A slip and fall can happen anywhere–at work, at home, at a friend’s house, at the shopping mall, or even at your place of worship. Slipping and falling can lead to serious and sometimes permanent injuries, especially for children and the elderly. The (OSHA) estimates that slips, trips, and falls account for 15% of all accidental deaths in the United States, which puts them in second place behind car accidents. The good news is that, in many cases, the person or business who owns or manages the land that a person slips and falls on is legally responsible for preventing those kinds of accidents. If they fail to do so and someone gets hurt, they could expose themselves to liability.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most common causes of slips and falls, how to prevent them, and the legal justification for holding landowners liable for injuries caused by them.
Reduce wet or slippery surfaces: Reduce the risk of slipping and falling on wet surfaces by keeping parking lots and sidewalks repaired, removing ice and snow, using adhesive stripping or anti-skid paint, using moisture-absorbing mats in entrance areas, displaying “wet floor” signs as needed, and cleaning up spills immediately.
Remove obstacles from aisles and walkways: Environmental factors that cause slips and falls can be significantly reduced by keeping all work areas and passageways clean and orderly, avoiding stringing cords and cables across hallways or walking areas, moving boxes and other obstacles out of heavily-trafficked areas, and making sure all employees close cabinet drawers.
Create and maintain proper lighting: Ensure that the premises are lit properly by keeping work areas bright and clean, keeping poorly lit areas clear of clutter and obstructions, keeping areas around light switches clear and accessible, and always turning on a light when entering a darkened room.
Wearing proper shoes: Many slip and fall accidents can be caused by wearing shoes that are inappropriate for a particular activity or a particular place. Eliminate this risk by wearing shoes with non-slip soles and tying shoelaces correctly.
Liability for injuries caused by slip and fall accidents is based in negligence. The general idea behind this theory is that all landowners owe others a duty to use reasonable care to prevent injuries on their property. However, what type of duty a landowner owes to a particular person depends upon the person’s status on the property. The state of Florida recognizes three broad classes of visitors when determining the duty that a landowner owes to them:
Invitees: An invitee is a person who is either (a) invited to enter onto the land for a purpose that is connected with the business dealings of the landowner, or (b) a member of the public who is on the land for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public. This could include retail shoppers, business guests, and visitors to public parks.
Licensees: There are two types of licensees: invited and uninvited: An invited licensee is someone who is invited to come onto the property by the landowner as a social guest, while an uninvited licensee is someone who is not invited to enter the land, but whose presence there is reasonable under the circumstances, such as a door-to-door salesman or mailman.
Trespassers: A trespasser is a person who has no legal right to be on the landowner’s property whatsoever.
Landowners owe invitees and invited licensees the highest duty of care. For these guests, the law requires that landowners inspect and make safe any dangers he or she knows or should know about that the invitee does not know and could not discover through reasonable care. Landowners owe uninvited licensees a much lower duty of care and are only required to refrain from willful or wanton injury toward the uninvited licensee. “Willful or wanton injury” could include such actions of installing booby traps on the property or setting a vicious dog on the visitor. With one narrow , landowners owe trespassers no duty of care beyond the duty to refrain from willful or wanton injury.
Thus, an easy way to think about landowner liability for slip and fall accidents is to split it into two tracks: liability for people who were invited onto the property and liability for people who were not invited onto the property. Landowners owe people who were invited onto the property (invitees and invited licensees) the duty to prevent slips and falls. For people who were not invited onto the property (uninvited licensees and trespassers), landowners owe no such duty.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you may be able to seek compensation from the landowner or the party responsible for the maintenance of the property. To schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney, call the today at 727-451-6900.