Many thousands of people are injured each year in situations where they slip or trip and fall. Wet floors, defective stairs and rough or uneven patches of ground are just a few of the conditions that lead to these injuries, some of them very serious.
If you or someone you know is injured as the result of slipping or tripping and falling on someone else’s property, it is important to consider that the property owner is not automatically responsible. There are several factors that must be examined in order to determine whether a property owner is responsible for an injury resulting from a slip or trip and fall on their property.
In order for the property owner to be legally responsible for the injury, one of the following must be provable:
- Either the owner or their employee must have caused the condition that led to the slip or trip and fall. (Examples include a spill, a worn or torn spot on the ground, or other dangerous surface underfoot.)
- The owner or their employee knew about the dangerous condition but failed to do anything about it; in short, he had notice of the dangerous condition.
- The owner or their agent should have known about the dangerous condition because a reasonable person taking care of the property as would be expected of them would have discovered and fixed the dangerous condition.
Although situation (3) above is the most common, it can be difficult to prove since the legal test of “should have known” is not specifically defined. In these situations, the court will look to common sense and what the standard in society would be in order to determine liability based on what conduct would’ve been “reasonable” for the owner or employee in that case.
There are, however, some pretty standard questions that are asked when trying to determine whether the defendant acted reasonably. Essentially, the law focuses on whether the defendant makes regular and thorough efforts to keep the property clean and safe. Some of these questions include:
- Had the dangerous condition (spill, torn or worn area, loose impediment, etc.) been there long enough that the owner or employee should have known about it?
- Does the owner have a regular method and procedure for inspecting and cleaning or repairing the premises? If so, what type of proof can the owner offer as to these procedures? (Typically an owner of a property should be keeping records of inspecting, cleaning and/or repairs that are performed at regular intervals throughout the business day.)
- If the plaintiff tripped or slipped over an object that had been left on the ground, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be there in the first place? If so, could the object have been removed or covered or otherwise made safe?
- Could the object have been located in a difference place or made safer without much greater burden on the owner?
- Could a barrier have ben constructed around the object to prevent people from slipping or tripping?
- Did insufficient or broken lighting contribute to the accident?
If the answer to one or more of these is in your favor, you may have a proper claim for compensation. However it is also important to consider whether your own carelessness contributed in any significant way to the injury.
In virtually every slip or trip and fall case, the court will consider whether the injured party’s own carelessness contributed to the accident. The California rules regarding “comparative negligence” will be used when examining the conduct of the plaintiff leading up to the accident. Some of the questions asked in these cases are:
- Did the plaintiff have a legitimate reason that the owner should have anticipated, for being where the dangerous condition was?
- Would a reasonably careful person have noticed the dangerous condition and tried to avoid it?
- Were there any warnings that a dangerous condition existed?
- Was the plaintiff doing anything that distracted them from paying attention and noticing the dangerous condition, such as running, jumping, or looking at their cell phone?
These are some of the things to consider when determining whether you have a claim in the event you are injured in a slip or trip and fall accident. Of course it is always best to make this determination with an experienced attorney. For over 30 years The Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have been getting injured people the compensation they deserve for slip or trip and fall, auto accidents, and all personal injury cases. Call for a free consultation. (310) 444-3010.