or exposing a patient to a potential fall hazard even though the patient has a known high risk for falling, the nursing home may bear liability for those injuries.
Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents on Private Properties
You may have grounds to file a claim if you suffer a slip and fall accident on public property. If you suffer a slip and fall accident on private property, on the other hand, you may not know whether you have the same grounds for compensation. Furthermore, you may worry about filing a slip and fall claim against a friend or neighbor.
In general, your friend or neighbor will not pay the compensation related to your slip and fall claim directly. Instead, you will file that claim through the liable party’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. That claim can provide vital compensation that will help you cover the cost of your injuries.
On private property, you have the right to expect a reasonably safe environment.
The property owner must:
- Properly maintain the property, including both indoor and outdoor spaces
- Warn you about clear hazards, either through labeling or verbal warning
- Offer you a safe environment for your visit
An attorney can help you learn more about your right to compensation after a slip and fall accident on private property, including whether the property owner may bear liability.
Establishing Liability in a Slip and Fall Claim
To establish liability after a slip and fall accident, your attorney will start by asking several key questions that can help establish whether you may have grounds to file a claim and who bears liability for your injuries.
1. Did you have the right to be on the property?
In general, if you suffered a slip and fall in a business that you otherwise had the right to enter, you should have no trouble establishing your right to use the property.
2. What led to your slip and fall?
If you stepped sidewise and twisted your ankle, your own negligence caused the accident, and you may not have grounds for a slip and fall claim. On the other hand, if you establish that some other cause led to your injuries, you may have grounds for a slip and fall claim.
3. Did the liable party ignore possible safety measures?
Posted warning signs, for example, might serve as a warning of wet flooring or an uneven area. A lack of those signs could indicate negligence on the part of the business.
If you suffered injuries in a slip and fall, contact an attorney who can help identify who may bear liability for your injuries and what compensation you may deserve.