When you hear the phrase “slip and fall injury,” it may not sound like a terribly dangerous accident. It might surprise you to learn just how much damage slip and fall accidents entail. These accidents account for over 1 million emergency room visits in the United States each year, and are the leading cause of missed time from work and workers’ compensation claims.
Slip and fall accidents that result in lawsuits most often fall under the purview of premises liability laws. Property owners have a legal obligation to maintain safe and hazard-free facilities and grounds to prevent injuries to visitors on the property. There are several ways a property owner can be liable for a slip and fall accident and the resulting damages. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, learn more about how our Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer can help.
Responsibilities of Property Owners
Property owners are responsible for the upkeep of the grounds and facilities they own. If they are unable to rectify a hazard immediately, they must fully inform guests on the property of the hazard and its location. When they fail to either correct these problems or warn lawful visitors of them, they can be held accountable for any resulting injuries. Some examples of dangerous property conditions that might result in a slip and fall lawsuits are:
- Structural defects. If a staircase is in dire need of repair, a handrail breaks, or a floorboard is unstable, these things could lead to a slip and fall injury.
- Snow and ice deposits. Property owners must clear walking paths of snow accumulation and clear away any ice that forms with salt or other ice-melting agents.
- Wet floors. If a floor has been mopped recently or a spill hasn’t been totally cleaned, the area should be clearly marked with wet floor signs or cordoned off entirely.
- Clutter and debris. A cluttered stairwell is a tripping hazard, and loose rugs and carpets pose potential dangers to visitors.
- Potholes or other holes in the ground. A visitor may fall and suffer an injury from a hidden hole in the ground or potholes in pavement.
This is not a complete list – any hazardous condition on a property could result in a slip and fall accident.
Types of Visitors
Property owners are responsible for the resulting damages if a lawful visitor suffers an injury. It’s important to make this distinction, as well: Property owners are not liable for injuries suffered by trespassers or anyone who does not have the owner’s permission to be present on the property. Lawful visitors include licensees, who are invited to the property for business reasons, and invitees, individuals invited to the property for social reasons. The property owner needs to inform licensees of any hazards, but is not necessarily obligated to correct the issue.
Trespassers are any individuals who do not have the property owner’s permission to enter the premises. If a trespasser suffers a slip and fall injury, he or she cannot sue the property owner, because they had no right to be on the property. The only exception to this rule would be in the case of a child trespasser. Children do not have the same level of situational awareness and cognizance of their own actions as adults have, so if a hazard harms an interloping child, the property owner can be held accountable for the injury.
Property owners must be vigilant when it comes to maintaining their premises. If you wind up embroiled in a lawsuit against a negligent property owner, you’ll need to prove the property owner either created the hazard in question, knew about it and failed to adequately correct it, or the hazard existed long enough that the owner should have reasonably been expected to have discovered it before the incident.