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Slip and Fall Accidents: Proving Fault

Slips and falls occur every day in our busy, commerce-driven society. Amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people fall on a slippery surface, a broken staircase, an obstruction in your path, or a cracked walkway all the time. Many times, these falls result in an injury. Just because one suffers injury as a result of a ‘slip and fall’ on another person’s property does not mean the injured party is automatically owed damages. In fact, there are a number of circumstances under which a property owner is not responsible for injuries suffered as a result of an accident on their property.

Certainly, property owners (particularly business owners who invite customers onto their premises) must take steps to reasonably maintain safe walkways and floors, but the reality is, objects (particularly liquids) spill or fall onto floors in the course of any given day all the time. Believe it or not, Illinois law does not require property owners to be cognizant of every substance or object the moment it has fallen on their floors. Likewise, people are expected to maintain some level of responsibility to take care, be observant, and avoid unnecessary accidents based on present conditions. As such, there simply is no hard and fast rule to determine whether or not a property owner bears legal responsibility for an object or spill that may have caused a slip and fall injury. A defendant in such a case must only demonstrate that they acted carefully so that a fall or injury was not likely to occur.

Conversely, the plaintiff in a slip and fall personal injury case must demonstrate that the proprietor either caused the dangerous condition or knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, knew or should have known that the condition could have caused injury, and that he or she was negligent in mitigating or eliminating that hazard.

If you find yourself injured as a result of a slip and fall and you feel the proprietor or property owner was at fault, you must first demonstrate liability. You must link the fundamental lapse that led to your injury to the owner of the premises or their agent or occupier.

It’s particularly challenging, especially in scenarios where the property owner didn’t create the dangerous condition, to prove that the owner knew or should have known about the possible or likely hazard on their premises. And proving this aspect of liability can be very complex. Often, what it boils down to for a judge or jury is common sense. A plaintiff must demonstrate that the circumstances surrounding the slip and fall were such that the property owner could not have been oblivious to conditions. This often times is established by showing how long the dangerous condition existed. Proving how long a condition existed, however, can be tricky.

Did the property owner take “reasonable” steps to ensure that their premises were safe? In most cases, a plethora of circumstances will have to be examined to make this determination before a decision can be made.

If, in fact, it can be clearly demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the owner was indeed negligent or did not take reasonable steps to ensure safety or awareness of conditions on the property, you may be able to collect damages for your injuries.

Yet a plaintiff must also examine his or her own level of care in the incident in question. The rules of "comparative negligence" identify your own liability in the injuries suffered. How carefully did the plaintiff walk in the area that, perhaps, was clearly filled with boxes or goods or other obstacles in plain view? Was there a legitimate reason for the plaintiff being in the dangerous area? Were there any warning signs that the area might have been particularly slippery? Even still, were there any distractions that would prevent an individual from seeing a warning sign or danger on the floor? These are the kinds of question you must be able to answer in order to demonstrate an absence of negligence on your part. Your own carelessness may decrease damages you are able to collect but an experienced personal injury attorney can help mitigate your fault.

To learn more about slip and fall personal injury liability or for help with a personal injury claim, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys of Panio Law Offices. We understand how to navigate through the numerous pitfalls in these types of claims and, as a result, have won millions of dollars in damages for our clients.
Call 888.799.7561 with questions. We can help.

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