Have you ever tripped and fallen in a parking lot? As you picked yourself up and assessed the damage, did the question cross your mind: who is responsible for this? The fact is, liability in slip and fall accidents is not always clear cut. As the victim of a fall, you may wonder if you can take legal action against the property owner or business to recover damages. However, you must first determine who is truly at fault and whether negligence was involved. Before pursuing a claim, understand your rights and responsibilities to build a strong case. With some investigation, you can uncover the cause of your accident and identify the party responsible for your injuries.
Property Owners and Managers Have a Duty to Maintain Safe Premises
As a property owner or manager, you have a legal obligation to maintain safe conditions on your premises for invitees like customers, clients, and others you invite onto your property. If someone slips, trips, and falls due to a hazardous condition on your property that you knew about or should have known about and corrected, you can potentially be held liable for any injuries.
To avoid liability, you must exercise reasonable care in inspecting for and correcting or warning of dangerous conditions like potholes, broken pavement, accumulated ice or snow, poor lighting, or any other risks that could cause harm. Simply put, you need to make safety a priority by routinely checking parking lots and other areas where people walk, implementing a reasonable maintenance schedule, and repairing or blocking off unsafe spots as soon as possible.
Property owners and managers should also consider preventative steps like improving lighting, using non-slip materials, salting walkways in winter, and posting clear signage to warn of any dangers. If an accident still occurs, you will need evidence that you fulfilled your responsibility for ensuring safe conditions to avoid fault. It is a good idea to keep records of all inspection and repair logs to prove due diligence.
While customers and visitors have a duty to pay attention to their surroundings, property owners ultimately have the burden of responsibility when it comes to providing reasonably safe premises for those invited onto the property. By committing to routine maintenance, preventative measures, prompt issue resolution, and proper record keeping, you can limit liability risks and create a safe environment for all.
Was the Hazard Reasonably Foreseeable and Preventable?
To determine if the property owner or manager may be liable for your injuries, several factors are considered. One of the most important is whether the hazard that caused your fall was reasonably foreseeable and preventable.
Property owners and managers have a duty to regularly inspect the premises for any dangerous conditions and address them promptly. If a buildup of water, ice, or debris in a parking lot has gone unattended for an unreasonable amount of time, it suggests the hazard should have been discovered and remedied during a routine inspection. A slip and fall lawyer can inspect the necessary evidence.
However, some hazards arise quickly and without notice. For instance, if a drink was spilled moments before you slipped and fell in that same spot, the property owner likely did not have adequate time to identify and fix the problem. In cases like this, liability is less clear.
The key questions are: Should the property owner have been aware of the dangerous condition that led to your accident? Did they have ample opportunity to identify and eliminate the hazard before it caused harm? If the answer to both questions is yes, they may be deemed negligent and legally responsible. If not, liability becomes more difficult to prove.
Of course, other factors like proper signage, non-slip surfaces, and lighting also play a role. But as a general rule, property owners must exercise reasonable care in monitoring for and mitigating risks to visitors. If they fail in this duty and a foreseeable hazard results in injuries, they can be held at fault. By contrast, unpreventable “acts of nature” and unforeseeable events typically absolve them of responsibility. The specific details surrounding your accident and the policies of the property will ultimately determine who is to blame.
Did the Property Owner Have Actual or Constructive Notice of the Hazard?
To determine if a property owner can be held liable for injuries sustained from a slip and fall accident in their parking lot, your slip and fall lawyer Longview Slip and Fall Lawyer must be established whether they had actual or constructive notice of the hazardous condition.
Actual notice means the owner was directly informed of the dangerous condition prior to the accident. For example, if another customer complained to the owner about the pothole you tripped in, and they failed to fix it. In this case, the property owner would likely be found at fault for your injuries.
Constructive notice means the hazard existed for a long enough period of time that the owner should have discovered and remedied it. Factors considered include:
- The conspicuousness of the defect. A large pothole in a main walkway, for instance, should have been noticed and fixed promptly by the owner.
- The number of people using that area of the property. More foot traffic increases the chance the hazard should have been spotted.
- Any routine inspections of the property. If standard inspections were done, the defect should have been found and repaired. Lack of reasonable inspections may demonstrate negligence.
- The steps taken to remedy any known issues. Simply putting up a ‘Wet Floor’ sign, for example, may be insufficient if no action was taken to actually fix the slippery surface.
If the property owner had constructive notice of the dangerous condition due to one or more of these factors, and did not take appropriate action to remedy it within a reasonable time period, they may be deemed responsible for any injuries that result. Ultimately, determining liability in a slip and fall case depends upon the unique circumstances involved. Speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney is advised.
Your Own Negligence Can Reduce or Eliminate Liability
Your own negligence can reduce or eliminate the liability of other parties in a slip and fall accident. If your own carelessness or inattention contributed to the accident in any way, the property owner or manager's responsibility may be diminished. Some examples of how your own negligence can impact a potential claim include:
Failure to Exercise Reasonable Care
If you were not exercising reasonable care for your own safety by failing to notice obvious hazards or by wearing improper footwear for the conditions, the defendant may argue your negligence outweighed their own. For example, if you tripped over a large pothole in a dimly lit parking lot at night while texting on your phone, a court may find you largely at fault. Always be aware of your surroundings and walk carefully.
Assumption of Risk
When you understand a known risk but proceed anyway, you assume liability for any resulting injuries. For instance, if you slipped on an icy parking lot surface after seeing the hazardous conditions but continuing across, you assumed the risk. The property owner would likely not be found negligent in that scenario.
Some states follow the theory of comparative negligence which divides liability between parties. If you were found 30% at fault for an accident and the property owner 70% at fault, your damages award would be reduced by 30%. A few states follow contributory negligence which bars any recovery if you are found even slightly negligent. It is important to understand your state's negligence laws.
While property owners do have a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises, patrons also must exercise caution. Obey all posted signs, walk carefully, wear proper footwear, and be attentive to potential hazards. If an accident still occurs due to conditions beyond your control, document the details thoroughly and report the incident to the owner or manager in writing immediately. Prompt reporting is critical to preserving evidence for any future claim. By taking these steps, you stand the best chance of recovering damages, even if some degree of comparative negligence is found.
Multiple Parties May Share Blame: Seeking Full and Fair Compensation
In the event of a slip and fall accident in a parking lot, multiple parties may be found legally liable for any injuries. As the victim, you deserve full and fair compensation for your damages.
The owners of the parking lot have a responsibility to maintain reasonably safe conditions for anyone accessing their property. Failure to fix potholes, ice over walkways, clean up spills or debris, or provide adequate lighting could make them negligent. You may have grounds to file a premises liability claim against them.
If you were a customer or visiting a specific business in the parking lot, that business may share liability. They have a duty to ensure safe access to and from their establishment for patrons and visitors. If they were aware of any hazardous conditions in the parking lot that led to your accident but failed to remedy or warn you about them, they can be considered partly at fault.
In some cases, other parties may contribute to liability, such as:
- A contractor hired to perform maintenance or repairs on the parking lot. If their work caused or contributed to your fall, you may have a claim against them as well.
- Vehicle owners. If a vehicle's fluid leak, open door, or other issue caused you to slip and fall, the owner of that vehicle could face liability for negligence.
- Government entities. If the parking lot is owned or maintained by the city or county, they may share blame for not adequately ensuring public safety by addressing known hazards.
When multiple defendants are potentially at fault for your injuries, an experienced personal injury attorney can help determine all parties that may be liable and fight for full compensation on your behalf. They can negotiate with insurance companies and take the necessary legal action to hold all negligent parties accountable so you can recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Call Fletcher Law For Help With Your Slip and Fall Case
If you have slipped and fallen in a business’ parking lot, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Business owners have a duty to maintain safe conditions on their property for customers and visitors. This includes ensuring parking lots are free from hazards that could cause falls.
Some common causes of slips, trips and falls in parking lots include:
- Uneven or broken pavement
- Cracked or broken curbs
- Poor lighting
- Accumulation of snow, ice or water
If any of these dangerous conditions caused your fall, the business owner may be liable for negligence. They failed to properly maintain the parking lot and ensure safe conditions for those accessing their property.
Call Fletcher Law For Help With Your Slip and Fall Case
Don’t delay in contacting a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options. At Fletcher Law, our experienced attorneys regularly handle slip and fall cases in parking lots and other business properties. We will review the details of your accident, examine photos of the scene, and determine who is responsible. If we find evidence the business owner was negligent in maintaining safe conditions, we will fight to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
With years of combined experience, Fletcher Law has the skill and resources to stand up to large companies and their insurance providers. Our goal is to resolve your case efficiently while maximizing the settlement or award you receive. Don’t hesitate to call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your slip and fall in a parking lot. We work on contingency, so you pay nothing unless we win your case.