Personal Injury Attorney
The term “slip-and-fall” is what personal injury lawyers refer to in accidents that result from a property owner’s negligence to prevent property users from falling on their premises. A slip-and-fall claim can be brought against a business, a homeowner, or other property owners, including municipal governments. Most slip-and-fall claims, however, are brought against negligent businesses.
Property Owners Have a Duty to Keep Premises Safe
Slip-and-fall claims are based on the rule that property owners have a duty to keep their property safe for the public. They breach that duty when they fail to detect and remedy hazards that pose a risk to property users or when they fail to warn users about those risks.
Different states use different standards to define or impose that duty, depending on the status of the person using the property. Some states, for example, give less protection to trespassers than to people who have been invited onto the premises. States may also apply different standards to property owners who make their land available to the public at no charge for recreational purposes.
Every state, however, recognizes that businesses have a duty keep their property safe for shoppers. States impose a similar duty on homeowners who invite people onto their property or into their homes. That duty includes a requirement to inspect and maintain the property so hazards (and potential hazards) can be found and corrected before they cause harm.
Wet or Slippery Floors
Slips in businesses are usually caused by wet or slippery floors. On a rainy day, for example, customers may track water into a business entryway. Water may also collect as it sheds from raincoats and umbrellas.
Cautious business owners install moisture absorbing flooring material at the entrances to their businesses. Negligent business owners, however, would put down a throw rug that might come out from under the feet of customers, or they do nothing at all.
Supermarkets have a duty to inspect their floors regularly. Product spills are a common reason for wet floors in supermarkets. When a bottle of liquid detergent falls from the shelf and spills across the floor, shoppers may fall before they realize the floor is wet. When employees or managers of a supermarket discover a spill, they should post barriers or assign an employee to warn customers of the danger while another employee fetches a mop to clean up the mess.
The produce aisle of supermarkets is often the most dangerous location for shoppers. Sprinklers that are meant to keep produce fresh sometimes drips water onto the floor, creating a hazard for customers. Store owners are aware of that danger and should take vigilant action to assure that water does not accumulate in those aisles.
Supermarkets are not the only businesses that place customers at risk. Product spills are common in department and hardware stores. Auto repair and “instant oil change” centers need to take precautions to keep surfaces free from oil and grease. Restaurants place customers at risk when they fail to find and clean spilled beverages and food. Nightclubs are dangerous when they allow customers to carry drinks onto the dance floor. Ice cubes and dancing can be a recipe for injury.
Mopped or waxed floors in business, although essential for floor maintenance and cleanliness, can also be dangerous. A floor or stairway that has recently been mopped or waxed can cause slips, particularly when visitors are wearing dress shoes with smooth soles.
Prudent business owners install slip-resistant flooring materials in areas where clients and customers are likely to walk. Slip-resistance is measured in terms of its “coefficient of friction” (COF). A higher COF correlates with a less slippery surface. Business owners may be negligent if they install flooring with a lower COF than what is recommended for their business.
Even when property owners install the correct flooring, however, they sometimes fail to maintain those surfaces properly. They use cleaning products that degrade the effectiveness of non-slip surfaces rather than following the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning procedures. Improper maintenance is yet example of negligence that can lead to falls.
Outside the Business
Failure to maintain the area outside of a business or property can also cause slip-and-falls injuries. Litter and debris that is allowed to accumulate outside a business entrance or in a shopping mall parking lot can cause customers to slip-and-fall before they have a chance to enter the business. In colder states, failure to remove snow and ice is a common source of falls.
Furthermore, inadequate lighting can contribute to slip-and-falls by making it difficult for customers to see debris, wet spots, or slippery surfaces. Failure to install and maintain adequate lighting is another example of property owner negligence.
Victims of slip-and-fall accidents on property owned by a business should contact a personal injury lawyer. When accidents cause injuries because a property owner failed to keep his or her premises safe you need the right people to contact. A personal injury lawyer can help injury victims obtain the compensation they deserve.