Slip and fall accidents are some of the most common sorts of accidents after traffic accidents and can cause serious injury, even occasionally death. These sorts of accidents are notoriously hard to determine whether someone was actually at fault or whether it was just bad luck or carelessness on the part of the person who slipped or tripped up on something and fell over, injuring themselves.
Most obviously, if you slipped over in your own home or fell on your face and broke your teeth, there’s no one else to blame but yourself. But not all accidents of this type, even in your own home, are just ‘bad luck’ or your own fault. Faulty equipment that you weren’t aware of, like a step ladder that had a design or manufacturing fault, could lead to a nasty injury if you fell off it. If you can prove that the fault caused your fall, then you may have grounds to make a claim for compensation from the manufacturer or the store that sold the ladder.
How about slip and fall accidents on someone else’s property?
If you have an accident outside your own home and it’s in or near a building, on a sidewalk or park, you may have grounds for claiming compensation, but there are so many different circumstances at play that there is no easy answer to whether compensation can be claimed in the event of an accident. It all depends on whether the property owner on whose property you had the accident was actually ‘liable’ for your accident and whether the property owner can be shown to have been negligent and that their negligence directly caused your accident.
Just because a property owner is liable for accidents on their property doesn’t mean that they were negligent if an accident took place. Property owners are potentially liable for accidents on their property if that part of their property is legally open to use by the general public. For example, a store owner is potentially liable for slip and fall accidents within their store when it is open to customers. A city that owns a public sidewalk may be potentially liable for accidents as long as the public are free to use it. A bank may be potentially liable for a slip and fall accident if someone trips over when getting out of an elevator in the bank building.
Property owners are not liable for accidents on their property if they are not accessible to the public, e.g. if someone trespasses on that property, or there is a clear warning that a part or all of the property is not open.
Property owners who own property that is usually open to the general public take out public liability insurance to protect them against compensation claims in the event of an avoidable accident for which they have been proven to have been both liable and negligent.
The difference between ‘liable’ and ‘negligent’
A property owner may be liable for accidents on their property but they cannot be sued unless negligence can be proven. For negligence to be proven it must be shown that a property owner did not take ‘reasonable’ steps to remove or prevent a hazard that could cause an accident. For example, if you slipped over in a supermarket it would be unreasonable to expect the management or staff to have removed a slippery mess if it had developed minutes before you slipped over on it. It’s unlikely that a court would consider the supermarket negligent. If the mess had appeared an hour or two before you slipped over on it, and the managers or staff had been told about it several times already and hadn’t gotten around to clearing it up, then this may be considered unreasonable and the actions of the supermarket negligent assuming you can show that you actually slipped over the hazard.
Because of the gray areas in determining liability and negligence in a slip and fall accident case, you should use a dedicated and experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your claim. If you, or a loved one, have been a victim of a slip and fall accident, you should contact the Keith Williams Law Group.