When establishing fault in trip and fall cases, the term "reasonable" plays an important role. A property owner or their agent should respond to potential dangers in a reasonably prudent manner to maintain a safe environment on their property. If they fail to do so, they can be found negligent and therefore are liable for injuries and damages connected to their negligence.
When determining whether a property owner responded reasonably to an existing hazard, consider:
- Was the danger, like a wet floor or broken step, on the property long enough that the owner or their agent could have cleaned up, removed, or eliminated it?
- Could the danger have been reduced through reasonable preventative measures, such as placing signage near the hazard or restricting access to the area?
- Is there a safety check policy at the property, and if so, what was the log or record before the accident?
- Did poor lighting factor into the trip and fall?
- Is it reasonable that the hazard existed at all, such as a slippery uncovered walkway following precipitation? Was the existence of the hazard at the time of the accident still justified? In other words, the creation of the hazard might be justified, but not its existence some time later.
Our lawyers will work with you to determine whether any of these factors played into the accident.
Proving You Didn't Contribute to the Accident
To avoid paying out claims, property owners and their insurance agents will often argue that the victims are partially or entirely to blame for their fall. If you are deemed entirely responsible, you will receive no compensation for your injuries. If you are found partially responsible, this is called comparative negligence. The percentage of your claim will then be reduced by the percentage you were found to be at-fault.
When determining whether a slip and fall victim might bear some or all the responsibility for their injuries, the courts will consider:
- Was the victim texting, talking, or engaged in another activity that took their attention away from the hazard? If so, when would a person reasonably have noticed the hazard?
- Did the victim ignore signs or other safety measures around the hazard?
- Was the victim allowed by law, or have a legitimate reason, to be in the location where the accident happened?
If your answer to any of these questions is "yes," the court may have grounds to assign at least some of the blame to you.
Tougher restrictions apply to any trip and fall accidents on government property
The Importance of Location
Where a slip and fall accident occurs also contributes significantly to the final decision on a lawsuit. Some of the most common sites of accidents include:
At a Place of Business
Trip and falls at places of business are among the most common claims, especially at highly-trafficked areas like restaurants and malls. A key concern is whether the claim should be filed against the property owner or the business owner. If these two parties are one and the same, the question is moot, but more often than not business owners rent their space from another party. If your fall was due to a structural issue with the building, such as a water pipe leak, then likely your claim will be against the property owner. If you slipped due to a negligent action on the part of the store owner and their employees, such as not cleaning up a spill, then your claim will likely be directed at the store owner.
On Private Property
Slip and fall accidents at a home or other residential real estate often involve tripping on rugs, which may be due to improper grip on the bottom of the material, or on carpets that are frayed or have holes. Another common place for a spill are the stairs, often due to uneven stairs, inadequate handrails, or an object on the stairs. Homeowners also have a duty to keep walkways clear following snow or ice and may be liable for related accidents.
On Government Property
Common slip and fall cases on government property include falls:
- On public right-of-ways, like the sidewalk
- At government buildings like the DMV
- On subways, public buses, and other mass transit systems
However, it is important to keep in mind that tougher restrictions apply to any trip and fall accidents on government property. For example, you can only file after notifying the responsible government agency in writing of your injuries. The statue of limitations is usually shorter compared to private claims, with some time limits as short as 30 days following the accident. The federal government also places a cap on damages.
The Importance of an Experienced Attorney
To ensure you secure the maximum damages you are owed, it is advised to work with an experienced slip and fall attorney. Insurance companies are notorious for taking advantage of victims deserving of compensation. They have a host of tactics to delay pay-outs, reduce the amount owed, or try and avoid paying a claim altogether.
An experienced attorney can go after insurance companies and beat them at their own game. Additionally, a slip and fall attorney will collect evidence to make the strongest case possible, including medical records and property records. With an experienced attorney at your side, you can receive maximum damages for past, current, and future suffering relating to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages from time off work
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
Our slip and fall attorneys are strong advocates for all of our clients. We work diligently to ensure that victims of negligent property owners or occupants receive reasonable and fair compensation for their losses. Damages may include current and future medical bills and lost wages. Other compensation can be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and overall diminished quality of life.
Contact Our Attorneys
Unsafe property conditions can cause lifelong injury and even death. If you or a loved one have been a victim of negligence by a property owner or occupant, call our Daytona Beach office at (386) 258-7313, our Palm Coast office at (386) 439-7760, or reach out online today to schedule a free consultation.