When we imagine suing a business for an injury, a slip-and-fall often comes to mind. These are the lawsuits that are often mocked in the media. Many people consider such lawsuits frivolous, and they can seem that way. People assume that slipping makes someone clumsy, and therefore, the injuries are their fault.
This, however, is a false conclusion. When a business fails to maintain a safe environment, they are responsible for any resulting injuries. But why? What, exactly, makes a business responsible for your safety? The answer lies in the types of visitors it has, and why those visitors are present.
Types of Visitors
The law recognizes three kinds of visitors to a property: licensees, trespassers, and invitees.
When you invite someone to your private land, that visitor is a licensee. Any space you give them access to is space they can use at your discretion. You are giving them license to use your property.
Because of this licensing, private landowners have less liability toward their visitors. The visitors assume any risks associated with this land. Property owners are obligated to warn visitors of unseen dangers, and they cannot be grossly negligent toward them. Otherwise, it’s difficult to sue private landowners for a slip-and-fall. If everyone shares the kitchen, for example, the law assumes that they would be on the lookout for spills.
Trespassers have no legal excuse to be on a piece of property, and they are given very little room to sue for an injury. Landowners, both private and commercial, cannot set traps for trespassers without warning, but otherwise, it is difficult for a trespasser to sue in a slip-and-fall claim.
Invitees are those who enter a business as a consumer or client. Whether they intend to conduct business or not is irrelevant. If they don’t work there or own the land, they are invitees.
Why Businesses Are Responsible for an Invitee’s Safety
Invitees are the reason the business exists. They sustain it by spending money there. In our society, money is the equivalent of someone’s ability to survive. According to the law, if you enter a building to exchange your hard-earned money, you should be afforded the highest standard of care. Even those who simply browse help a business by remembering products for later purchase or by telling others what they found there.
Examples of Negligence in a Slip-and-fall
People often misunderstand how a slip-and-fall claim works. Businesses are not vulnerable to every accusation hurled their way. Imagine, for example, two customers in the corner of a store, far from employees. One spills a bottle of water, and the other immediately slips on the puddle. The person who fell could attempt a lawsuit, but the business has a strong defense against this claim. They can simply argue that they had no time to react.
It takes more than a sudden accident to justifiably sue someone in a slip-and-fall. Here are some examples of neglect that could make a business liable in a slip-and-fall case.
The Business Reacted Too Slowly
Consider a can that falls off a grocery store shelf. Left in the middle of the aisle, it poses a danger to customers. After it falls, three employees walk past it, doing nothing to fix the problem. Eventually, a shopper comes along, steps on the can, and falls flat on his back. This is a business openly neglecting a potential hazard, allowing it to remain much longer than it should.
A History of Neglect
Sometimes, the specific incident is not the immediate problem. Attorneys must investigate the company’s history and see if a pattern emerges. If the lawyer notices many slip-and-fall claims against a business, particularly if those claims share common details, this may represent a pattern of neglect. The lawsuit can include this pattern in its claim, and it may be justification to ask for more compensation.
The Company Fails to Maintain Its Property
Picture a decrepit parking lot full of cracks and potholes. Now, imagine how it looks after a heavy rainfall. Not only is a business responsible for reacting to dangers, but it must also keep its grounds safe. This neglected parking lot is full of hazardous puddles each time it rains, and its owner must be held accountable for its upkeep.
Failure to Address Common Problems
When it comes to a slip-and-fall accident, each business has unique challenges. For example, an electronics store should be aware of wayward items in its aisles. A coffee shop, on the other hand, should always stay vigilant of spills. If the electronics store fails to keep its walkways clear, and a coffee shop doesn’t handle its spills on time, they are asking for liability issues.
What if the Fall Was Partially My Fault?
Liability does not rest solely on the business. Customers have a responsibility to walk safely and reasonably within the environment. Let’s look at our earlier example of the grocery store. This business is responsible for removing wayward cans from its aisles. However, what if the customer was in a dead sprint when they slipped? In that case, they could be held partially responsible for their injuries.
This is where comparative negligence comes into play. After hearing both sides of a case, the court assigns a percentage of blame to each person. In our example, the court agrees that the walkway should have been clear, and the grocery store was negligent. However, it also agrees that the consumer should have been more careful. Therefore, it concludes that the store was 60% responsible for the accident, and the customer was 40% responsible.
The amount of damages a plaintiff can receive is equal to the defendant’s percentage of fault. In our example, the plaintiff is entitled to 60% of the overall reward. New York operates under “pure” comparative negligence. Even if the plaintiff is 99% responsible for an incident, they can still receive 1% of the overall damages.
Talk with an Attorney
If you suffered a slip-and-fall injury, consult a lawyer. Remember, a personal injury suit is not a path to getting rich. It is there to compensate you for the money you lost or stand to lose in recovery. An attorney may be able to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today, and tell us the details of your slip-and-fall injury. We may be able to help. Our number is (607) 228-8404, and you can reach us online.