Determining Fault in a Slip-and-Fall Case
You are walking down the milk aisle in the grocery store when all of a sudden you slip and fall on a spot where a previous spill wasn’t cleaned properly. When such a situation occurs, who is at fall for any damages related to the fall? Depending on the circumstances and facts of the case, both you and the store could be at fault. Let’s take a look at how fault would be determined in such a case.
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When Would the Store Be to Blame?
The store would be to blame if it had known that the floor was wet and had not taken steps to remedy the issue. This could mean that there was no sign put on the floor to indicate that it was wet or that there was no effort made to clean a previous spill. As you have the right to be in that location as an invitee, the store owner would have the duty to make sure that you are safe. If that duty is violated, the property owner is liable for damages.
When Would You Be to Blame For Your Fall?
The law does acknowledge that a slip-and-fall victim may need to take responsibility for his or her own actions. For instance, if you saw that the floor was wet, you could have gone around that portion of the floor or avoided the aisle entirely. This may be true whether or not there was a sign warning you that the floor was wet. However, if you decided to go over the wet spot and fell, you would be at least partially liable for your actions.
When Would Both Parties Split Blame for a Fall?
In some cases, there may be factors that indicate both parties were to blame. Once again, if you saw that the floor was wet or should have known that the floor could be slippery, you may be assigned half of the blame for the incident occurring. Although you may have known or should have known that you could have slipped on a wet floor, this does not absolve the property owner from the duty to keep you safe.
Therefore, the fact that the floor was wet would be enough to assign the owner part of the blame for causing your fall. Other factors such as whether or not the property owner tried to fix a leak that caused the floor to become wet or whether there was a warning that the floor was wet could reduce the percentage of blame assigned to the property owner.
What Happens if One or Both Parties Refuse to Accept Responsibility?
Fortunately, the law is fairly clear when it comes to determining which party is responsible for a slip-and-fall accident. First, the relationship between the person who was hurt and the property owner will determine whether or not the owner of the property owes the victim a duty of care. In most cases, as long as the victim wasn’t trespassing, he or she is owed a duty of care while on the premises. The only exception would be if the trespasser was a child.
If dangerous conditions exist on a property, the property owner generally only needs to make a good faith attempt at fixing those conditions. Furthermore, it must be shown that the property owner knew about the dangerous condition and did nothing to fix it. For instance, if an employee created a dangerous condition in the store and didn’t tell anybody, the store owner or property owner may not be liable for damages.
How a slip-and-fall case is resolved depends on a number of factors that may be unique to each case. If a victim was invited onto a premises and was injured because a property owner was negligent, the property owner is at fault. If the victim was a trespasser, he or she is usually at fault. If both sides took actions that could be seen as negligent to a reasonable person, both sides may be assigned blame in a slip-and-fall case regardless of who each side believes caused the accident to happen.
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