Understanding what the law has to say about slip, trip and fall accidents -- II

In a previous post, we began discussing how even though we take it for granted that the owners or possessors of commercial or residential property will do everything in their power to ensure the premises is safe, this is often not the case, and it's the customers and guests who end up paying the price in the form of serious bodily injuries.

However, we also discussed how those injured by the negligence of a property owner have options for holding them legally accountable via a category of personal injury cases known as premises liability claims, something we'll explore in greater detail in today's post.

In general, a premises liability claim must demonstrate that 1) the accident was caused by a dangerous condition and 2) the property owner knew about the existence of this dangerous condition.

As to what constitutes a "dangerous condition," it's one that poses an unreasonable risk to a person situated on the property and one they should not have expected under the circumstances. In other words, it can't have been an open and otherwise obvious danger.

Regarding the second element -- the property owner knew about the dangerous condition -- it can essentially be proven in one of three ways:

  • The property owner created the dangerous condition
  • The property owner was aware of the dangerous condition, but failed to take the necessary action to address it.
  • The dangerous condition persisted for such a long time that it should have been discovered and corrected by the property owner prior to the accident

It's important to note that this element also hinges on the element of foreseeability, such that it must have been foreseeable to the property owner that their negligence would create a dangerous condition.

To help illustrate these points, consider the example of a convenience store owner and a malfunctioning refrigerator that has created a puddle of water on the floor. If the next day a customer slips in it and breaks their leg, it could be argued that this was a dangerous condition of which the storeowner should have been aware given the need to conduct regular inspections and that it was foreseeable that this type of accident could occur.

We'll continue to examine this topic in future posts, including the applicable statutes of limitations for bringing a premises liability claim here in Wisconsin.

Please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you've been seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, and would like to learn more about your options.

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