Common Defenses Against Slip and Fall Claims

Slip and fall claims are among the most common personal injury claims filed each year.  Oftentimes, slip and fall accidents occur as a result of clumsiness.  However, there are times when such accidents occur as a result of the property owner’s failure to maintain the premises in a safe condition. 

How is Liability in a Slip and Fall Case Determined?

The law governing slip and fall cases varies from state to state.  Generally, however, a property owner has a duty of reasonable care to keep the premises in a safe condition and to warn visitors of dangerous conditions which are known or should be known to him if it is unlikely that the dangerous condition will be perceived by visitors. 

Some states place the burden of proof on the plaintiff in slip and fall cases.  In these states, if the plaintiff is unable to prove that the property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition and failed to warn him of the condition or that the property owner failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition, he will lose the lawsuit. 

In cases involving businesses, some states require the plaintiff to prove that the employees of the business caused the dangerous condition and that the business owner knew of the dangerous condition or should have known of the dangerous condition.  Other states follow the “mode of operation” approach which requires the plaintiff to prove that the injury occurred as the result of a dangerous condition related to the store’s self-service mode of operation. 

Slip and Fall Defenses

There are a number of defenses that a defendant in a slip and fall case may raise, including: 

  • Denial – The most common defense is to deny the existence of the dangerous condition or to deny knowledge of the dangerous condition.   
  • Carelessness or Negligence – Another common defense is to argue that the plaintiff was careless or negligent.  This is defense is generally framed as comparative negligence.  A property owner raising the defense of comparative negligence will usually assert that the plaintiff is fully or partially responsible for his injuries.   
  • No Injury – A defendant in a slip and fall case may also argue that the plaintiff was not injured in the fall or that the fall did not aggravate a pre-existing condition.
  • Last Clear Chance – A defendant in a slip and fall case may argue that the plaintiff had the last clear chance to avoid the accident.  This defense has been absorbed into the comparative negligence defense in many jurisdictions.  
  • Assumption of the Risk – This defense asserts that the plaintiff assumed the risk by knowingly placing himself in a dangerous situation. 

Getting Legal Help

If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident or are being sued because of a slip and fall on your property, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.  A personal injury attorney will handle all aspects of your case from settlement negotiations to representing you at trial if settlement negotiations fail.

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