When a dangerous condition exists on a walking surface in a place of business, patrons can fall and suffer serious injuries. If you’ve slipped and fallen in a restaurant, grocery store or other establishment, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Hazards that can cause slip-and-fall injuries include floors, sidewalks and walkways that are wet, icy, soapy, cracked or otherwise defective. In a grocery store or restaurant, a customer might trip over a floor mat or items that have fallen from a display, slip in a puddle from a spilled beverage, or stumble and fall due to inadequate lighting. Businesses may be liable if their employees, managers or owners were aware of an unsafe condition — or should have been aware of it — and failed to take appropriate action to correct the situation.
Elements of Slip-and-Fall Cases
If you’ve been injured by slipping and falling in a store or restaurant, your personal injury lawyer will need to demonstrate, first, that a dangerous condition caused your injuries.
Your attorney also will have to show that the property owner knew about the dangerous situation but was negligent in rectifying it. Methods of appropriately dealing with a hazardous situation on a walking surface include cleaning up water or other liquids, putting up signage or otherwise warning patrons, roping off the area, or making repairs.
The New York City Bar Association points out some common scenarios that can result in slip-and-fall injuries to patrons. In each situation, an injured individual might be able to recover compensation if a business owner knew about the hazard and failed to take appropriate steps to correct or warn of it.
- In a grocery store produce section, fruit falls on the floor and becomes smashed as patrons walk across it. The smashed fruit creates a slick area that employees fail to clean up. A patron slips on the slippery area, falls and is injured.
- The owner of a retail establishment knows there is water on the store’s floor but has not taken steps to dry the area. A patron falls when walking across the wet area and sustains injuries.
- Following a winter storm, an outdoor walkway appears to have had the ice and snow removed. However, invisible ice patches are present. An individual walking through falls and is hurt.
- A floor has been recently mopped and is wet and slippery. There is no rope or warning sign letting people know that the area may be dangerous, and someone falls and is injured.
To prove negligence in such scenarios, it’s necessary to show that a business owner knew or should have known of the situation. In some cases, proving negligence can be difficult; for instance, when snow or ice has just fallen and a business owner has not had sufficient time to remove it.
In one recent case, a New York state trooper sued after he said the Thruway Authority failed to properly remove ice from a walkway at a barracks, which caused him to fall and injure himself. The New York State Court of Appeals ruled that the trooper could not continue his lawsuit because of the “storm in progress” doctrine, which relieves property owners of liability for injuries from icy conditions that occur during and just after storms.
To determine whether negligence was a factor in your slip-and-fall case, your personal injury attorney will review a number of issues, including:
- Whether the floor was excessively slippery.
- The reason the floor was slippery.
- Whether any warnings of the situation were presented.
- Whether you knew of the hazard.
- Whether the store’s owner knew of the situation or should have known.
- How long a substance making the floor slippery had been present.
Settling Your Case
Many slip-and-fall cases in New York are settled, because business owners want to avoid the expense of going to trial. Your attorney will work with you to determine the best legal course of action and to negotiate a settlement if appropriate in your specific case.
An important question in your case will be determining who has liability for your injuries. In most cases, a claim would be against the owner of the store, restaurant or other business where the injury occurred. In some cases, however, a landlord or other third party might have liability.
What if You’re Partly at Fault?
Under New York law, a rule known as “pure comparative fault” can reduce the compensation you are awarded if you are determined to be partly at fault for your injuries. If a court finds that you were partially to blame, the damages you’re awarded may be reduced based on the percentage of the fault assigned to you.
What Should You Do if You’re Injured in a Slip-and-Fall Case?
If you’ve suffered injuries after slipping and falling in a store or restaurant, be aware that you have a limited time to take legal action. In New York, you have three years from the time of the accident to initiate a court case by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
It’s important to make notes about the date, time, location and other circumstances relating to your injury. You also should seek prompt medical attention and keep all medical bills and documentation related to your injuries.
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney is critical for ensuring that you receive fair compensation for your injuries. For a no-cost consultation, contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond.