Slips and falls are among the more serious types of accidents. A National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) report says that more than one million people visit the emergency room for slip and fall-related injuries. This number shows how common slip and fall accidents are in the US.
Medical attention aside, victims of slip and fall accidents need to know their rights and seek legal counsel to get fair compensation for their losses. A slip-and-fall compensation claim without a lawyer is difficult, as the nuances of personal injury law are difficult to comprehend for the average citizen.
An important area where a lawyer is invaluable is determining liability using the concept of negligence. States use multiple approaches to finding the liable party in a slip and fall case. The lawyer knows about these approaches and will use them to prove liability in a slip and fall accident case.
So, what are the approaches?
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Determining Liability: Two Unique Approaches
Different states follow different methods when it comes to determining liability. Thorough knowledge of personal injury law will help in finding the liable party and suing them for damages.
In general, states follow two approaches to find the negligent party in a slip and fall accident. They are,
- Status-based approach
- Reasonable care approach
Before we dive into what the approaches are all about, it is essential to know the terms used in them. The terms are
- Trespassers: A trespasser is a random individual who enters the property without prior permission or invitation from the owner. The property owner doesn’t have a duty to make their property safe for trespassers.
- Licensees: Licensees are individuals who enter the property with the owner’s permission. The property owner has the responsibility to warn a licensee of any potential dangers if the licensee hasn’t discovered them yet.
- Invitees: Also known as business invitees, invitees are individuals who are allowed on the property to conduct business. The owner must warn the invitee about hazards on the property if the invitee has yet to find them.
The status-based approach is the older of the two methods. In this approach, the owner bears the liability depending on the victim’s status on the property. The following is the order in which the property owner owes a duty of care:
- Invitees: Highest duty of care
- Licensees: Intermediate duty of care
- Trespassers: Lowest duty of care
The duty of care is important as it is the basis of any personal injury claim.
Reasonable Care Approach
The reasonable care approach is followed in most states. This approach makes the property owner owe a reasonable amount of duty of care to anyone who enters the property. This duty of care requires the property owner to warn visitors of any dangerous situation on the property. The property owner is required to
- Inform hazards that are known to them
- Warn about hazards that they would’ve found out if they inspected the property
- Inform about hazards that a visitor is unlikely to detect
A majority of states that follow the reasonable care approach has some exception for trespassers unless the trespassers happen to be minors. The exception for trespassing children applies to status-based states as well.
Slip and fall accidents can be serious enough to warrant hospitalization. Some may even be serious enough to require multiple hospital visits along with surgery, therapy, and specialist treatments.
At times like this, it is essential to seek legal counsel. With the right slip-and-fall accident lawyer, victims can prove liability, prepare an estimate for the expected compensation, and ensure all legal formalities are done properly.
If the case goes to court, the lawyer will represent the victim, presenting all the facts and findings of the case to the judge and jury.