When a client sits down to talk with a slip and fall accident attorney, one of the first questions they often have is about liability. In particular, they want to know how liable the owner of the property where the incident occurred might be. No slip and fall attorney can give you a perfect answer about the percentage liability in any case, but they can give you a good idea of how things might shake out based on these three factors.
Who is Responsible for the Premises?
The vast majority of slip and fall cases are built around the concept of premises liability. This is the notion in American law that some party is legally responsible for ensuring a location doesn't pose unreasonable risks to people.
As a general rule of thumb, the titled owner of the property is responsible for the site's maintenance. Odd exceptions can occur when a contract transfers liability, and the liability in such cases is almost always transferred to a tenant. You may see this sort of thing in an office complex, for example. Likewise, liability for areas at the edge of the property, such as a public sidewalk, sometimes falls to the municipality.
Were You Invited?
Most U.S. states still use a rule that requires a claimant to have a legal right to be on the property. The simplest way to establish this is to show that you were invited. An invitation occurs when a business opens its doors to the public. If you've ever seen a sign at an auto service shop that warns that only employees are allowed past a certain point, that's an attempt to diffuse invitation claims.
A few states have gone to a stricter form of liability, with California being the most noteworthy. In these jurisdictions, anyone injured on a property may pursue a claim regardless of whether they were supposed to be there or not.
How Liable Were You?
This is a tough topic for a slip and fall attorney to broach, but it's important. One argument a defendant might use is that a claimant's actions were so reckless as to endanger themselves regardless of the conditions. For example, someone who was running through a shopping center well might be at least partially responsible for their own injuries. If they hit a puddle of water left behind by the center's cleaning staff, there might be a mixed liability. In these cases, a comparison of the relative negligence may be used to assign partial liability to the defendant.