What to do if you suffer a slip and fall injury on someone else's property
It is not always easy to determine who is at fault for a slip and fall injury when it occurs. Even if your injury occurred on someone else's property, in order to claim damages, it must be proven that the property owner acted negligently by not keeping up their property or paying attention to potential dangers. And the victim must be able to prove that the accident was solely due to the fault of the property owner, and not a matter of the victim's own carelessness. Liability in these cases often has more to do with common sense than anything else. But because Washington state applies a "pure comparative fault" rule, the injured person can be found to be partly at fault for his or her injury. This may limit the amount you can recover, based upon what percentage of fault belongs to you.
Washington State’s rules of "comparable negligence" help measure your fault, if any, in the accident. In order to fairly value a claim related to your slip and fall accident, ask yourself these questions:
- Did you have a legitimate reason for being in the area where the injury occurred, and should the owner have known you would be there?
- Would a careful person have noticed the dangerous spot and avoided it, or walked carefully enough not to slip or trip?
- Were there any warnings that the spot might be dangerous?
- Were you doing anything that distracted you from paying attention to where you were going, or were you running, jumping, or fooling around in a way that made falling more likely?
For an owner to be legally responsible for injuries you may have suffered in a slip and fall, one of the following must be true:
- The owner must have caused a dangerous surface or item to be underfoot;
- The owner must have known of the danger and done nothing to fix it; or
- The owner should have known about the dangerous surface because a "reasonable" person would have discovered and removed it or repaired it.
In determining a property owner's "reasonableness," the law asks whether the owner makes regular and thorough efforts to keep the property safe and clean. If you believe the answer to be no, or if any of the following are true, you may have a successful claim:
- If you tripped over a torn, broken, or bulging area of carpet, floor, or ground, or slipped on a wet or loose area, had the dangerous spot been there long enough that the owner should have known about it?
- Does the property owner have a regular procedure for examining and cleaning or repairing the premises? If so, what proof does the owner have of this regular maintenance?
- If you tripped over or slipped on an object someone had placed or left on or in the floor or ground, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be there?
- If there once had been a good reason for the object to be there but that reason no longer exists, could the object have been removed or covered or otherwise made safe?
- Was there a safer place the object could have been located, or could it have been placed in a safer manner, without much greater inconvenience or expense to the property owner or operator?
- Could a simple barrier have been created or a warning been given to prevent people from slipping or tripping?
- Did poor or broken lighting contribute to the accident?
There is a three-year statute of limitations on slip and fall accidents in Washington State. If you do not file your claim within three years, you may be barred from ever filing suit. Our skilled staff of Seattle Personal Injury lawyers can help you file the important initial claims that get your legal claim started, and then will work with you to try and get you the maximum recovery allowed by law. Call Perez & Perez Law, PLLC today for your free consultation.