“Slip and fall” is a term used for a personal injury case where a person slipped or tripped and was injured on someone else’s property. These cases fall under the broader legal category of “premises liability” claims.
Slip and fall accidents happen year-round. However, they can be more likely to happen in the winter months as wintertime can create circumstances that are more likely to lead to slip-and-fall accidents. Wintertime cold weather, precipitation, and storms can cause heavy snowfall, making sidewalks, parking lots, and pathways slick. Snowy and icy conditions lead to an increased risk of suffering a slip-and-fall accident that may lead to injuries. The Center for Disease Control that three million people are hospitalized each year after a fall, and one out of five falls causes severe injuries like broken bones or head trauma. Therefore, it is essential heading into winter to be extra cautious and know what to do if you are ever in a situation where you’ve suffered an injury due to a slip-and-fall accident.
If you were injured in a slip-and-fall accident, speak to a Kansas City personal injury attorney who will evaluate the circumstances of your case and help you navigate the legal system to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Common Causes of Slip & Falls
A slip and fall can happen anywhere and at any time. However, there are certain places or situations where slips and falls are more likely to occur. To avoid slipping and falling, it’s important to be aware of where these accidents usually occur. Common places for slips and falls include:
Wet Floors in Stores
One of the most common places for a slip-and-fall accident to occur is in a store, particularly when the floors are wet. This can happen when:
- Something is spilled and not cleaned up
- The cleaning crew washes the floor without adequate warning of the wet floor
- There are no mats to dry your feet from inclement weather (i.e., rain, snow, ice)
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 so that the unsafe condition can be remedied.
Slip and falls frequently occur on uneven sidewalks. This can be caused by several things, such as a tree root growing under the concrete or a crack in the sidewalk that hasn’t been repaired. Wintertime can also cause uneven sidewalks due to the freezing and thawing of ice and snow. If you see an area that looks like it might be dangerous, avoid it or go around if possible.
In Missouri, property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their property. However, there are certain situations where the city will help out the property owner and contribute to the cost of maintenance and repair. For example, Missouri’s 50-50 Sidewalk Program allows eligible property owners in the City of St. Louis to split the costs of sidewalk repair. Additionally, in St. Louis, if sidewalk damage was caused by a city tree, the city will pay for 100% of the repair. If you are a Missouri property owner, it is best to reach out to your local municipality to ask about the local laws and see if there are any programs available for assisting with repairing your sidewalks.
Icy and Snowy Steps
In the wintertime, one of the most dangerous places to walk is on icy or snow-covered steps. When ice or snow accumulates on steps, it can create a very slick surface that can cause you to lose your footing and fall. If you have to walk on icy or snowy steps, be sure to take your time and be extra careful, holding on to railings. Wear shoes with good traction to help prevent slipping. 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 is Liable for a Slip & Fall Accident
Missouri law maintains that public and private property owners are required to 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 a property owner fails to keep their property in a safe condition and someone is injured as a result, the property owner may be held liable for the accident. There are a lot of different factors that are reviewed to determine liability.
Generally speaking, property owners will be found liable to individuals on their property, who are not trespassers, if they can prove that the property owner:
- Caused a dangerous condition to exist, which leads to a trip or slip and fall injury, or
- Knew about the dangerous condition but didn’t correct it, warn of it or block it, or
- Should have known about the dangerous condition because a “reasonable person” would have found the condition and taken steps to prevent injuries caused by the condition.
Some of the factors that are reviewed when determining liability are how long the unsafe condition was present. Slip and fall liability is often determined by whether the hazardous condition on the property was permanent or temporary. In the case of permanent hazards, such as a broken handrail, property owners are typically held liable because the hazardous situation should have been remedied. In the case of 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 in one of three ways by Missouri law:
- Invitee: Someone who has been 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 don’t have a duty to inspect or fix defects but are responsible for warning their guests of hazards they are 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 do not know about, but should they become aware of a trespasser, the property owner needs to 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 responsibility of the owner of the property. If the victim didn’t take reasonable measures to try to prevent the fall, they will bear some of the liability. The court will assign a liability percentage to each party, which will determine the percentage of damages to be paid by each party.
What to Do After a Slip & Fall Accident
Slip and fall injuries can range from bruises, sprains, and fractures, to spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. It is your right to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages if you suffer injuries from a fall due to the property owner’s negligence. Slip-and-fall accidents on someone else’s property require you to act quickly to protect your right to a fair settlement. These steps can prove your injuries and the extent of your losses. These can be given to your attorney who will take this information and conduct any further investigation that needs to occur to document and prove liability.
- Seek Medical Attention
- Report the Accident
- Take Pictures and Videos of the Accident and Your Injuries
- Ask witnesses for their contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses
- Contact an Experienced Slip and Fall Attorney
Kansas City Slip and Fall Attorney
If you were in a slip-and-fall accident caused by another person’s negligence, you will want to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney as early as possible for assistance. Proving negligence in a slip and fall accident requires an investigation to determine fault. Engaging an experienced attorney early will help you to document and gather evidence of the other person’s negligence under the circumstances. Proving negligence can be complicated in slip-and-fall cases. Don’t be left feeling like you have nowhere to turn and no one to help. Our team of experienced lawyers has successfully won for our clients on even the most complex slip-and-fall cases.
The lawyers at Peterson & Associates, P.C. can help you file a claim and get you the money you deserve. Contact our Kansas City personal injury lawyers today to learn more about your legal options. Contact Peterson & Associates, P.C. by calling (816) 578-0580 to talk to a Kansas City slip and fall attorney for a free consultation. With a proven record of success, our team of lawyers is standing by to help you.