Elements of a slip and fall accident lawsuit
If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, you may be contemplating filing a personal injury lawsuit. You (and your personal injury lawyer, if you have one) should consider the following elements of a slip and fall accident injury claim before you decide to invest your time and energy in a lawsuit:
1. Who is responsible for your slip and fall injury?
Who may be involved as a defendant in your personal injury lawsuit? That is, who may be sued as a party responsible for your injuries? Consider these categories of possible defendants:
- Owner of the property.
- Lessee and sublessee.
- Possessor or occupier of the property, or of the portion of the property involved.
- Persons (other than owner, lessees, or occupiers) able to control what happens on the property.
- Persons doing legal or illegal activity on the premises, whose activity contributed to the injury.
- Persons able to control those doing activities on the property which contributed to the injury.
- Persons operating equipment or utilities on the property which contributed to the injury.
- Persons able to control those operating equipment or utilities activities on the property which contributed to the injury.
- Persons selling, maintaining, designing, or manufacturing equipment or furnishings which contributed to the injury.
- Maintenance service company or individual.
- Security company.
- Architect or designer of the property.
- General contractor who constructed property.
- Subcontractor who constructed property.
- Architect or engineer who inspected construction.
For strategic reasons, your personal injury attorney may want to add or subtract possible defendants. For example, if a business may be liable for your slip and fall injuries, your personal injury attorney may want to add or substitute an individual, such as a local employee of the business or a local CEO who is assumed to be paid millions of dollars in bonuses.
2. What was your status on the property at the time of the slip and fall?
What was your reason for being on the property when you were injured? Were you:
- A trespasser.
- A licensee.
- A social guest.
- An invitee.
- A child.
- Hired to fix a hazard on the premises.
- Part owner of the premises.
Your reason for being on the property is important because most states distinguish between the legal status of trespassers, licensees, social guests, and invitees on the property. The defendant’s legal obligation to you will vary, depending on your status. For example, a greater obligation (greater care) is owed to someone invited on the property than to a trespasser. Were you injured by a hazard on the property that you were hired to fix? In many states, the law provides that building owners have no obligation of care toward workers injured by hazards inherent in their job or hazards they were hired to remedy. For example, a janitorial worker who slips and falls on a wet bathroom floor caused by others may not have a viable personal injury claim because that hazard is inherent in his job. If you are a part owner of the premises where you slipped, tripped or fell – for example, if you are a homeowner, and the slip and fall accident occurred on a common area sidewalk in your housing development – special rules may apply to your case.
3. What legal claims are supported by the facts of your case?
Depending on the facts of your case, different legal claims will be available to you in a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit. Common claims include:
“Negligence” means the failure to use adequate and reasonable care. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident because someone or some entity failed to use reasonable care, then you may have a claim for negligence. The defendant’s negligence may arise out of:
- Failure to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition.
- Failure to keep premises free of items which created an unreasonable risk of injury.
- Failure to have the premises constructed, repaired, and maintained in a manner so that they were not likely to cause injury.
- Failure to follow the law, building codes or other governmental regulations in regard to construction, warnings, and maintenance of the premises.
- Failure to provide safe premises.
- Failure to provide proper maintenance, repairs, and service for appliances upon the premises.
- Failure to adequately warn.
- Failure to discover and correct unsafe conditions.
- Failure to adequately train and supervise suppliers on the premises and their employees.
- Failure to protect customers from the known risks accompanying usage of the premises by others.
- Failure to adequately train and supervise employees and other operators of equipment on the premises.
- Failure to inspect, or failure to adequately inspect the premises.
- Failure to discover and remove a condition which was foreseeable to regularly occur under the defendant’s chosen mode of operation.
Breach of warranty
In simplest terms, a warranty is a promise. A breach of warranty is a broken promise. Did any of the potential defendants (persons or entities possibly responsible for your slip and fall) break a promise to you? It may be an implied (unstated) promise, such as a promise to keep the walking surfaces safe for walking. It may be a specific (written or oral) promise, such as a promise that the defendant’s particular brand of floor wax is “slip-proof” and “safe for use in heavily traveled hallways.” If you relied on the defendant’s promise and were injured, then you may have a legal claim for breach of warranty.
Violation of law
You may have a viable slip and fall personal injury claim if the accident occurred as a result of the defendants violating the law, for example a government regulation or a city ordinance. Special rules often apply to these types of cases, so your personal injury attorney will need to set out any violation of law in a particular manner.
Most states have specialized laws or rules that apply to personal injury lawsuits when the injury occurs on public property or if a government entity is a defendant. As a consequence, your personal injury lawyer may need to allege additional claims (e.g., negligence by a government employee) in order for any slip and fall lawsuit to proceed.
A knowledgeable slip and fall injury lawyer can help guide the way
As you can see from this brief overview of the law, slip and fall injury claims are not one-size-fits-all. The legal issues will vary depending on the facts of your specific case. Your chances of success will be improved if you rely on the steady guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer.