When you hear about an adult getting injured in an accident, you probably assume that it was a car accident. You might associate getting injured by falling down with children; adults have decades of experience with walking and with being cautious enough to avoid falling. Even though the movies often play up slip and fall accidents for laughs, it is possible to incur very serious injuries as a result of a slip and fall accident. The reason that slip and fall accidents have such a reputation for being weird and outrageous is that they are not supposed to happen; in legal terms, they are preventable. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), slip and fall accidents account for 15% of all accidental deaths in the country. That makes slip and falls the second leading cause of death behind car accidents. If you get injured when slipping and falling at a place of business, you might end up with injuries that require a lot of medical treatment. In that case, you need the slip and fall lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC.
Missouri Premises Liability Law Basics
The legal principle at work in slip and fall lawsuits is called premises liability. The idea of premises liability is that the owner of a property is responsible for keeping the property safe enough to prevent accidental injuries from happening on the premises. If a person gets injured because they slipped and fell or tripped and fell in Missouri, he or she can recover damages by filing a premises liability lawsuit against the person or company that owns the property. As reported by the National Floor and Safety Institute, slip and falls represent the primary cause of lost days from work. The United States Bureau of Labor further reported that 22% of slip and falls result in more than 31 days away from work. That is 31 days of lost wages. How much responsibility the owner has to protect visitors from getting injured depends on the nature of the relationship between the owner and the visitor.
Different Kinds of Premises
If the premises are a place of business and the visitor is a customer (called an “invitee” in legal terms), you can sue the business owner. For example, if you got injured slipping on a recently mopped floor you can argue that the management should have kept a schedule of when and where mopping would occur. You could also argue the managers should have made sure that “caution wet floor” signs stayed up until the floor dried.
Reporters from Industrial Safety and Highway News report that the three most common causes of slip and falls are:
- slippery and uneven surfaces
- tripping hazards; and
- elevated work areas.
Visiting a business as a customer as not the only way businesses can be liable for slip and falls. If you are an employee and you slip and fall at work, you may be entitled for damages pursuant to Missouri workers compensation laws.
If the premises are a residence and the visitor is a guest (called a “licensee” in legal terms), you could sue if the homeowner knew about the present danger to you and you, the guest, could not have known about it unless the homeowner told you. This is one reason why people have homeowners or renters insurance.
When You Cannot Sue
If the visitor is a trespasser [meaning that a person has entered the property without permission], he or she cannot sue for premises liability. However, there is an exception. A trespasser can sue under premises liability if he or she can prove that the premises owner knew people usually trespassed on their land and the owner knew about the dangerous area and intentionally did not warn the trespasser of the danger.
Criminal Acts of 3rd Parties
According to the Business Premises Act of 2018, people injured in crimes committed by third parties on the premises are not covered by premises liability law unless the injured person can prove that the owner or operator of the premises knew that the crime was about to transpire and intentionally did not protect the victim.
How Often Do Slip & Falls Happen?
Slip and fall cases are the most common kind of premises liability lawsuit. However, any kind of accidental injury can be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit if it meets the criteria listed above.
How to Win Your Slip & Fall Case
Slip and fall lawsuits are a type of personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury means that another person’s negligence caused your injuries. Therefore, in order to win your case, you must prove the following:
- The premises owner had a duty of care to prevent the accident. The owner’s duty of care (responsibility to prevent the accident) depends on whether the premises are a business or a residence.
- The premises owner failed to fulfill their duty of care by creating dangerous conditions or allowing dangerous conditions to remain on the premises.
- You became injured because of the dangerous conditions on the premises.
The standard of evidence in premises liability cases is “a preponderance of the evidence,” meaning you must show that there is at least a 51% chance that the claims you are making are true.
When a court awards you damages for a premises liability lawsuit, the award is itemized into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are reimbursement for financial losses you suffered because of the accident, including past and future medical bills and past and future lost income. Non-economic damages are for pain and suffering for how the accident negatively affects your quality of life in non-financial ways. The National Safety Council also reports that compensation and medical costs associated with slip and fall accidents for employee slip and fall accidents is approximately $70 billion a year. Again, this is just for employee slip and fall accidents and does not include other types of slip and falls involving third-parties.
Sometimes, the defendant may argue that you are partially responsible for causing the accident on the defendant’s premises. For example, if you were looking at your phone and did not see the “wet floor” sign, the defendant may argue your distraction, not the wet floor, caused your injuries. But even if the defendant’s claims are true, it does not mean you cannot recover any damages.
Slipping and falling could be due to floor material more than your distraction. In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, floors and flooring material contribute directly to more than 2 million slip and fall accidents each year.
Missouri is a comparative fault state, so if the accident is partly your fault, it will only reduce the amount of damages you can win. Accidents that are partly your fault do not automatically disqualify you from recovering damages.
The Slip and Fall Lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC are Here to Help You