Slip and Fall Claims

A slip and fall claim involves the situation where a dangerous floor surface causes a person to slip and fall and injure themselves. The party that created the hazardous conditions will be held liable for the slip and fall injuries. This is usually the person who owns the premises. Therefore, slip and fall cases technically belong to the category of premises liability in tort law.

Premises liability is based on the legal theory that owners of premises have a duty to keep their premises safe for people who use the areas in their control.

Owners of premises can include such parties as business owners, residential unit owners (landlords) and government entities. Different premises where a slip and fall injury could occur are in places where business is conducted, on private property that is rented to tenants, and in publicly operated areas such as sidewalks or roads.   

Slip & Fall Cases and Personal Injury Law

Proving a slip and fall case in a court of law is like arguing any other type of personal injury case. To prevail, one must demonstrate:

Each one of these elements must be proved in order to win the case. If the plaintiff cannot prove any one of these, then recovery may be limited or barred.

Duty to Keep Premises Safe

All owners of property have a basic duty to keep their premises in safe conditions. Standards of care vary depending on the type of property involved and whether the person is a visitor or a trespasser to the area. For example, some laws require landowners to make inspections of their land, whereas in some instances inspections are not required.

Laws governing the duty of care vary from state to state, so make sure to consult with a lawyer to determine the level of care that is owed.  If it can be proven that the person owned or controlled the premises, it is likely that they also had a duty of care.

Breach of the Duty of Care

The plaintiff must also be able to prove that the owner of the premises acted in a way that breached their duty of care. In slip and fall cases this usually means that the owner failed to do something, such as failed to sweep or mop the floor.

Also, issues can arise regarding contract workers who are on the premises. For example, if a contract worker is hired to install lights, and they made a mess that caused you to fall, courts might either hold the contract worker or the owner of the premises liable. Inquire to see if the owner is "vicariously liable" for their employers or contract workers (i.e., the owner assumes their liability).

Proving Causation and Damages

The owner's actions must be the cause of actual damages that you incurred. If it cannot be proven that the owner of the premises caused the conditions leading to the person's injury, then they cannot recover. For example, if the floor is slippery but the person slipped because they stepped on someone's foot, then causation might be difficult to prove.

In proving causation it can be helpful to take the following steps:

Also, with regards to causation, people who use premises also have a duty of care to act reasonably while on the premises. If you are the partial or complete cause of your own injury, such as being severely intoxicated, your recovery can be affected.

You must also prove that you suffered actual damages from the slip and fall. This usually means that you were physically injured or incurred monetary costs. Damages may be calculated based an opinion given by a qualified medical expert or doctor. If you have incurred medical expenses or lost wages, be sure to keep receipts and financial documents of your losses.

Defenses to Slip and Fall Cases

If you are either the victim or are the owner of a premises being charged with a slip and fall case, it is important to know that there are several defenses available. Even if a slip and fall injury occurred, the property owner will not be held liable if they have any of the following defenses:

Final Points to Consider

Whether you have been injured by a slip and fall, or you are the party being sued, be sure to consider the following points: