Causes of slip and fall accidents can range from an uneven sidewalk outside a restaurant to a hazardous exposed cable inside a warehouse. Various factors determine who is at fault in slip and fall injuries, including how long the hazard was in place, how often the property owner maintained the area, and the general awareness of the person injured. An understanding of the commonly used legal term “reasonable” is helpful in recognizing who is liable as well. While the subject of slips and falls tends to be treated lightly by the general population, the unfortunate fact is that they are among the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, slips and falls are responsible for 15% of accidental deaths, second only to car accidents. Preventable injuries resulting from a negligent property owner or other responsible party can be life-altering, debilitating, and even fatal.
Three Factors Used to Determine Liability
In assessing where liability lies, courts must determine if the defendant’s actions can be categorized into one of the following three situations:
- The person legally responsible for the premises caused the hazardous condition that resulted in the injury. Examples of such conditions include a spill, loose shelving, a cluttered hallway, or a torn carpet.
- The person legally responsible for the premises was aware of the hazardous condition but did not respond in any way to fix it.
- A “reasonable” person would have become aware of the dangerous condition and taken action to remove or repair it. Therefore, the property owner should have known to do so.
A property owner will not be held responsible for conditions that serve the general safety of those in the area, such as drainage grates or roping used to create lines at the bank.
The Legal Term “Reasonable”
The word “reasonable” is used frequently in negligence cases. Sometimes described as “a reasonably prudent person,” this legal term is used to anchor the idea of how a typical, healthy, sane member of society should behave in similar, potentially hazardous situations. The crux of a negligence claim is often dependent upon whether or not the defendant’s choices and actions were deemed “reasonable,” or what a “reasonably prudent person” would do under those same circumstances.
The Injured Party and “Comparative Negligence”
The injured party’s conduct may also be examined to determine if he or she contributed to partial or full liability. “Comparative negligence” is used to measure the actions of the plaintiff by the actions of a reasonably prudent person. The following questions are commonly evoked to evaluate the plaintiff’s involvement:
- Were any visible warning signs posted or erected?
- Was there a legitimate reason for the injured party to be in the hazardous area?
- Would a reasonably careful person have recognized the danger, taking proper caution to either avoid it or be more careful?
- Was the plaintiff acting recklessly at the time, such as running, rough-housing, or jumping in an inappropriate area?
- Was the plaintiff distracted from full awareness of his or her surroundings?
- Was the plaintiff sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
Carey, Danis & Lowe – St. Louis Personal Injury Attorneys
Slip, trip, and fall accidents can result in medical conditions that require long periods of rehabilitation or permanent and overwhelming lifestyle adjustments. This can be especially frustrating when the accident could have been prevented. At Carey, Danis & Lowe, our legal team of 16 attorneys and a large support staff is committed to providing the highest quality legal representation possible. Founder Jeff Lowe has been practicing law since 1985, concentrating on personal injury. His experience extends to multi-plaintiff cases and class action suits, as well as individual cases. He and our entire firm will work diligently and aggressively to provide the compensation you deserve. If you have been injured in a slip, trip, or fall, or any other accident due to another’s negligence, contact us at Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation.