What Are the Elements of a Slip and Fall Case?

August 31, 2022

A slip and fall case is not a trivial matter. People may suffer severe or even catastrophic injuries, especially children and the elderly. Even a mild incident requires medical care for the victim, resulting in expensive hospital bills. If this incident happens on someone’s property (individual or public authority) and they owed you a legal duty of care, then you have the right to file a personal injury claim to recover your damages. An experienced Boston slip and fall lawyer at Michael Kelly can analyze your case carefully and give you reliable advice.

In this article, we will discuss the main elements that must be met to be able to file an accident claim against a property owner after a slip and fall incident. We will explain the relevance of terms such as: duty of care, safe condition, and having the legal right to be present on the property. All these aspects are essential in determining whether there is sufficient evidence to file a claim with maximum chances of success.

Statistical Data on the Risks Associated with a Slip and Fall Case

Icy driveways, slippery floors, uneven surfaces, and broken stairs lead to an incredibly high number of injured persons and even fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional falls took the lives of 42,144 people across the US in 2020 – representing 12.8 deaths per 100,000 population.

The National Floor Safety Institute also collected detailed information on the risks associated with harmful conditions of the floors and other walkable surfaces:

  • 8 million emergency room visits per year are due to a fall
  • slips and falls are the number one reason for workers’ compensation claims
  • a bone fracture is the most common of all slip-and-fall injuries
  • hip fractures are the most severe type of fractures suffered in a fall and are highly prevalent among people over 65 years old
  • 50% of the elderly who suffered a hip fracture cannot live independently after they are discharged from the hospital

This data proves that a slip and fall is not just a mere inconvenience for the injured party. It may cause their death or leave them with a permanent disability. For this reason, if you’ve suffered such an accident on public or private property due to a wet floor or another unsafe walking surface, you should take your case to an experienced Boston slip and fall lawyer.

The Most Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents

Although a wet floor is the most common image coming to mind, premises liability claims for a slip and fall injury are based on a wide range of dangerous conditions. The injured person may have fallen and got hurt due to:

  • uneven floors (broken tiles, buckled carpets, cracked floors)
  • liquid spill on floors, stairs, or driveways
  • loose cords on the floor
  • poor lighting causing reduced visibility of a hazardous condition

Any element of negligence or poor maintenance can represent a potential for harm to a visitor. Excess cleaning solution that has not dried up, a loose floorboard that may trap a shoe heel – all these are examples of property managers and owners failing in their duty to make their property safe for other people.

The Elements of a Negligence Claim after a Slip and Fall Accident

Boston personal injury attorneys will explain to any client who seeks to file a claim or a premises liability lawsuit that the claimant (plaintiff) always has the burden of proof. This means that you have to prove the existence of a legal issue covered by premises liability law in order to be eligible for financial recovery through compensation.

There are four elements that you have to prove:

1. The Existence of the Property Owner’s Duty of Care

Any private or public property owner should make sure that each part of their property offers a safe condition for invitees and other categories of people who have a legal right to be present there. A property owner must maintain a safe condition for pedestrians, car drivers, bicycles, or motorcycle riders on the entire outdoor surface of their property.

This brings us to an important aspect to be discussed: the three types of visitors present on properties. This is very important, as your Boston slip and fall lawyer will explain, because it influences your eligibility to file a claim for an injury caused by dangerous property conditions.

The Three Types of Visitors from a Legal Point of View

Persons present on a property belong to one of the three categories:

Invitees

An invitee is present on a property at the express invitation of the property owner or administrator. This category of visitors includes:

  • customers in a store
  • guests in a restaurant or hotel
  • tenants in rental properties
  • any contractors performing works or supplying services on a property

Property owners and managers owe a duty of care to invitees by default.

Licensees

A licensee is present on a property for their own purposes. Sales agents, friends or family members who visit the property owner (or tenant in a rental property) represent common instances of licensees. The law also stipulates a duty of care for visitors identified as licensees.

Trespassers

A trespasser is a person who illegally entered a property. In this instance, the property owner has no obligation to make the condition safe for them (there is no duty to trespassers). The limit of their liability is not purposefully creating a dangerous condition with the intent of harming a trespasser.

However, there is an exception to this general rule. Massachusetts, like many other US states, introduced the concept of attractive nuisance in premises liability law. This doctrine states that a property owner is liable for the unsafe condition of the property in the case of trespassing children if:

  • a condition that is likely to attract children is present on the property (a pool, for example)
  • that condition involves an unreasonable risk for children (the pool is uncovered and unattended)
  • the owners’ efforts to mitigate the risk are below the acceptable standards of diligent care

2. The Existence of Notice

The second element of a property liability claim, as your Boston slip and fall lawyer will explain, is proving that the property owner was aware of the hazardous condition and did not use reasonable care in fixing it or signaling it properly.

Business owners, private property owners, and public authorities are all obliged to keep their premises safe and perform routine inspections and maintenance to identify any dangerous conditions. Thus, a Boston slip and fall lawyer needs to prove that the responsible parties knew of the existence of the respective unsafe condition and chose to ignore it.

3. The Existence of the Dangerous Condition

It may appear obvious and common sense that a wet floor or broken stair caused your fall. But when you take legal action, you have to prove it. The lawyer representing the insurance company that issued the policy to the property owner will argue that there was no hazardous condition and that you were injured in an unrelated incident.

For this reason is critical to have solid evidence attached to your claim for compensation, proving that even a careful person would have suffered an accident. This is why, immediately after the fall, you should document the unsafe condition with photographs taken with your mobile phone. Words may be twisted and interpreted, but images don’t lie.

4. The Existence of Damages

As all Boston personal injury attorneys would explain during the initial consultation, in order to file any claim you have to prove that you suffered economic damages as a result of the accident. A personal injury lawsuit is heard in a civil court – it has nothing to do with criminal offenses and proving someone’s guilt.

Thus, you must bring sufficient evidence that:

  • your injuries were caused by the slip and fall accident
  • you suffered economic losses as a direct result of these injuries

In order to do so, you must make sure that you document the accident scene and that you receive prompt medical care. Refusing to go to the hospital may make your condition worse and also give insurance adjusters the reason they need to deny your claim.

How the Comparative Negligence Principle May Affect Your Slip and Fall Case

Now that you know the elements of negligence that you have to prove, let us focus on other important aspects of premises liability claims. The most important element in determining the value of your case is your own percentage of fault.

Of course, no reasonable person would slip on a wet floor on purpose. But an opposing counsel may claim that you were looking at your mobile phone or reading product labels and you were not paying sufficient attention to the area around you. Thus, they will claim that you were actually negligent, so you cannot claim compensation.

Massachusetts uses the comparative negligence rule in any personal injury cases. This means that you must be less than 51% at fault for any incident in order to be eligible to file a claim for financial compensation. An experienced Boston slip and fall lawyer will be able to determine your percentage of fault with great accuracy. However, this means that the actual amount of money you will receive will be reduced from your total damages by your percentage of fault. Still, this represents a sizable amount. For instance, if your damages total $100,000 and you were 20% at fault, you will recover $80,000.

Hire an Experienced Boston Slip and Fall Lawyer to Represent You!

Michael Kelly stands for all the victims of personal injury accidents. We believe in justice and in everyone’s accountability for their actions or negligent behavior. Property owners should honor the duty of care owed to people who have a legitimate right to be present on their property.

When they fail in this duty, we make sure that injured persons will recover their medical expenses, lost wages, other financial losses, as well as the compensation they deserve for pain and suffering (non-economic damages).

Please note that you do not have a long period of time to decide on taking legal action. The statute of limitations for all types of personal injury actions in Massachusetts is 3 years from the date of the accident. For this reason, we encourage you to get in touch with a Boston slip and fall lawyer at our firm as soon as possible: 1-800-LAW-GUYS!

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MEET YOUR LAW GUYMICHAEL D. KELLY, ESQ.

Michael D. Kelly has a diverse background that provides a breadth of legal knowledge that he draws upon in serving his clients. Kelly compiled an excellent academic record during his three years at New England Law in Boston.