Slippery Slope of Slip and Fall Accidents
“Slip and fall” is a term for personal injury cases which arise when a person slips and falls or trips and falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. Inside a building, dangerous conditions such as torn carpeting, abrupt changes in flooring, poor lighting, narrow stairs, or a wet floor can cause you to slip and hurt yourself. Outside a building, you may slip and fall because of rain, ice, snow or a hidden hazard, such as a gap or hard to see pothole in the ground. Slip and fall accidents can occur on commercial, residential or public property. Regardless of where they happen, all property or building owners have a certain level of responsibility to make sure their property is safe for use.
Slip and fall accidents are the most common type of “premises liability” cases, which center on the question of a property owner’s duty to care for the property. Slip and fall cases are governed under negligence law. To win a premises liability claim, an injured victim has to prove either that the defendant created the hazard that led to the accident or that the defendant knew or should have known about the danger and had it removed or repaired.
Example: If you slip and fall on loose grapes in a grocery store, absent some evidence of when the grapes fell onto the floor, it may be difficult to prove that the store “knew or should have known” about the dangerous condition. If the grapes fell onto the floor ten seconds before you arrived, then the store most likely could not have known about it and would not be legally responsible for your fall and any resulting injuries. However, if it can be proven that the grapes had been there for a long enough period of time that the store should have or could have cleaned the area, you may be able to recover for the fall and the resulting injuries. Because the Plaintiff has the burden of proof, demonstrating how long a hazard was present is vitally important in these types of cases.
Because the burden of proof is on the injured party in these cases, it is important to document everything surrounding a trip and fall accident. Conditions change and memories fade; the quicker an investigation is done the better the evidence you may have to help prove a case.
Structural damages to a building, often due to age or wear and tear, can be a significant cause of injury. Uneven steps, parking lot potholes, cracked sidewalks, broken tiles, or torn carpeting can create dangerous situations for visitors to a building. As noted earlier, to prove negligence, we will have to prove that the property owner knew or should have known about the problem and failed to repair it.
Landowners are generally expected to take reasonable steps to reduce hazards created by adverse weather. This can include, but is not limited to, shoveling snow, salting or sanding icy and slippery spots, and installing anti-slip devices on outdoor steps. As with other cases, if the landowner has no reasonable opportunity to correct the problem, as where a sudden ice or snow storm has created a hazard, the landowner will not be held liable for injuries caused by the hazard.
In slip and fall cases, as with all other negligence claims, modified comparative negligence applies. 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 1702. As a guest on someone else’s property, you are expected to exercise reasonable judgment and caution.
Example: You fall while walking down the stairs at a hotel, sustaining serious injuries. A jury finds that the property owner had been warned about the trouble spot weeks ago and failed to correct it, however, the jury also finds that you were reading the newspaper while you walked down the stairs and your inattention contributed to causing the accident. If the jury finds you 50 percent at fault and the defendant 50 percent at fault, the defendant would have to pay you only one half of the total damages awarded. However, if the jury would find you to be more than 50 percent at fault for your own accident you cannot recover.
If you or a loved one had a slip and fall or trip and fall accident, call The Law Offices of William J. Gagliardino now, at 412-837-2505. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is an award or recovery of funds.
The above is not legal advice. That can only come from a qualified attorney who is familiar with all the facts and circumstances of a particular, specific case and the relevant law.