Personal Injury: Trip, Slip and Fall

Serious personal injury can occur as a result of a trip, slip or fall.  These cases are generally referred to as premises liability cases.  They are handled by a personal injury lawyer.  Though laws vary by State, there are some general principles applicable to these personal injury cases that will be explained here.

Generally, a premises owner’s liability arises out of the failure to warn or repair hazards on their property that are known or that they should know about.  Premises owners include business owners, landlords, homeowners and lessors that lease property for their personal or business use.  Knowledge of hazards, defects or dangers existing on the property can be either actual or constructive.  Actual notice occurs when the landowner has express knowledge of a risk on the property.  Constructive knowledge exists when the landowner should have been aware of the danger through vigilant care and observation of the property. 

Premises liability cases come in many forms, some common and others that are not so common.  Common examples include failure to repair sidewalk defects or slippery surfaces that lead to a slip and fall or trip and fall.  However, these cases can be difficult.  Insurance companies will defend these claims by arguing that the landowner did not have actual or constructive notice of a slippery surface.  Or, when the defect is open and obvious, insurance companies will defend by arguing that the personal injury victim should have taken steps to avoid the injury.  In this way, most premises liability cases are difficult, unless actual or constructive notice can be established and the defect is hidden to the personal injury victim.

Some less common types of premises liability cases arise out of explosions, drowning, fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and other hidden dangers that cause serious personal injury or wrongful death.  Likewise, when a particular property is the subject of repeated criminal activity, premises liability may arise when injury or harm is inflicted by a third party, such as a murder, rape or assault.  These cases may require the services of a security expert to prove that the landowner knew or should have known about repeated criminal activity in the area that put patrons, customers, passersby or residents of the property at risk, but failed to take proper corrective actions to prevent further criminal activity, such as installing surveillance cameras, security lighting and/or hiring security guards.

Another type of trip, slip or fall case involves falls resulting from floor openings, unprotected holes, and the lack of a handrail, barricade or guard required by the building code to prevent falls.  In many trip and fall cases, the building code is an important factor.  For example, building codes require stair risers to be uniform and consistent with human ergonomics.  If a staircase has inconsistent step heights, and a user trips, this can give rise to premises liability.  

Falls on ice and snow are often vigorously defended by insurance companies.  Many States’ laws deny liability for natural accumulations of snow and ice.  However, if a landowner creates a hazard by diverting water to a walkway that freezes and creates an unnatural accumulation of ice, liability  might attach.  If you have been injured as a result of a trip, slip or fall, it is important to contact a catastrophic injury lawyer in Cleveland, OH immediately.  The attorney can conduct a thorough investigation of the premises, take photographs and measurements and obtain witness statements if possible.



Thanks to Mishkind & Kulwicki Law Co. for their insight into personal injury claims and slip and fall accident injuries.