Slip and falls are a part of premises liability law. If you fell and were injured while on someone else’s property, and your fall was caused by the existence of a hazardous condition such as a slippery floor or torn carpeting, then you may have claim for damages against the property owner.
Injuries from slip and falls can be minor such as sprained ankles or wrists, or more serious ones such as broken limbs and traumatic brain damage.
Property owners have a legal duty to maintain their property in a safe and hazard-free condition or to at least sufficiently warn those lawfully on their property of the hazard. Their liability depends on whether the injured person was an invitee, licensee, social guest, or trespasser.
Invitees and Business Owners
Businesses that sell products or services encourage persons, or invitees, to be on their property. The property owners have a duty in these cases to regularly inspect their property for hazards to ensure invitees are safe.
If an invitee slips and falls on an object or slippery surface, the owner’s liability depends on whether he/she had notice of the hazard for a period of time and should have removed the hazard or warned patrons. Notice can be direct in that it was observed by employees or someone advised an employee of the hazard, or it may be constructive. This means that the hazard lasted long enough so that the owner or its employees in the exercise of reasonable care should have known of its existence.
In case of snow and ice, property owners must clear their parking lots, sidewalks, and entrances of this hazard after a reasonable time has passed since the storm ended. In Boston, this means within 3-hours of the end of a storm.
Licensees or Social Guests
Licensees or social guests are either persons such as meter readers, postal workers, police or fire personnel who are implicitly invited to be on a homeowner’s or renter’s property, or persons expressly invited for a party, dinner, or other gathering.
Homeowners owe no duty to regularly inspect their property but do have to warn licensees or social guests of known hazards such as a defective step or lack of illumination on an outside stairway. If there was a snowstorm, homeowners have a reasonable time to clear their steps or driveway or the sidewalk in front of their home. The time to do this and the scope of responsibility often depends on local ordinances, or by the bylaws of a homeowner’s association that may dictate what areas the condo owner is responsible for maintaining.
Property owners owe a minimal duty of care to persons unlawfully on their property. However, an owner cannot intentionally release a vicious dog to attack a trespasser or to set a trap that causes serious injury or death.
Defendants in many slip and fall cases will attempt to lay all or partial responsibility on you for failing to notice an open and obvious hazard, for not noticing a warning sign or cones around a hazard, or for wearing improper footwear such as sneakers while running over an icy surface. If you are found partially at fault, your own degree of responsibility cannot exceed 50% or you will be denied any compensation.
Damages in Slip and Fall Claims
You are entitled to damages if you prove liability and the damages that you incurred. Typical damages are:
Past and future medical expenses
Past and future income loss
Emotional distress and anguish
Pain and suffering
Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Slip and fall claims can be difficult to prove. Only a skilled and experienced slip and fall lawyer should be retained in these cases if you want to obtain reasonable compensation for your injury.