It happens more often than you would think: a person visits the property of another individual, or perhaps a business, and has a terrible slip and fall accident. They sustain serious injuries are facing huge medical bills, not to mention a great deal of pain.
Does the injured individual have a right to compensation from the property owner? That’s the question that is at the core of every single slip and fall case. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, you might be curious as to whether or not you have a right to compensation under the law.
There are a number of conditions that must be met for a slip and fall case to be successfully brought forward. Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
Were There Unsafe Conditions?
The most important thing that you should note off the bat is that not every injury or incident that is sustained on another’s property is grounds for a lawsuit. There are certain conditions that must be met.
The first and one of the most important components of a slip and fall case revolves around unsafe conditions on a property. In order for a property owner to be legally liable, the injured person must prove that an unsafe condition existed AND led to the injury in question.
This means that if a person tripped over their own feet on another person’s property, they could not sue the property owner. The property owner, in this instance, did nothing wrong.
What kind of conditions would be considered unsafe in the eyes of the law? Wet and slippery floors are likely the most common. Badly damaged floors or pavement, large snow or ice accumulation, and other such factors all might be considered to be unsafe.
Now, property owners can’t always control all conditions all of the time. As such, it is another important condition that the landowner must have either created the unsafe condition themselves or allowed it to persist past a reasonable degree of time.
No one is expecting landowners to provide a 100% perfectly safe property. It would just be too hard. Under the law, however, they are expected to provide one that is REASONABLY safe.
When it snows, a property owner should have a reasonable amount of time to clear snow and ice. However, if they allow this snow and ice to sit around past a reasonable amount of time, they might put themselves in a position where they are legally liable.
Did the Property Owner Have Notice?
In addition, a property owner must be aware of the unsafe condition. They can’t fix the issue if they don’t know that it exists! Property owners have a reasonable amount of time to discover dangerous or unsafe conditions that exist on their property.
If a person slips and falls as a result of a condition that was just created moments before, it is unlikely for a slip and fall case to gain much traction.
This is often one of the hardest elements for a plaintiff to prove in a slip and fall case, as a property owner might claim they were unaware of the issue even if this isn’t true. In these situations, accident reports, surveillance footage, and other forms of evidence are used to try to prove that a property owner was aware of a given issue.
Linking the Accident and the Unsafe Condition
As we briefly mentioned, it is also essential that a person bringing a slip and fall lawsuit forward can prove that the unsafe condition directly resulted in the accident and injury occurring.
If there was a slippery floor in the lobby of a movie theater but a patron tripped and fell in one of the individual theaters, the slippery floor can not be used as part of the slip and fall case.
The incident must be the direct result of the existence of this unsafe condition. You can see an example of this in the famous George Wallace lawsuit back in 2007.
Responsibility of the Individual
There are certain things a business owner can do to protect themselves from a slip and fall lawsuit. The most common thing to do is post a warning.
For example, you’ve likely seen a wet floor sign many times before in businesses and at various properties. These signs provide a warning to customers and visitors of the potentially unsafe condition.
With this warning given, a property owner is no longer liable if a person were to slip and fall on the slippery floor at this marked area. They have given a warning and the individual has failed to heed it.
This is similar to caution signs put up over construction sites on public roadways and sidewalks. The individual has a responsibility to pay attention to and heed these kinds of signage.
The individual also has a responsibility to use a reasonable amount of care and caution while on the property. If an individual was injured in a slip and fall situation while acting recklessly and without reason, their case might not succeed either.
Understanding Requirements of a Slip and Fall Case
Slip and fall injuries are all too common, but not every injury of this sort leads to a proper slip and fall case. There are many conditions that need to be met for a lawsuit to gain traction and have a chance of success. The above information can help.
Need immediate help with your case or have more questions? Give us a call anytime for assistance.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.