Who Is Liable in a Slip and Fall Accident?

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: December 31, 2021

Slip and fall cases are never as clear-cut as you may think right after the accident. The first thought that many injured victims have is to sue someone for their injuries. However, finding the right person to sue is often a challenge. Beyond that, you must prove your slip-and-fall claims. This is why you need an attorney to help you. A lawyer will review your case, find out the responsible party, and gather the evidence necessary to hold them responsible.

There May Be Numerous Possible Defendants in Your Slip and Fall Case

Slip and fall accident and injury claims arise when you suffer your injuries on the property of another person or company. There are numerous possibilities for people who may be responsible. The first answer you will get is that the careless person or entity should pay. That is not always clear after an accident. Many people may have had a hand in your accident. However, not all of them may meet the causation requirement of every personal injury claim.

The simple answer is that the party responsible for your injury is the one who must pay. Your attorney should review the facts of your case to figure out who may be liable. In the end, the jury may need to decide who is responsible and for what amount. Nonetheless, you must join all possible parties to your lawsuit.

Slips and Falls Are Part of Premises Liability Law

Your case will depend on premises liability law. This area of personal injury law, like every other subject, is dictated by the laws of negligence. This requires that you prove that someone else acted unreasonably under the circumstances and it caused your injuries. A fall alone does not automatically mean you will get a settlement check.

Negligence requires that you prove who did what and compare it to what a reasonable person would do in that situation. Many people might have acted unreasonably in your accident.

Suing the Property Owner for Slip and Fall Injuries

The most obvious defendant in a slip and fall case is the property owner.

They are liable for your injuries when you can prove:

They caused danger that made you fall.

Someone else caused the dangerous condition, and the property owner knew or should have known of it, yet they failed to fix it or warn the public within a reasonable amount of time.

The property owner may not bear liability if a dangerous condition came into being before they had enough time to fix the situation. The property owner is also not expected to be on the lookout every second in case danger arises and fix it immediately. They have a reasonable amount of time to act. They are not the absolute guarantor of the safety of everyone who is on their property. They just have to act reasonably.

If someone else invited you into their home, or you go there with a valid reason, the homeowner will need to pay if you slip and fall on their property due to an unreasonable hazard. You can also hold a store or apartment complex responsible if they are open to the general public.

Homeowner Liability for Slip and Falls

A homeowner can bear responsibility for your slip and falls injuries when they invite you to the property. They have a legal obligation to ensure reasonably safe premises for those on their property. This includes both invited guests and anticipated visitors.

For example, a delivery person who falls coming up the stairs can file a slip and fall claim against the owner if they fail to maintain their front walkway in good condition. Reasonably safe premises does not mean that an accident never happens. It just means that the homeowners must take measures within reason to keep people safe.

The category of homeowners will also include renters if they have control of the property. If you tripped inside someone’s apartment, you can file a claim against their renter’s insurance. In this case, it will not be the building owner who will be to blame for your injuries.

Government Liability for Slip and Falls

The city of Phoenix can also be liable for a slip and fall accident. The government has a responsibility to maintain sidewalks and city streets in reasonable condition. If there is a pothole or broken sidewalk, they must fix it in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, you can file a lawsuit against the city. Injured pedestrians have received settlements and have won jury verdicts when suing the government for these damages. Time limits and special rules apply when you sue a governmental entity, so hire an attorney who knows the rules and how to deal with these cases.

Property Manager Liability for Slip and Falls

The building owner does not always have control over a building. Your landlord may have hired a property manager to administer and care for a rental property. This company is responsible for things like maintenance. The property manager might ignore or fail to spot a dangerous condition. Property managers can have roles in both residential and commercial buildings. You may need to sue both the property manager and the owner to hold someone responsible and recover enough compensation to pay for your injuries.

Contractors and Construction Companies

One of the more common types of slip and fall accidents is when someone leaves work equipment in an area where people are walking. Alternatively, passersby may trip on debris left in walkways and, often, a contractor is responsible for this because they failed to properly clean the area. This is true when the defendant created the dangerous condition. They must fix and clean it themselves or warn the public. Otherwise, they will have to pay for your injuries.

The same goes for anyone who leaves equipment out in an area.

This can include service providers such as:

  • Electric utilities
  • Cable companies
  • Groundskeepers
  • Cleaning companies

Corporate Liability for Slip and Falls

In many cases, you will sue a company for a slip and fall accident. In some instances, an individual might cause your slip and fall injuries by doing something dangerous. For example, a delivery person might leave something on your walkway in a dangerous area, or someone might leave equipment where you can trip and fall on it.

If a person worked for a company and was on the job at the time of your injury, you may hold their employer legally responsible for your injuries. An employee is an agent of the company for whom they work. Furthermore, their employer may have the assets and insurance policy to pay for your injuries. For instance, if a repair person sent to your property left something on your walkway, their employer will need to pay.

Who Controls the Area Where You Suffered Your Injuries?

The question of liability arises when the person responsible for the property does not own it. This often happens when you suffer injuries in an apartment or a store. The person in the apartment or the store owner does not necessarily own the physical property. There is always a question of whether the property owner is responsible for slip and fall injuries.

The answer to this depends on the facts of your case. The test here is whether the property owner controls the property. Liability depends on negligence in the case. In many cases, when the owner has no control over the property, they cannot be negligent.

The negligence is by the person who has control of the property. This is the apartment owner or the business that rents the store. However, it is worth looking at the lease to see if the contract gives the real owner any control. This way, you can add another defendant (and possibly another insurance policy) to the case. Your attorney will review the facts of your case to determine possible defendants.

When there are multiple possible defendants in a case, you can expect that each one will point the finger at another one. If you file a claim against a responsible party’s insurance, they may deny it, claiming that someone else was responsible. In the meantime, this costs you time and hassle.

You should understand how critical it is to name the right defendant in your case, especially since you will point at someone’s actions as negligent. If you sue the wrong person, you may lose your right to recover financially for your injuries. You do not want to waste valuable time by pursuing the wrong defendant for your injuries.

How Your Lawyer Determines Who Should Be Liable

When you call an attorney right after your slip and fall injury, they can get to work investigating your accident. Not only will they gather the evidence to show that someone was responsible for your injury, but they will also figure out exactly who you can sue.

To learn more about your accident, they may:

  • Review any video footage of the accident if it exists
  • Speak to witnesses who saw what happened
  • Review the maintenance logs of the area
  • Research the corporate structure of any possible defendants to know the right entities to sue
  • Review property records and filings to see who owns and controls the property

If you slipped and fell, you should never assume that you do not have a claim. You should let a lawyer review your case to see if there is any possibility of filing a claim or lawsuit. An experienced attorney will review your case and explain your legal options and how you may best obtain financial compensation. As an accident victim, you are dealing with considerable costs from your injuries, both in terms of medical bills and missed work time. If someone else was responsible for your damages, they should pay for them.

It Takes Time and Hard Work to Get the Facts of Your Case

Slip and fall accidents can be complex because of the multiple parties that might play a role. Getting to the bottom of your case can take some time and effort. However, time is not always on your side in one of these claims.

Evidence can vanish quickly, and the longer you wait to file a claim, the more difficulty you may have in dealing with the insurance company. Unraveling the complex picture of liability is difficult, and only an experienced lawyer can do it. The answer is not always obvious about who the responsible party is.

Once you have learned who the responsible parties are, your attorney will need to handle their defenses to your claim. Many insurance companies are trying to avoid liability any way they can, and one of their favorite tricks is to point the finger at you for your injuries. An experienced slip and fall lawyer will not let insurance companies push their clients around. When they see a good lawyer across the table, they know you mean business.

All of this means that you must have an experienced attorney. Slip and fall injuries may sound simple, but they take legal skill when you file a claim. An allegedly routine injury makes an insurance company skeptical. Look for a slip and fall lawyer who will handle your claim with the diligence and tenacity you deserve and expect.

Doug Zanes
Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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