In many instances, if you were injured as a result of a slip and fall, some hazard such as water on the floor at a supermarket or a raised step at a home may be a major contributing factor. Slip and Fall cases require proof of the physical feature or condition of the premises that caused you to fall along with the other elements of negligence.
When a hazardous condition or obstacle has been in place long enough that a reasonable property owner or employee could have taken action to eliminate the hazard. Just because you may have slipped and fell does not mean that there was a hazard. In addition, just because there is a hazardous condition does not mean that there is an unreasonable risk of harm. The size of the defect, its appearance and where it is located will be taken into consideration. Whether or not you have the ability to negotiate the area where you fell will also be taken into consideration.
The term "reasonable" often comes up in settlement negotiations and at other key stages of slip and fall cases. That's because, in order to be held "negligent" and therefore liable for damages in a slip and fall case, a property owner (or the owner's agent or employee) must have failed to act as a reasonably prudent person would have acted under circumstances similar to those leading up to the accident. In trying to assess whether the defendant acted reasonably, here are some factors that plaintiffs should consider:
- Did the hazardous condition or obstacle exist long enough that a reasonable property owner or employee could have taken action to eliminate the hazard?
- Did the property owner or employee have a policy of routinely checking for potential hazards on the property, and if so, is there some sort of log or other record of whether the procedure was followed immediately before the accident?
- Was there a reasonable justification for the creation of the potential hazard? And if so, did this justification still exist at the time of the slip or fall?
- Could the hazardous condition have been made less dangerous through preventive measures such as relocating the hazard, placing adequate warning signage in the area, or preventing access to the location?
- Was poor lighting or limited visibility a factor in causing the slip and fall?
The occupant or owner of a property has a legal responsibility- a duty- to utilize ordinary care in the use, maintenance or management of the premises in order to avoid exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm.
In some cases, duty may arise out of contract or virtue of one's conduct. There are times when duty is established out of statute (ie the Labor Law). There are cases were there may be more than one duties owed a duty of care.
If you trip and fall, the breach of duty usually occurs when the responsible party fails to act properly. Examples include:
- Failure to place warning signs if the area is hazardous
- Failing to maintain the premises
- Failure to warn
- Failure to follow the statutes and applicable building codes
- Failure to repair the premises
The defendant's behavior must be connected to the cause of your injury. For example, if you allege that the defendant failed to follow building codes, that failure must be directly related to your accident.
You must be injured in order to obtain damages. Without injuries, you have no claim. The more treatment you receive, and the more serious your injuries are, the more you may be able to collect.