Whether it happens at the grocery store or a friend’s house, slip and fall accidents occur fairly often. In some instances, the property owner is responsible for the injured party’s injuries, and in others, the property owner will not be held liable. FindLaw’s Slip and Fall Injuries section provides both the basics and some in-depth information about slip and fall liability. In this section, you can find articles about conditions that typically lead to slip and fall accidents, and how to prove fault in a slip and fall accident.
Who is responsible for an injury resulting from a slip and fall accident?
Many thousands of people are injured each year — some very seriously — when they slip or trip and fall on a wet floor, defective stairs, or a rough patch of ground. Sometimes the property owner is responsible for the accident, and sometimes he or she is not.
If you have been injured in this way, first consider that it is a normal part of living for things to fall on or to drip onto a floor or the ground, and for smooth surfaces to become uneven. Also, some things put in the ground — drainage grates, for example — serve a useful purpose there. So a property owner (or occupier) cannot always be held responsible for immediately picking up or cleaning every slippery substance on a floor. Nor is a property owner always responsible for someone slipping or tripping on something that an ordinary person should expect to find there or should see and avoid. We all have an obligation to watch where we’re going.
However, property owners do need to be careful in keeping up their property. While there is no precise way to determine when someone else is legally responsible for something on which you slip or trip, cases turn on whether the property owner acted carefully so that slipping or tripping was not likely to happen — and whether you were careless in not seeing or avoiding the thing you fell on. Here are some general rules to help you decide whether someone else was at fault for your slip or trip and fall injury.
To be legally responsible for the injuries you suffered from slipping or tripping and falling on someone else’s property, one of the following must be true:
- The owner of the premises or an employee must have caused the spill, worn or torn spot, or other slippery or dangerous surface or item to be underfoot.
- The owner of the premises or an employee must have known of the dangerous surface but done nothing about it.
- The owner of the premises or an employee should have known of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.
The third situation is the most common, but is also less clear-cut than the first two because of those pesky words “should have known.” Liability in these cases is often decided by common sense. Judges and juries determine whether the owner or occupier of property was careful by deciding if the steps the owner or occupier took to keep the property safe were reasonable.