Proving Fault in Personal Injury: Slip and Fall Accidents

Jan 07, 2014

How do you determine whether a property owner is responsible for a personal injury resulting from a slip and fall accident that occurred on his property? Under Ohio’s premises liability law, property owners are responsible for ensuring that anyone who comes onto their property remains safe from injury or harm. Not all slip and fall accidents are within a property owner’s control, though there are instances when property owners might be held legally responsible.

Thousands of people are injured each year in slip and fall accidents, which are defined as accidents that occur when someone slips or trips and then falls and gets injured on someone else’s property.  Slip and fall accidents can occur just about anywhere, including at your workplace, at the supermarket, or at the mall. Injuries range from minor to severe and may include the following:

No matter how careful property owners are, they can’t always prevent accidents. For example, if you slip and fall on the floor but there was a drainage grate designed to prevent the floor from getting slippery, the property owner may not be legally responsible for your injuries. Furthermore, property owners aren’t responsible when someone slips or trips and falls on something that any ordinary person should expect to find or see and avoid.

Nevertheless, property owners need to be careful about maintaining their properties. They must take reasonable steps to ensure that their properties are free from dangerous conditions so that slip and fall accidents are not likely to occur.

If your own carelessness contributed to a slip and fall accident, it could weaken your claim. Comparative negligence is used to compare the fault of the person who is making the claim and the fault of the property owner. The court establishes a percentage of liability for each party and then determines the percentage of the resulting damages each party must pay. If you didn’t have a legitimate reason that the owner could have anticipated for being where the dangerous condition was or there was a warning posted near the spot where you slipped or tripped, the court may determine that your own carelessness played a large role in the accident.

Determining a Property Owner’s Liability

One of the most difficult aspects of slip and fall cases is proving fault. If you sustained personal injury in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property due to a dangerous condition and want to hold the property owner legally responsible, one of the following must be true:

  • The property owner or an employee was aware of the hazard but didn’t fix it
  • The property owner or an employee should have been aware of the hazard because any “reasonable” property owner would have discovered it
  • The property owner or an employee caused the dangerous condition

Most commonly, slip and fall accidents involve property owners who “should have” known about the dangerous condition. Determining liability in these cases is tricky, so judges and juries must use common sense to determine whether the steps that the property owner took to keep the property safe were reasonable. The court may consider factors like how long the dangerous condition was present, whether the property owner made regular and thorough efforts to ensure that the property was safe and clean, and whether the property owner could have fixed the dangerous condition. Some questions you ought to ask yourself to gauge whether a property owner is liable for your slip and fall accident include the following:

  • Was the dangerous condition there long enough that the property owner should have known about it?
  • Does the property owner have regular procedures in place for cleaning, maintaining, examining, and repairing the premises?
  • If you tripped over or slipped on an object someone left on the floor or ground, did it have a legitimate reason for being there?
  • Could a warning sign or simple barrier have been created to prevent people from slipping or tripping?
  • Did poor or broken lighting cause the accident?

If your answers to these questions are in your favor, then it might be worthwhile to pursue a personal injury claim against the property owner. Contact Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman personal injury lawyers in Ohio today to discuss your case with an experienced attorney!

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