Stephen Hasner | Slip and Fall | June 8, 2021
People and businesses must keep their premises reasonably free from hazards for guests and invitees. When someone sustains an injury due to a hazardous condition on someone else’s property, they may have a compensation claim.
Unlike many states, Georgia has a premises liability statute. Under the Georgia statute, you must prove that the owner or occupier of the property failed to exercise reasonable care and caused your injuries to recover compensation.
Hazardous conditions can cause slip and fall accidents if the property owner/occupier fails to remedy them. Let’s examine these common causes in greater detail.
Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
To prove liability for a slip and fall injury, you and your injury attorney must prove that the premises had a hazardous condition and that the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to remedy the issue.
Hazardous Conditions that Cause Slip and Falls
A slip and fall accident occurs when your feet lose traction. In most slip and fall accidents, this loss of traction causes your feet to slip forward. Your body falls backward as you lose your balance.
Some common conditions that can cause a slip and fall include:
- Liquid spills
- Rain, snow, or ice
- Freshly mopped or polished floors
- Gravel or other debris
- Moist food
- Poor lighting
- Broken or loose handrails
One of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents in grocery stores is fresh fruit. Grapes and other berries that fall onto the floor might look harmless or go unnoticed. But when you step on them, your feet can lose traction, and you could fall onto the tile or concrete floor.
Examples of Failures to Exercise Ordinary Care
Slipping and falling do not always provide grounds for compensation. The person or business responsible for the property must also fail to exercise ordinary care.
Ordinary care includes reasonable measures to find and repair or warn guests of hazards. If the owner/occupier of the property fails to take those steps, a jury can find them negligent.
A person or business should visually inspect the premises for hazards to their guests/invitees. The frequency of the inspections depends on what would be reasonable under the circumstances.
For example, a grocery store owner might need to inspect the produce department frequently. But a clothing store owner might need to inspect the dress aisle only when they suspect a spill or leak.
If a customer or employee reports a hazardous condition, a business needs to take quick and reasonable steps to mitigate the hazard. If they ignore the warning, they probably failed to exercise reasonable care.
Fixing the Hazard
When a person or business finds a hazardous condition on their premises, they must take reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of their customers and invitees.
Thus, if an employee reports that the store’s roof is leaking, the store manager needs to take reasonable steps, such as:
- Mopping up the puddle
- Putting a bucket out to catch the leak
- Setting up a warning sign
- Calling the building owner to fix the leak
If a person or business cannot take steps to fix the hazard, they must warn customers of the danger. For example, if the handrail leading to a shop’s entry is loose, the shop owner probably needs to put up a warning sign until a contractor can fix the handrail.
Effects of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents cause some predictable injuries. These injuries result from the way your body falls after you slip.
When you lose traction, your feet usually slide forward, and your body falls backward. You may throw your arms backward to try to catch yourself. When your body comes to a stop, your hands, elbows, hips, back, shoulders, head, and neck could impact the ground.
Some of the injuries that can result from slip and fall accidents include:
- Fractured wrist or arm
- Dislocated elbow or shoulder
- Fractured hip
- Herniated intervertebral disc
- Fractured vertebrae
- Injured spinal cord
- Strained neck or whiplash
- Fractured skull
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Seniors are particularly susceptible to slip and fall injuries. Osteoporosis can cause brittle bones. Ordinary aging processes can deprive seniors of the quick reflexes needed to regain their balance after slipping.
To recover compensation for a slip and fall injury, you must prove that the failure to detect or remedy the hazard caused your injury.
Causation has two parts:
“Cause-in-fact” means that the negligence was in the chain of events that led to your injury. In other words, you would not have suffered fall injuries but for the property owner’s carelessness. For example, if you slipped on some wet stairs leading to an office building, the failure of the building manager to find and mop the wet stairs was a cause of your injury.
“Proximate cause” means your injury was a foreseeable result of negligence. Suppose you broke your back by slipping on a grape and falling out of a window. Your accident might seem improbable, but your injury is not unforeseeable. A reasonable person could foresee that a broken back could arise from failing to keep the floors clean, even if that person would not foresee the exact accident that would occur.
If you were partly to blame for your injuries, Georgia law may still allow you to recover compensation for your injuries. A judge or insurance claims adjuster will reduce your compensation by your share of the fault. If you are 50% or more at fault for the accident, a court or insurance claims adjuster will deny all compensation for your injuries.
For example, suppose that you fell while carrying boxes up your apartment building’s stairs. The stairs were cracked, but perhaps you knew they were cracked. In this hypothetical situation, you could not see the cracked step because the boxes were blocking your view. If you receive 20% of the fault for the accident, you would only receive 80% of the value of your claim for damages.
Recovering Compensation for Slip and Fall Accidents
If you are involved in a slip and fall accident, try to document the cause of the accident with photos and gather the names and contact information of witnesses to the accident. This information will help your injury lawyer to prove that the owner/occupier failed to exercise ordinary care and caused your injuries.