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One of the most type of accidents causing injuries in the United States is from slips, trips or falls. In fact, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), nearly 9 million people visit emergency rooms around the country for treatments from an extremely serious injury by a trip or fall accident. The term “slip and fall” is a term used for a personal injury case in which a person slips or trips and falls, and is injured on someone else’s property.
Dangerous conditions such as torn carpeting, changes in flooring, poor lightning, narrow stairs or a wet floor can cause someone to slip and hurt themselves inside a building. Other slip and fall incidents can occur when people trip on broken or cracked sidewalks, or trip and fall on stairs or escalators. In addition, a slip and fall case could arise when someone slips or trips and falls because of rain, ice, snow or a hidden hazard, such as a pothole in the ground.
Every property owner owes a duty to protect others from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by dangerous conditions on their property. Failing to do so could make them liable for any accidents and/or injuries that occur. This is known as premises liability.
However, there is an exception to the general rule of premises liability: the open and obvious doctrine. The rule states that if the hazard or condition would have been open and obvious to a reasonable person, then the landowner is not liable. The idea of this is that a person has a duty to recognize the warning signs of obvious dangers and to protect themselves from harm. In majority of these type of case scenarios, the property owner will then not be responsible for injuries.
Take for an example a recent case in which a man tripped over a knee-high sign at a Menards store in Lake County. The courts looked at every angle of this case and ruled he does not have a personal-injury claim against the home improvement chain, thanks to the open and obvious doctrine. The sign was not hidden so the store didn’t have liability. Compare that to a situation where leaves on the ground are covering a hole, or a dark stairway has debris on it. In those cases the property owners would likely be responsible for any injuries from a fall on their property.
Simply because you fell on someone else’s property does not mean that anyone will be found negligent. Not only does there need to have been an unsafe condition, there also needs to be proof that there was negligence. A big question to ask is if a reasonable person with the same knowledge of the situation would have understood and avoided the hazardous condition. If not, the open and obvious doctrine will take the case.
Bottom line though is that you shouldn’t make any conclusions without talking to an attorney. If you’d like our opinion as to whether or not you have a case you can contact us for free at any time.