A slip on a puddle or a trip over a tree root can be embarrassing, but it can also result in time off work and expensive medical bills. Many people assume responsibility for their injuries, claiming they simply “weren’t paying attention” or that “accidents happen.” Unfortunately, what many victims don’t realize is that property owners have a duty to make their properties as safe as possible—and some owners may be negligent in these duties. For this reason, injury victims should examine the circumstances of their accidents carefully to determine if a property owner could be held liable for the costs of their injuries.
When Is a Property Owner Liable for a Slip or Fall?
Slip and falls are governed under premises liability laws, or the responsibility that landowners have to those who visit their property. Landowners are anyone who own a property, and can be people who own shopping malls and grocery stores or even a municipal government that is responsible for a city sidewalk. In order for a Tennessee landowner to be legally liable for injuries, the plaintiff must be able must to prove three things:
- The defendant was negligent. The person who is being sued for injury costs should be the person who had a responsibility to prevent injury and failed in that duty. This can be the owner of the property, the operator of the business, the person renting the commercial office space, a third party, or all of the above. Anyone who had a legal responsibility to maintain the safety on the premises could potentially be named in the lawsuit. The negligent action could be the creation of a dangerous condition, permitting a dangerous condition to exist, or a failure to warn the public of the potential danger.
- The defendant was aware of the danger. Plaintiffs should be able to clearly show that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the injury. This can include the creation of a hazard with full knowledge of the owner, or the owner willfully ignoring the condition.
- The defendant’s negligence directly caused the injury. The most difficult part of a premises liability case is proving that the plaintiff’s injury was a direct result of the dangerous condition on the premises. Even if a court agrees that an unsafe condition existed, it does not automatically mean the court will agree that the condition caused the injury. It often takes a skilled attorney to definitively make the connection between the unsafe premises and the injury.
Typical Slip and Fall Cases and Their Outcomes
Determining the outcome of a slip and fall case can be surprisingly complex. Even two cases that may seem similar on the surface can have drastically different outcomes. Generally speaking, a slip and fall that is caused by the victim’s own obvious negligence (such as failing to read a posted warning sign) will not be determined to be the fault of the property owner. On the other hand, here are a few instances where a business may be held responsible for causing injury:
- You slip on a puddle caused by a leaking refrigerator case in a grocery store. Employees have reported the leak to management, but the case was never adequately repaired.
- An employee at a car dealership places a mop handle across the doorway of a restroom in lieu of a wet floor sign. A customer assumes that the mop has fallen, and moves it aside, only to slip on the wet floor.
- A customer trips over a broken pallet in a seasonal flower shop, which has not set up a maintenance and inspection program to prevent accidents.
- The sidewalk around a restaurant was not shoveled, and a customer suffered a slip and fall due to winter weather.
- A hotel had recently replaced carpets in all areas expect for the second floor. A guest staying on the second floor trips over a wrinkle in the carpet and falls into the wall, causing facial injuries.
- A government entity failed to rope off the area around a broken sidewalk until repairs could be made, and a child tripped and suffered a concussion.
- You fall into a huge hole outside your local coffee shop because there was no posted warning sign or barrier to prevent a person from falling in.
- The dim lighting in a bar prevented you from seeing a spilled drink on the floor, causing you to slip and fall.
The only way to know for certain if a business owner can be held liable for an injury is to consult with an experienced injury attorney. Our legal advisors can listen to your story and examine your case carefully to determine the best way to move forward. Contact our legal team today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.