While most may be familiar with the basic concepts involved in a slip, trip and fall accident, many may not be familiar with the legal aspects. The legal basis for these types of personal injury cases have a solid foundation in negligence statutes in state law and are worth investigating for a deeper understanding of legal options and risks.
Slip trip and fall accidents require proving fault.
Deciding who should take responsibility for a slip, trip and fall accident is a major part of a personal injury lawsuit. In most cases, the property owner is blamed for accidents that occur on his or her premises, but the fault does not always necessarily lie with an owner.
To determine responsibility, courts use a number of requirements. According to most state statutes for such claims of personal injury due to negligence, the owner must have caused the condition that led to the accident and he must have known or should have known about the condition but chose to do nothing about it. Only when these specific criteria can be submitted to the court with evidence can an owner or occupier be held liable for a slip, trip and fall negligence claim.
Slip trip and fall claims use a “reasonable person” standard.
Beyond determining fault, courts also take into consideration the reasonableness of the behavior of the defendant. One of the main premises of personal injury law negligence claims is that a court can expect a defendant should have known about dangerous conditions if a reasonable person would have known and taken steps to remove it. This leaves open the question, what is a reasonable person?
For the most part, the reasonable person is someone who takes care to manage their property with diligence. This means taking steps to regularly check for dangerous conditions and exercising sincere efforts to ensure that a property remains safe. It does not require that a property owner take special precautions and invest in expensive preventative measures – only that he or she uses sensible and routine steps to keep the property free from harm.
A plaintiff’s damages can be considerable reduced if a defendant can prove any of a number of defenses in a slip, trip and fall negligence claim.
The defenses available to a defendant can be a substantial obstacle for plaintiffs who fail to reasonably avoid or prevent a slip, trip and fall accident. This is because a defendant can claim that the plaintiff’s own actions before the accident, rather than the negligence of the defendant, either caused or partially caused the accident.
One interesting slip, trip and fall defense is called comparative negligence. Comparative negligence allows the court to compare the alleged negligence of the defendant against the actions and behavior of the plaintiff before the accident. Plaintiffs could see a reduction in the amount of damages awarded based on the degree to which his or her own actions contributed to the harm suffered..
Contributory negligence and assumption of risk are two more important defenses to a slip, trip and fall negligence claim. With contributory negligence, the defendant asserts that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his or her injuries, thus the defendant should not be held liable. With assumption of risk, the defendant claims, the plaintiff knew ahead of time of the dangers or chances of harm but proceeded anyway and assumed the risk of the injury, thus freeing the defendant of full responsibility.
The presence of warning signs or notices is important in a slip, trip and fall negligence claim.
The issue of whether a warning sign is required to prevent liability for slip, trip and fall injuries depends on the state laws governing the matter. In some states, the liability of a property owner is based on the status of the injured party, particularly whether that person is deemed an invitee, licensee or trespasser according to the law. For these types of cases, the presence of a warning sign may not be required.
In other states, such as California, a different standard for slip, trip and fall negligence claims exists. In these states, the standard of ordinary negligence applies, regardless of the status of the injured party. Ordinary negligence standards usually require a property owner to provide adequate warning when there is danger or risk of injury on property premises.
If a warning is required, but the property owner failed to provide it or provided a less than sufficient warning, he or she could be held liable absent any proven defenses.
Landlords may be held liable for slip, trip and fall accidents that happen on rental properties.
If you live on a rental property and suffer injuries from a slip trip and fall accident on the premises, your landlord could be held liable. This is because the landlord is considered the responsible party if his negligence caused the accident.
Landlords have a duty and a responsibility to keep their rental properties safe and free of harm. They must take reasonable precaution to manage the property in such a way that residents do not become injured due to careless upkeep or suffer the legal consequences.
There is limited time available to file a claim of slip, trip and fall negligence against a property owner or landlord.
State statutes governing a slip, trip and fall accident require that plaintiffs file claims within a fixed and limited amount of time. Generally, the time limit begins on the date the injury occurred. From that day, the clock is ticking and will end based on the designated time limit announced in your state statute. This is usually about two years, but could be more or less depending on the state you live in.
It’s also important to note that some states do allow for the statute of limitations to be extended. Keep in mind this is usually only allowed based on circumstances that are beyond the control of the plaintiff. For instance, the court might allow an extension if the defendant decides to flee the state in the days or week after the accident.
Slip, trip and fall accidents are best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney.
Most personal injury attorneys gain skill in litigating slip, trip and fall accidents of all kinds. Doing so requires a keen awareness of state law and court procedures specific to personal injury cases. That’s why it’s important to seek the help of a competent, well-qualified attorney or team of attorneys when it’s your turn to address a slip, trip and fall accident.