“Slip and fall” is a term used for a personal injury claim where a person slipped, tripped, or fell on another person’s property due to negligent circumstances. These cases fall under the broader legal category of premises liability claims.
The Centers for Disease Control states that approximately three million people are hospitalized each year after a fall, and one of five falls causes severe injuries such as broken bones or traumatic brain injury. Suppose you were injured due to someone else’s irresponsibility. In that case, it’s essential to speak with a knowledgeable Kansas City slip and fall attorney who will evaluate your case details and devise a strategy to secure the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
A slip and fall can happen anywhere and at any time. Here are some everyday situations.
Wet Floors in Stores
This can occur when:
- Something is spilled and not cleaned up.
- The cleaning crew washes the floor without adequate warning of the wet floor.
- There aren’t mats to dry your feet from inclement weather (i.e., rain, snow, ice), which makes surfaces slick.
If you’re in a store and see water on the floor or recognize the potential for slips, be extra cautious and avoid that area. It’s also important to contact the property owner or someone in charge to remedy the unsafe condition.
Shifting surfaces are caused by many things, such as a tree root growing under the concrete or a crack in the sidewalk that hasn’t been repaired. During winter, sidewalks are more treacherous due to the freezing and thawing of ice and snow.
In Missouri, property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their property.
Icy and Snowy Steps
When ice or snow accumulates on steps, this creates a slick surface that can cause you to lose your footing and fall. Residential and commercial property owners have a duty of care to remove snow and warn of icy conditions on their properties to prevent falls.
Who’s Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident?
Missouri law maintains that public and private property owners must provide safe, secure, and maintained premises. As such, property owners must use reasonable and ordinary care to keep their property from causing harm to others. If they fail to do so and someone is injured as a result, the property owner may be held liable for the accident.
There are a lot of different factors reviewed to determine liability. Generally speaking, property owners may be found at fault to compensate individuals on their property—who aren’t trespassers—if it’s proven:
- They caused a dangerous condition, leading to a trip or slip and fall injury.
- They knew about the dangerous condition but didn’t correct it, post a warning, or block off the area.
- Should have known about the dangerous condition because a “reasonable person” would have taken steps to prevent injuries caused by the condition.
Slip and fall liability is often determined by whether the hazardous condition on the property is permanent or temporary. Property owners are typically held liable for permanent hazards, such as a broken handrail at an apartment complex because the hazardous situation should have been remedied. Concerning temporary hazards, such as an icy driveway, slip and fall liability often depends on whether the property owner had ample time to realize and remedy the situation.
The law also looks at how the injured person entered the property. A person who visits a property can be classified one of three ways by Missouri law:
- Invitee: Someone invited onto the premises by the landowner, such as a customer entering a business. Business owners are obligated to practice reasonable care to maintain the safety of the property, including warning invitees of danger.
- Licensee: A guest or party attendee is considered a licensee. Private property owners are not obligated to inspect or fix defects but are responsible for warning their guests of hazards they’re aware of on the property.
- Trespasser: Someone who sets foot on the property without permission is a trespasser. In Missouri, a property owner has no liability for trespassers they don’t know about. However, should they become aware of a trespasser, the property owner must inform them of any danger on their property.
Comparative negligence is also considered when establishing liability for a slip and fall accident. This concerns the degree to which the person who slipped and fell bears responsibility for the fall compared to the property owner’s responsibility. If the victim didn’t take reasonable measures to try and prevent the fall, they’ll bear some of the liability. The court will assign a liability percentage to each party, which then determines the percentage of damages to be paid by each party.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
Individuals experience a wide range of medical conditions due to slip and fall accidents, from bruises, sprains, and fractures to spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. It’s your right to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages if you’re injured because of a property owner’s negligence. Here are the steps you must take to ensure your health and any future chance at compensation:
- Always get prompt medical care and save all statements and bills.
- Report the accident either to a building manager or owner, the homeowner, an employer if it was a workplace injury, your insurance company, and the police, if necessary.
- If you’re able, document your injuries and the site conditions with photographs to be used as evidence later.
- Ask witnesses for their contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses.
- Contact an attorney with expertise in this area of law to determine what type of case you might have.
Slip-and-fall accidents on someone else’s property require you to act quickly to protect your right to a fair settlement.