Retail stores and other businesses that are open to the public generally have a duty to protect their customers and other visitors, or risk legal consequences when someone gets hurt. While not every slip, trip, or fall accident in a business is grounds for a lawsuit, there are times when an injured person can and should seek compensation.
Here are the facts you need to know about slip and fall accidents in stores, including common injuries suffered, what you need to do to prove your case, and how to get legal help if you’ve been hurt.
Premises Liability Law Protects Visitors
When a customer visits the property (or premises) of a business, there is an expectation that the owner or manager of the business will provide a reasonable amount of safety. When this expectation is violated, the business may find itself financially liable for any damages that result from injuries to patrons or guests. Legally, this concept is known as premises liability.
Here are a few examples of when premises liability law might come into play:
- Torn carpeting. If a piece of carpet or flooring is damaged and causes someone to fall, the property owner may be liable for the injury.
- Poor lighting. Inadequate lighting or a broken light fixture in an area where a hazard exists could lead to liability for injuries.
- Wet floors. A spill or leak that isn’t either promptly cleaned up or clearly marked off with a sign can easily cause a slip, especially on slick commercial floor surfaces.
Loose or missing handrails on stairs, dangerous obstructions or obstacles in walkways, and many other hazards can all lead to harm to visitors. However, certain legal circumstances are required before the business operator can be found liable.
Proving a Premises Liability Case
Most importantly, the visitor must typically be either an “invitee” or a “licensee” in order to be protected by premises liability. An invitee is someone who has permission (either expressly or implicitly) or to be on the property for the mutual benefit of both the invitee and business owner. For example, a customer is typically an invitee with implied permission to be in the store.
A licensee is someone who has permission to be there for his or her own benefit, such as an off-duty employee, a solicitor, or a loiterer, and is also protected by premises liability law. Trespassers, on the other hand, are not usually afforded any legal protection.
All property owners generally must avoid gross negligence and warn any invitee or licensee of any dangers that may exist on the property. To prove that the property owner is responsible for your injury, you’ll typically need to show that:
- An unsafe condition or hazard existed on the property.
- The property owner either caused, knew about, or should have known about the hazard.
- The property owner did nothing to either fix, block off, or otherwise notify visitors of the hazard.
- The result of this failure to act is what lead to your injury.
It’s important to note that while business operators are expected to provide a reasonable amount of safety, patrons are also expected to take a reasonable amount of care for themselves, too. Slip and fall cases may involve comparative negligence, in which the court looks at how much responsibility it feels that the business had versus the person who was injured. If the injured party is found to be more than 50 percent responsible, he or she may not be able to recover any damages at all.
Otherwise, the amount of damages will be reduced proportionate to the percentage of responsibility that he or she has for the injury. For example, if the court finds that the business is 75 percent liable but that the injured customer was 25 percent liable, the amount of damages that the injured customer will be able to receive will be reduced by 25 percent.
Get Legal Help After a Slip and Fall
Proving a slip and fall case can be difficult, so you should look for a personal injury attorney with plenty of experience handling this type of claim. He or she will be able to help investigate your claim and advise you of what your legal options are.
If you’ve been hurt in a slip and fall accident, Wayne Wright LLP would like to hear from you today. We work hard to help our clients who have been injured in avoidable accidents caused by negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing, and we’d like to help you, too. To speak to a qualified legal professional about your situation, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box and arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with us right now.