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What is a slip and fall accident?

The most common cause of personal injury claims associated with premises liability law is a slip and fall accident. Slip and fall is a term used to describe a situation in which an individual slips or trips while present on the property of another person or entity. For example, a shopper might slip and fall at a grocery store because there was spilled milk on the floor. Such incidents fall under the category of premises liability claims.

In slip and fall accident cases, an owner or person who maintained the property may be held legally accountable if the injured person can prove that the accident was caused by a dangerous condition. The legal responsibility of the property owner can be established if it falls within one of several situations.

First, was the property owner the one who created the dangerous condition on the premises? This point emphasizes the responsibility of owners to maintain the safety of the establishment and ensure that the premises are free from dangerous conditions. For example, renovations being undertaken while a business is still open to the public could cause a plumbing leak that leads to a customer slipping and falling in a pool of water.

Second, was the property owner is fully aware of the dangerous condition, but negligently failed to address it? To illustrate, if a property owner saw that ice had spilled and scattered across the floor, but failed to clean it up, the owner may be considered negligent if another person slips and falls on the ice, resulting in injury.

Finally, did the condition exist long enough so that the owner had sufficient time to discover and address the issue? For instance, a hole that gradually was worn into a carpet over time may cause an elderly customer to trip, fall and get injured.

Such scenarios also can be used to prove fault in slip and fall accident cases. Different rules may apply to various types of property, such as commercial, residential and governmental, but if the property owner is found to be negligent, he or she may be liable for the damages incurred by the victim, which can range from medical costs to rehabilitation to pain and suffering.

Source: FindLaw, "Slip and Fall Accidents Overview" accessed Sept. 11, 2014

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