premises liability

Is It Hard to Prove a Slip and Fall Case?

Slip and Fall cases are part of the family of cases known as “premises liability.” Premises Liability refers to a group of cases where one is injured on the property of another. Other common premises liability cases are dog bite cases, injuries to social guests at one’s home, injuries at a sporting event or concert.  Any injury on the property owned or operated by another can fall under this umbrella term, though.

In order to successfully prove a premises liability case, you must show the following:

  • the owner or occupier of the property had a duty to protect;

  • the owner/occupier breached that duty;

  • the breach caused an injury; and,

  • you suffered some physical, mental or emotional harm.

So— What is “duty of care?”

The duty owed to you depends on your status. If you are going onto the property of another for their financial gain, then you are called an invitee. In short, you are invited onto the property, generally, to buy something. A prime example here is when you visit your local big-box home improvement store. When you walk onto the premises of this store, you are an invitee, and owed a standard of care by the owner. An invitee is owed a duty of care to protect them from any known or unknown dangers, and generally owed an ordinary standard of care. The question is, "was the invitee (patron) given an ordinary standard of care while on the property?" 

If you are a social guest at another's home, then you are coined a licensee. A licensee is owed a lower standard of care than an invitee. In short, a licensee is only owed a duty to protect him from unknown dangers, or from any willful harm imposed upon him by the owner/occupier.  For example, if there has a faulty step, the homeowner needs to either warn all guests of the defective condition (faulty step), place warning signs clearly around the area, etc. If not, and an injury results, the owner/occupier could be liable for any injuries that occur.

A trespasser, someone who is on the property of another illegally or without permission, is still owed a duty of care by the owner/occupier, but it is the lowest standard of care. The duty owed to a trespasser is simply to not willfully or wantonly injure the trespasser.

So, what are some common “hazardous conditions?” Spills or debris in a walkway, loose handrails, unrestrained animals, unfenced swimming pools, inadequate lighting.

Time is of the essence in most slip and fall and premises liability cases. We (your attorney) must move quickly to preserve the evidence. This involves inspecting the scene, gathering pictures and witness statements, preserving any videotape of the incident, etc. It bears repeating— Time is of the essence!

Insurers and defense attorneys often use a couple of common defenses to premises liability claims, including “open and obvious” and contributory negligence.

The “open and obvious” doctrine states that if a reasonable person would have noticed and avoided the accident due to the particular peril being “open and obvious,” then the injured should not be able to recover against the land or property owner. Contributory negligence is a bar to recovery in the state of Alabama. This doctrine states that if the injured party’s own carelessness contributed to their injuries, then it is a complete bar to any recovery. While these doctrines do indeed exist, quickly moving to retain counsel can assist in overcoming these defense tactics.

If you are injured by any condition or animal while on the property of another, feel free to give me a call. Let’s get you in the office, sit down and discuss. It’s always free to meet and talk. Call me (205) 939-0780.