Slip & Fall Cases – Proving Negligence Can be Slippery
Walk into a restaurant or hotel lobby after an employee has recently mopped the floor and you’re likely to see a vibrantly colored “Caution: Wet Floor” sign in the area. You likely take extra precautions to walk carefully through the space or perhaps even avoid the area altogether. By doing so, both you and the business establishment have done your part to avoid injury and liability in a slip and fall case.
But what if you set foot on a wet or uneven surface and end up slipping and falling, perhaps sustaining a serious injury? Do you have a case? CEO Dennis VanDerGinst of VanDerGinst Law, P.C. explains how cases like these aren’t always so cut and dry.
“In general, in order to be successful with a slip and fall case, you have to show the defendant knew or should have known of a defect and that there has been a reasonable time to repair it or at least warn of it,” explains VanDerGinst. “For example, if there’s a spill in aisle 3 of the grocery store, camera footage can show just how long it took for store employees to become aware of the spill, clean it up or at least place a sign nearby to caution shoppers. This time frame can determine whether or not a case exists.”
Snow and ice accumulation are another main cause of slips and falls, but here the law can be even trickier. For starters, it depends on which state your fall occurs. In Illinois, there is no duty to a homeowner or business to remove snow or ice if it is the result of “natural accumulation.” While it might initially seem like all snow and ice can be classified as a natural occurrence so to speak, what are deemed natural and unnatural by law can vary.
“Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a good neighbor,” cautions VanDerGinst, explaining that “if a natural accumulation of snow was shoveled off the sidewalk in an effort to clear a path, but later that mound of piled snow melts to form a sheet of ice, the person has unintentionally created an unnatural accumulation and could be held liable in the event of a slip or fall. Other examples of unnatural accumulation include ice that forms as a result of a missing or broken gutter, or as a result of a depression that exists due to cracked or aging concrete.”
In Iowa, however, the concept of natural accumulation does not apply. Accumulation of ice or snow are required to be removed by the property owner. There are state laws and municipal laws that require owners to remove ice and snow from sidewalks in a reasonable time, often as short as 24 hours after an accumulation to avoid a fine and liability.
Another aspect to consider when deciding if you have a case for slip and fall is that of “comparative negligence,” which is part of both Illinois and Iowa law. “In some slip and fall situations, it is not always the fault of just one party,” notes VanDerGinst. “Often the victim shares some of the blame because everybody has an obligation to watch where they are going, to wear appropriate shoes, and act properly to avoid injury.”
In situations where fault for a slip and fall is shared between the property or business owner and the injured person, damages payable to the injured person are reduced by the percentage of blame attributed to the injured person. If it is proven that a slip and fall was a result of a 50/50 shared fault between the injured person and the party being sued, the victim will receive 50% of the actual damages sought. However, if the injured person is any amount over 50% responsible for the slip and fall, there is no case and the victim cannot receive any damages.
As you can see, proving negligence in slip and fall cases can be a slippery task, which is why it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury firm, like VanDerGinst Law, to evaluate your case.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to a slip and fall accident, contact VanDerGinst Law today. We have knowledgeable and experienced attorneys who can help guide you through the complexities of your case and help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve. The consultation is free and there is never a fee unless we win. Call VanDerGinst Law at 800-797-5391. The law is tough, being injured is tougher. We’ll make it easier for you.