Thousands of people are injured*, sometimes seriously, every year when they trip or slip and fall on a rough patch of ground, slippery floor, or flight of stairs. Sometimes the owner of the property where those people fall is liable (legally responsible) for their injuries, but sometimes they’re not. Either way, slip and fall accidents usually fall under “premise liability” cases.
If you’re suffering from a trip and fall injury* on someone else’s property, first consider that sometimes these things simply happen. In addition, some things in the ground, like drainage grates, fence posts, and others, serve an important purpose. Someone who owns or occupies property can’t be held responsible for cleaning or picking up every stray slippery substance on a floor, or repairing very old surfaces. When determining liability in a slip and fall case, it’s important to balance the rights of the person who fell for a safe environment against the convenience rights of the property owner.
That being said, there are many instances where the property owner can be held liable for injuries* a third party sustains on their property. Owners have the responsibility of keeping up their property, and while there is no precise way to determine who is legally responsible for a slip or fall, cases have turned on whether the property owner was careful and made sure that tripping or slipping wasn’t likely, as well as whether the person who fell was careless.
If you’ve slipped and fallen on someone else’s property and sustained an injury*, here are some general rules to help you determine who might be at fault.
For the owner of the property where you’ve suffered from tripping or slipping and falling, at least one of the following must be true:
- The owner of the premises, or an employee, must have caused the spill, worn, or torn spot, or other dangerous or slippery surface or item, to be underfoot.
- The owner of the premises, or an employee, must have known about the danger but done nothing about it.
- The owner of the premises, or an employee, should have known about the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person would have discovered and removed or repaired it in the process of caring for the property.
The third situation is the most common, but also the most complex to settle, because of those words “should have known.” Liability in these cases is oftentimes decided by common sense. Judges and juries must determine whether the owner of the property was reasonable in keeping their property safe.
What Does “Reasonable” Mean?
When it comes to slip and fall cases in Ireland, another other word to pay attention to in that third situation is “reasonable.” When determining how “reasonable” a property owner’s actions have been, the law concentrates mainly on whether they’ve made regular and thorough efforts to keep the property safe and clean. Try asking some of the following questions to help determine whether the property or business owner where you fell may be liable for your injuries*:
- If you tripped over a dangerous spot on the ground, such as a bulging or broken floor, or slipped on a wet or loose area on the ground, was it there long enough that the owner should have known about it?
- If you tripped over an object on the ground, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be there?
- Was there a safer place the object could have been located, or a safer manner in which it could have been placed, without great inconvenience to the property owner?
- Did poor or broken lighting contribute to your accident?
If your answers to one or more of these have been in your favor, you might have a good claim for compensation*. You should still consider what you could have done differently for your part that would’ve also avoided the situation, however.
Did Your Carelessness Contribute?
In nearly every trip and fall or slip case, the law needs to determine what level of liability each party holds. This means that, before you head to court, you should have a good idea of how much your own carelessness contributed to the accident.
The rules of “comparative negligence” help measure your own reasonableness in going where you did, in the way you did, just before your accident. Here are some questions to ask about your own actions; an insurance adjuster will likely ask them when you file your claim.
- Did you have a legitimate reason, that the owner should have anticipated, for being where the dangerous area was?
- Would a reasonably careful person have noticed the dangerous spot and avoided it, or adjusted their behavior so as not to slip or trip?
- Were there any posted warnings about the danger of the site?
- Were you doing anything that distracted you from paying attention to your surroundings, or were you acting in a way (e.g., by running, jumping, or being rowdy) that made falling more likely?
While you don’t have to prove you were careful to an insurance adjuster, you’ll want to think about what you were doing and describe it carefully so that they won’t think you were being careless.
Expert Slip & Fall Solicitors in Ireland
Whenever you slip and fall, first assess your injuries*, and have them attended to if they’re serious enough. Then be sure to report the accident! If you think you might have a case against the property owner where your accident occurred, call Moloney and Co. or schedule a consultation with one of our expert slip and fall lawyers to discuss your legal options today! We’ve served Dublin and County Naas citizens for decades in their injury cases, and we have the expertise to assist you in finding your best path forward.
*In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or a proportion of any award or settlement.