Nobody ever expects to have a slip and fall injury. Most of these accidents happen when you least expect it, like when you unwittingly come across a puddle in the grocery store. You may be wondering what you are supposed to do in such an occurrence. It is only natural, after all. In the aftermath of a slip and fall accident, your mind is racing with thoughts. How are you supposed to pay your medical bills? Can the store be held liable for your damages? Read on to find out more.
Premises liability is “the liability of an occupier of the real property towards injury to others.” In layman’s terms, this means that property owners and managers must take all possible steps to prevent injury to visitors. Business owners must regularly inspect their property for any potential hazards.
Still, thinking of premises liability as a surefire “insurance policy” would be a little premature. Not every slip and fall accident comes with a guarantee that the store will be held liable. On the contrary, every case is different; its ruling will come down to its own specifics. Ultimately, the jury will decide whether or not the circumstances of each incident are enough to warrant compensation for the victim.
Generally speaking, the jury will hold store owners liable when there is proof that they breached their duty of care. If the store owner knew about the hazards that led to the accident and did not take proper measures to minimize the risks, then it is likely that the victim will receive compensation. Some of the most common instances of store owner negligence include, but are not limited to:
A good rule of thumb to remember is this: If you can prove that someone else’s negligence caused the accident, then it is likely that you will win your case. You may be eligible to receive both economic damages (e.g., lost wages) and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering) from the liable party.
Some states employ what is known as an “open and obvious” doctrine. (This is not the case in Colorado, among many others.) According to this doctrine, a property owner cannot be held liable for any hazards that would have been open and obvious to a reasonable person. Alternatively, the property owner may still be held responsible, but to a lesser degree than for an egregious oversight. The doctrine rests on the idea that visitors should be able to recognize clear warning signs and protect themselves from harm. In other words, the “open and obvious” defense may exempt property owners from the general rule of premises liability.
However, even the “open and obvious” defense can have exceptions. No matter the circumstances, property owners are still expected to take reasonable precautions to protect visitors from any potential hazards. If there are any dangers that the property owner knew about and failed to account for, then they would still be held liable for failing to fix the conditions or provide adequate warnings for them.
Some states (including Colorado) may also allow negligence per se as an exception to the “open and obvious” rule. Generally, this applies when the store owner was acting in violation of a health or safety statute—which makes them automatically liable for any injuries that occurred. In short, there are no valid excuses for failing to inspect the property and account for any known dangers. A store owner must make sure that the property is properly staffed and maintained at all times.
Now that we have given you a brief overview of premises liability, you may be wondering against whom you are supposed to file your case. Unfortunately, there is no one cut-and-dry answer here. It depends, again, on the specifics of your case. Some lawsuits are better-suited against a store owner. Some lawsuits are better-suited against a landlord. Still, some lawsuits are better-suited against a franchise or a single store (or even both).
Consulting with an experienced slip and fall attorney is the only way to be sure that you know what your best options are. The right lawyer will work personally with you to build the most solid case possible. They may even go back to see if there are any records of previous injuries and falls against the store. Prior incidents can establish a history of negligence—and increase your chances of winning your case.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that not every slip and fall claim is likely to be successful. For example, injuring yourself in a slip and fall accident in a “no customers allowed” zone can drastically change the standards of your case. Being in an employee-only zone will effectively render you a trespasser. Thus, the duty of care you may legally expect will be exponentially lower than if you slipped in any other area of the store. While the store may still be held liable for your slip and fall accident, it will be much more difficult for you and your attorney to prove your case.
Were you or a loved one recently injured in a slip and fall accident? We at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. We believe you should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our trusted nationwide slip and fall injury attorneys. We have helped countless clients successfully collect compensation for their slip and fall cases. We can help you too.