Slip and falls are one of the most common causes of personal injuries. An unassuming victim could risk serious injury just by stepping on to a slippery or defective surface.
Premises liability is the law that governs slip and fall accidents and determines who is at fault. These laws vary depending on the state and jurisdiction. It is important to note that liability is determined by certain factors and circumstances unique to each particular case. Hiring an experienced attorney is an essential step in filing a personal injury claim in these scenarios.
Each case considers: (1) whether the property owner took reasonable precautions to make the area safe; and (2) whether the victim was careless, thereby contributing to the accident. For example, a restaurateur is not necessarily liable if someone fell on a wet floor in the restroom if the area was clearly marked with a yellow "caution" sign.
If you sustained an injury as a result of a slip and fall accident, please contact our highly qualified legal professionals at Iannella & Mummolo.
When Is The Property Owner Liable?
For a property owner to be deemed liable in a premises liability case, the victim must prove the following:
- That the property owner caused the unsafe condition and the subsequent slip and fall accident (e.g. by spilling something and not cleaning it up, by digging a barely visible hole in a heavily trafficked area, etc.)
- That the property owner knew or should have known about the condition but did not try to correct it within a reasonable time (e.g. by failing to post a sign on uneven ground, etc.)
- That the property owner should have known about the danger because a "reasonable" person would have identified the problem and taken steps to prevent injuries caused by the potential slip and fall accident
What Is Considered Reasonable?
In order to establish whether a property owner's actions were reasonable, the court must consider how long the unsafe condition existed that contributed to the slip and fall accident. This determines whether the property owner had time to discover and, ultimately, correct the unsafe condition. The court also must consider whether the steps taken by the property owner were appropriate, and whether the carelessness of the victim contributed to the slip and fall injury.
It is important to understand that the “reasonable” person standard applies to both the property owner and the victim. If the victim was somewhere trespassing or engaged in inappropriate activity, the property owner may be absolved of any responsibility. For example, if someone wanders off marked paths or skateboards down stairs, s/he may bear responsibility for her/his own slip and fall accident. Likewise, if a dangerous condition is open and obvious, could a “reasonable” person have avoided it? The victim's own carelessness may be at fault, instead of the property owner's supposed negligence.
To help determine who is to blame for your slip and fall injury, ask yourself the following questions:
- If you slipped on a spill, had it been there long enough that the property owner should have been aware of it?
- Did the property owner employ a standard cleaning/maintenance schedule for the premises and, if so, can the owner offer proof?
- If you tripped at a business, was the location or placement of the items necessary and reasonable? Could they have been placed in a safer and more convenient location? If not, could a proper barrier or warning sign have prevented the slip and fall accident?
- Was the slip and fall accident caused, at least in part, by poor or dim lighting?
- Did you have a valid reason to be at the site of the slip and fall accident?
- Were you paying full attention to your surroundings at the time of the slip and fall accident?
- Was the area properly labeled with any warning signs?
- Could a “reasonable” person have avoided the slip and fall accident?
While these questions are important to consider, only a qualified personal injury lawyer, who specializes in premises liability, can help you most accurately determine whether or not you have a case.
If you or a loved one were injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Iannella & Mummolo for a commitment-free consultation.
Special Situations That May Affect Your Case:
Property owners are not necessarily subject to premises liability laws when trespassers are injured on their property. This holds true for burglars and other uninvited guests.
Children are an exception to the trespassing law because they often do not perceive danger as well as adults. A property owner must take steps to ensure the safety of children who play in the area, even if they are trespassing.
Workers' compensation laws hold employers strictly liable for most on-the-job injuries, including those resulting from slip and fall accidents. However, the injured worker is entitled to different benefits and damages under the workers’ compensation statute. For injuries that result during the course of employment by a negligent third party (who is NOT the employer), the injured worker may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits AND have a valid claim for damages against the liable third party.
If the injury occurs on government property, such as public parks, the federal or state government may bear legal responsibility for the injury sustained on such premises. Slip and fall / premises liability cases against the government are covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act or similar state Tort Claims Acts. Such cases must be brought forth within a certain time limit.
For more information regarding Massachusetts slip and fall cases or any other type of Massachusetts personal injury case, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced legal professionals.