If you slip and fall at a local business or other property, you may be wondering if your case is viable in a civil claims court.
Before initiating the lengthy (and costly) process of finding a personal injury lawyer and building your case, it helps to know whether your injury will qualify you for compensation.
This is a guide to the types of slip and fall injuries that could entitle you to a payout from a negligent property owner or business manager. By understanding the source of the hazard that caused your fall and defining the negligence that resulted in your injury, you can figure out beforehand if you have a case.
Water and Snow Build-up
A slip and fall injury that results from a wet or icy walking surface could be the result of negligence on the part of the property owner and entitle you to compensation. This is not always the case, however, and it’s important to understand the difference. Slipping and falling in a parking lot during the rain, for instance, will not give you a case to defend: a store owner can’t control the weather. However, if rain has been tracked into a store, restaurant, or mall and you trip on puddles in the door or walkways, then you could have a case.
Wet floors are obvious health hazards for patrons. Managers are expected to delegate cleaning tasks promptly, including hazard signs that designate the wet area and an employee to clean it up.
This also applies in colder areas to snow, which gives a property manager even more responsibility for their patrons’ safety. Any area that a customer is expected to walk in – this includes stairways, parking lots, doorways, sidewalks, etc. – has to be cleared of snow and ice, which has the potential to accumulate and turn into a hazard. New York ordinances, for instance, require snow shoveling in walkways and sidewalks and salt laid on icy surfaces to increase traction and reduce the risk of slipping and falling.
This kind of slip and fall injury should be prevented by timely intervention from a store manager, operator, or property owner. Failure to do so in accordance with local ordinances could build a successful slip and fall injury case in your defense.
Lack of Maintenance
Maintenance, and the lack thereof, is the responsibility of the manager or property owner. If your personal injury attorney can prove that your slip and fall injury was caused by a lack of maintenance in the store or restaurant you were visiting, they can use this to build your case.
What constitutes a lack of maintenance? Any space that is intended to be used or traversed by customers has to be maintained within reasonable safety standards.
This means that any steps outside or inside a store, any floorboards or carpets, tiles or platforms, have to be safe to walk on. If you trip on a broken tile or sidewalk, a loose stair, or a tatty rug, you could be entitled to compensation. Potholes or ruts on the property could also be a liability.
It’s important to note, however, that this does not apply to areas of a store or business that are explicitly not intended for customer use. This means that if you wander off into an employees-only area and fall, you will not be compensated. Only areas that a customer would reasonably use are liable for civil claims in the event of an injury.
Determining negligence is going to be a significant aspect of your case.
Architecture & Bad Lighting
It may not seem like the builders or architects of the building in which you fell could be liable for your injury, but the design of the building, which is no fault of the owner or floor manager, could be to blame for your accident.
This could be the case, for example, if a building is constructed with slippery hardwood floors without any built-in handrails or supports. This also applies to an area designed for customers to use that has been built with poor lighting.
If your personal injury lawyer can prove that poor lighting owing to the building’s design was the reason you tripped over a small step or carpet edge, the architect or builders could be responsible for your compensation. Responsibility depends on whether the flaw is in the construction of the building or in the plans themselves, which is something else that will have to be proven in your defense.
While a lack of maintenance is certainly dangerous, it is not the only cause of slip and fall injuries. Maintenance that is performed in the wrong way or which creates a hazardous situation to begin with could also be the cause.
For example, if a floor was waxed without proper hazard signage, a slip and fall could be the fault of the manager. Or in a case where a floor manager told a janitor in a reasonable amount of time to clean up a wet surface and the employee did not, that janitor could be liable instead of the operator.
If there is landscaping being done on a property where customers walk, slipping and falling on tools or in potholes becomes a real possibility. Mismanaging a maintenance crew can be just as negligent as leaving spills or broken flooring where people walk.
A landscape hazard of any kind could be proven to be the fault of the property's upkeep and win you compensation in your slip and fall injury case, provided the injury occurred in a designated customer area.
Slip and fall injury cases need to prove negligence on the part of the manager, staff, or even the architects of the property in which your injury took place. This means knowing how negligence is defined in a civil claims court and what kinds of injuries will be covered.
The right personal injury lawyer can get you compensation for a slip and fall injury. Time is of the essence, however, since the evidence needed to prove negligence is not permanent. You have to act fast if you want to win your case.