Any person can accidentally slip and fall. Such accidents are particularly prevalent during the winter months when pedestrians have to navigate ice-covered sidewalks and walkways. Injuries can be severe -- especially if the victim is an older person. Many people believe that property owners are always liable for such accidents. However, there are certain rules related to the responsibilities of property owners when it comes to premises liability claims.
If you are contemplating filing a lawsuit in a civil court to seek recovery of damages after suffering injuries in a slip-and-fall accident, you may want to consider the following to ascertain whether you have a viable claim:
- Outside the building: When ice and snow accumulation is natural, the property owner is not responsible for clearing it away throughout the day. However, if the ice or snow accumulates due to a property owner's negligence, he or she may be held accountable. For example, if melting ice and snow drip from a roof, and a blocked drain causes it to form puddles that freeze into dangerous ice patches, this may indicate negligent maintenance.
- Parking areas: Parking lot maintenance must ensure safe surroundings for those using it. Cracks and holes must be filled and repaired to avoid accumulation of water that can ice over and cause fall hazards. Slopes must be gradual, or there must be steps to prevent pedestrians from having to navigate slippery slopes.
- Sidewalks: The business owner is only responsible for injuries suffered in slip-and-fall accidents on the sidewalk in front of his or her business if the sidewalk serves only people who are visiting that property. A municipality is typically responsible for maintenance of public sidewalks, and that might be the entity liable if someone falls there. However, the owner of the premises must keep any private walkways on the premises safe.
- Outdoor Lighting: When outdoor lighting is inadequate, people can trip over curbs, slip on rough areas of parking lots or walkways, or fall on stairs or steps. In addition to failure to repair dangerous areas or post clear warning signs, poor lighting can cause serious problems for a property owner if a visitor to his or her premises suffers a slip-and-fall injury.
If you have been the victim of a slip-and-fall accident, you are likely facing high medical expenses along with lost wages. Such costs are typically unbudgeted and could lead to severe financial challenges. Your best step forward may be to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can assess the circumstances of your accident. A seasoned lawyer can determine viability and help with determining the value of your damages -- including future medical expenses and lost income related to your injuries. An attorney can then endeavor to obtain a monetary judgment against the property owner by navigating the claim on your behalf.