Premises Liability: Who’s Responsible for Slip and Fall Accidents?
August 14, 2023 @ 2:34 pm
While the fine details of premises liability laws can differ by state, all property owners have a basic responsibility or duty of care to maintain their property in a reasonable condition that is safe for others. Those others are typically classified as invitees, licensees or trespassers. When you go onto someone else’s property, one of those labels automatically applies to you, but the degree of responsibility that the property owner holds for your safety varies depending on which one you are.
- Invitees enter a property at the owner’s invitation with a purpose that is of mutual benefit to both the invitee and the owner. Invitees are typically classified as public visitors, business visitors or social guests. Since the relationship is a mutual invitation and acceptance for a common purpose—often commercial—property owners owe invitees the greatest duty of care and assurance that the premises are safe. Note, however, that if an invitee strays outside the area of invitation, they may become a licensee or even a trespasser.
- Licensees enter a property with the owner’s permission but for their own purposes. While the relationship is more one-sided, the law still holds the owner responsible for the welfare of licensees but at a less stringent degree compared to the care owed an invitee.
- Trespassers enter public or private property without permission. For public spaces, that may entail entry outside of normal business hours. In Louisiana, owners have no obligation of care to trespassers who are 18 or older. However, owners are not permitted to create dangerous conditions to deter potential or known trespassers.
Something important to realize is that children typically have their own status within premises liability law—particularly for issues related to attractive nuisances on either public or private property. Owners have a responsibility to restrict access to or eliminate hazards that may tempt children to play there.
Determining Liability in Slip and Fall Accidents
If you have a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property and feel that it was the property owner’s fault, you need to be able to prove four elements:
- Who is actually responsible for the accident on the property? The fact that so many properties, both private and public, are leased or rented can complicate determining who is actually responsible for the hazard—the owner or an occupant.
- Was the owner or tenant of the property negligent in failing to maintain safe conditions appropriate for invitees versus licensees versus trespassers or even children? Your status as an invitee, licensee or trespasser directly affects the level of care and safety that the property owner or responsible party owes you.
- Was your slip, fall and injury a direct result of unsafe conditions on the property? You must be able to demonstrate a direct relationship between the responsible party’s negligence and the harm that resulted.
- Did you suffer actual harm that requires compensation? If you weren’t actually hurt, you don’t have a viable claim.
Establishing fault is not always easy or straightforward. Louisiana is a comparative negligence state. This means that when an incident happens, portions of the fault can be allocated to the parties involved. For example, a property owner may be found to be 60 percent at fault, with the invitee assigned the other 40 percent. While the injured invitee may deserve compensation, the amount will be adjusted to reflect the 40 percent of fault they had in their own injury. This is why every detail matters.
Making a Slip and Fall Claim Stick
Since slip and fall accidents can result in injuries that range anywhere from little more than a bruised ego to serious, life-altering fractures or even death, property owners, property occupants and their insurance companies will often fight charges of negligence and question the seriousness of claimed injuries.
Business owners may be found negligent if they either were responsible for creating an unsafe situation or were aware of an unsafe situation and failed to remedy it within a reasonable period of time. These criteria, however, can leave wiggle room for counter arguments against fault.
- If a Warning Is Posted—Wet, slippery floors are a hazard that a business may create due to cleaning, for example. However, posting “wet floor” warning signs or caution cones is often considered a sufficient remedy or visible warning.
- If a Hazard Is New or Unknown—If a customer creates a hazard—knocks a jar from the shelf that shatters on the floor, for example—and someone immediately slips and falls on it, the business may not be at fault because the whole incident took place before store employees could reasonably have been aware of the hazard.
- If a Hazard Is Obvious—A potential hazard’s size and visibility may be issues if the hazard is obvious and of a scale that a reasonable person would normally just avoid it.
Landlords can be found to be negligent if they knew about problems with a property and failed to warn their tenants or make the proper repairs. They can also be found to be negligent if they’re alerted about a problem and fail to remedy the problem in a timely manner. Again, wiggle room can allow for counter arguments against fault.
- If You Failed To Notify the Landlord—A landlord isn’t responsible for repairing problems they don’t know about. Always alert your landlord to any issues immediately.
- If the Condition Is Actually Your Responsibility—Leases discriminate between landlord and tenant responsibilities. Be sure you understand the conditions specified in your lease.
- If a Hazard Is New or Caused by Another Tenant—Another tenant may create a hazard that a landlord can’t reasonably know about yet.
Private property owners can be found negligent if they knew about a hazard and failed to warn guests or fix the issue. Some owners may seek to avoid responsibility by simply posting no trespassing or other warning signs.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Premises Liability Lawsuit
In Louisiana, the statute of limitations for filing a claim for a slip and fall accident is one year from the date of the incident. In cases of wrongful death where a slip and fall injury resulted in a person’s death, the statute of limitations is still one year, but it dates to the person’s death.
Premises liability claims and lawsuits can be complex and go well beyond slip and fall accidents. Regardless, each claim is dependent on subtle nuances of the law that can shift depending on the victim’s status and relationship with the property owner or occupant. If you are seriously injured on someone else’s property, seek help immediately from a premises liability lawyer who understands just how important every detail of your case really is. For the best possible result, reach out to the experienced premises liability attorneys at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Basset & Haik for your free consultation today.