Slip and Fall Claims

Published on July 03, 2012   Trevor A. Taylor

Slip and Fall Attorney

slip and fall attorneyWhen you or I enter a store, there is an unspoken understanding between us and the store owner. We enter the store to purchase their goods or services—we give them money. In return, the owner has an obligation to us to make sure that we can shop in safety and not slip and fall and possibly injure ourselves.

Too many stores breach this obligation, sometimes with very serious consequences. At times like that, hiring a competent injury lawyer (slip and fall attorney) to protect your interests is essential.

The body of law protecting injured customers is known as premises liability. Premises liability law defines the type of obligation that a landowner owes people that enter their property. The highest duties are placed on landowners that invite people onto their property for profit. The law defines customers of a business as “invitees.”

If a customer or “invitee” is injured in a store, the law explores the reason for the slip and fall, asking the question of whether the cause of the slip and fall (water left on the ground, spilled soap) creates an unreasonably dangerous condition on the premises. A company’s safety manual or training material may admit as much.

The next question the law asks is perhaps the most important: whether the owner “knew or should have known” or the dangerous condition yet failed to cure it. This is the area where most of these types of claims are hardest fought. As an initial matter, the injured customer needs to know how and on what he or she fell. From that point, the customer’s slip and fall attorney can work backwards to determine if the owner was (or should have been) on notice of the condition. Sometimes you can develop evidence that the company knew of the spill, but hadn’t cleaned it up yet (actual notice). When you have no evidence of actual notice, more detailed investigation will be necessary to determine if the company “should have known” about the condition. Evidence from the customer or other witnesses about how long the condition existed is important. Also important is some knowledge about company cleaning and maintenance routines, and whether they were followed in this particular case. A spill that was on the ground for an extended period of time, coupled with evidence that the company wasn’t routinely monitoring the condition of its floor, can support a jury’s conclusion that the company “should have know” of the condition but failed to act and this precipitated the slip and fall injury.

Sometimes a slip and fall is not the result of a dangerous condition on the property (like soap left on the floor), but the result of some ongoing activity on the property by the owner. This distinction, between a premises liability and negligent activity claim, can often be determinative of a claims success. The seminal case in this area is Keetch v. Kroger, 845 S.W.2d 262, 264 (Tex. 1992). In that case, the court distinguished between a negligent ongoing activity (over spraying plants while watering them) and premises liability (dangerous condition of water on the ground). The important difference between the two types of claims is that the injured customer doesn’t need to show that the owner was on notice of the condition in the negligent activity case. Simply showing the negligence of the owner’s activity is enough to prevail.

In dealing with the owner (or more likely the insurance adjusters they hire), a customer injured by a slip and fall will be made to feel like the injury is their fault. You should have been watching where you were going, the adjuster will say. Don’t blame our negligence for your fall. This is a common refrain I hear in virtually every premises case. They are attempting to set up a comparative fault defense—which means if they can convince a jury that the fall is more your fault than theirs, you won’t recover a penny. This is one very good reason that you should retain a competent slip and fall attorney like Trevor Taylor in Austin.

This argument can be met by pointing out the obvious: you didn’t go into their store to buy floor tiles. You went to buy the stuff that’s on the shelves. In fact, stores spend lots of money on advertising and promotions to draw your attention to colorful displays and neat shelves. That’s where they want your focus—and it makes them money. They can’t draw your attention to shelves to make themselves money, but then tell you to stare at the floor when you are hurt.

Some slip and fall injuries can be quite serious. Broken bones, spinal damage and other serious injuries as a result of a slip and fall are not uncommon. An experienced slip and fall attorney well versed in personal injuries can help develop testimony about these injuries, along with wage and other non-economic losses, to help present a compelling case to the adjuster representing the store, or a jury if the adjuster will not pay.

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