Slip and fall accidents fall under the umbrella of premises liability. This is the legal term for the obligation property owners have to maintain a safe environment. This liability may be applied to homeowners, business owners, and in cases involving renters and landlords. If an accident was caused by the preexisting condition of the property in which it occurred, the owner may be found legally liable.
In order to determine whether or not premises liability applies to a particular case, the plaintiff must prove one or more of the following criteria:
- The property owner caused the hazard (e.g., a recently mopped floor or food spill).
- The property owner knew about the hazard and neglected to fix it (e.g., allowing a food spill to go unattended for an extended period).
- The property owner was notified of the hazard but did not fix it (e.g. an employee notified the owner about a spill, it was left unfixed and lead to the injury of a customer).
What If The Victim Is Partially At Fault?
In certain situations, a property owner may be found liable under the premises liability law, but circumstances may suggest that the victim is also partially at fault. For example, this rule might apply if the accident occurred while the victim was talking on the phone and not paying attention to the floor in front of them.
In Pennsylvania, the modified comparative fault rule applies in these types of cases. While the owner will still be found liable and be required to pay financial compensation, the award amount may be reduced according to the plaintiff’s level of responsibility in causing the accident. So if a $100,000 verdict was awarded and the court determines that the victim was 25% to blame for the accident, that amount would be reduced to $75,000. Victims found to be more than 50% responsible are not eligible to make a claim.
What To Do If You Fall On A Wet Floor
If you’ve recently sustained injuries from a fall on a wet floor, you may be curious about the next steps. First, it’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations in PA, which requires a personal injury lawsuit to be filed within two years of the incident. Because of this statute, it’s important to act quickly and waste as little time as possible if you believe you deserve compensation for hardships you’ve endured as a result of a property owner’s negligence.
If you’re unsure whether your accident qualifies for a lawsuit, there are a few questions you should ask immediately following a slip or fall accident:
What Made The Floor Slippery?
Evaluate the scene and determine what created the floor conditions which lead to your fall. Had the floor recently been mopped? Had customers tracked in melting ice and snow from outside? Had there been a food spill which hadn’t been cleaned up?
How Long Had The Floor Been Slippery?
In these types of accidents, it’s always important to determine how long the hazard had been present. If a customer just made the food spill and you slip and fall on it 2 minutes later, then the owner who likely not be held liable since he or she hadn’t had sufficient time to fix the problem. But if the spill had been laying there for an hour, they would be much more likely to be held liable in a lawsuit.
Was There A Warning About The Floor’s Condition?
Wet and slippery floors may be an unavoidable condition for many business owners. Part of maintaining a safe business is keeping it clean, so naturally, floors need to be mopped and/or waxed. As long as wet floor signs provide adequate warnings to patrons, property owners are likely in the clear. But a wet floor without any warnings to guests is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
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