In cartoons and comedies, a surefire way to get laughs is to have the villain slip or trip and fall. In real life, though, slip and fall accidents are no laughing matter. Slips and falls and the injuries resulting therefrom are one of the leading causes of death amongst the elderly, and even young and healthy individuals can suffer injuries with permanent effects from slip and fall incidents. While not all slip and fall accidents can be prevented, property owners and business owners have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent these events from occurring.
Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
A slip and fall occurs when the victim loses his or her footing and his or her lead foot literally “slips” out from under him or her. (This distinguishes a slip and fall accident from a trip and fall accident, in which the victim’s trailing foot is caught on some obstacle). Whereas a person who experiences a trip will fall forward and often have the opportunity to brace him- or herself to avoid serious injury, a “slip” sends the victim tumbling backwards. Unless there is something for the victim to quickly grab onto, the victim is often unable to brace him- or herself or otherwise prevent the fall. The victim’s spine, back, neck, head, and/or brain are often affected by the fall to varying degrees (depending on what part of the victim’s body struck the floor first).
There can be a number of reasons why a slip and fall accident occurs:
- Slippery or wet substances on the floor. This can include water, beverages, wax, or other chemicals that leave a slick residue;
- Foreign objects on the floor like toys (fans of the Home Alone series of movies will recognize that many of the traps set by the young protagonist in the first film – ice on the outside walkways and skates near the stairs – caused the hapless burglars to suffer slip and fall injuries);
- Snow and ice buildup. Not only do property owners need to ensure their walkways outside are shoveled, but they must also address snow and ice that visitors and guests unintentionally bring into the building.
A slip and fall accident caused by any of these above-named causes is a slip and fall accident that did not need to happen. In many situations, had the property owner made a more careful and more regular inspection of his or her property, or if he or she would have expended a little more effort, the victim would not have slipped and fallen because (1) the dangerous condition would have been resolved; and/or (2) the victim would have been alerted to the dangerous condition.
Cleaning Up Slip and Fall Accidents
Premises liability law requires property owners who invite others onto their property (such as a neighbor inviting a friend over to visit or a store that invites customers inside its building to transact business) to take reasonable measures to locate and correct hazardous conditions present that could cause slip and fall accidents. For a store owner, for instance, this means he or she must make periodic inspections of his or her store and look for obvious spills or accumulation of water. Once a slip and fall hazard is identified, the store owner must then take reasonable steps to correct the issue. Most store owners do this by:
- Placing a conspicuous “Wet Floor” sign near the spill in a highly visible area;
- Station an employee near the spill to direct shoppers away from the slick spot;
- Use a mop and bucket or other cleaning tools to pick up as much of the liquid as possible;
- Keep the sign and/or employee near the spot of the spill until it is safe and dry to walk upon.
Not all store owners must do these steps to avoid liability for a slip and fall accident on their premises, however. The law only requires the property owner to take steps that are reasonable considering the owner’s situation and resources. To use the above example, if the shop’s only “employee” that day was the owner and the store was experiencing heavy customer traffic, “reasonable measures” may only require the shop owner to place a conspicuous sign near the spill and mop it up as quickly as possible.
Stern Law, PLLC is Your Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer
Because the outcome of a slip and fall lawsuit can depend heavily upon the facts and circumstances of the case, it is advantageous for slip and fall accident victims to retain legal counsel with the resources to investigate the facts of their case and the knowledge and advocacy skills necessary to use these facts to help the victim’s case. Stern Law, PLLC premises liability lawyers are experienced in helping slip and fall victims recover compensation where the property owner declined to take reasonable and simple measures to make his or her property safer. Call attorney Ken Stern at (844) 808-7529 and discuss your case with him today.