You've Fallen and You Can't Get Up!
Jul 22, 2015
It is a blistery winter day in Wisconsin and you are walking through your local grocery store parking lot, being extra careful not to fall. You make your way past the soaked entry rugs, you slip but you managed to catch yourself. As you are browsing through the produce isle, you step on a lone grape and fall to the floor whacking your head on the floor. When you wake up you are in the back of the ambulance wondering what just happened. You, my friend, just had a slip and fall accident.
Slip & Fall
A slip and fall is an injury caused by a dangerous condition in your surroundings, whether it be a public or private residence. The dangerous condition could be caused by something the property owner did or did not do, but should have.
Whether or not the slip and fall happens in a public place or a private residence, negligence on the part of the owner is required to have a personal injury case. Negligence is failing to do what a “reasonable, prudent person” would do. So let’s talk about our rouge grape. The grape being on the floor for you to step on is not an issue of whether the business owner was negligent. Grapes fall on the ground at grocery stores all the time. It is inevitable. The real question is how long has the grape been on the floor. A reasonable prudent grocery store owner would know that grapes fall and would have his employees watching for fallen grapes. If the grape fell right before you stepped on it and an employee was unlikely to spot it in the small window of time between the fall and the step, then there is no negligence. On the other hand, if the grape was on the floor for half the day, just waiting for a victim to come step on it, then an employee should have seen it and picked it up. The fact that they were not watching and didn’t pick it up is negligence.
Public - Premise Liability
If you are injured at a business location, there is a special law that applies to you called premise liability. Premise liability states that the owner of a public place where your injury occurred is required to pay your medical bills associated with that injury. It does not matter if either you or the owner was negligent. This law does not require the business owner to pay for any other damages such as missed work or pain and suffering. Let’s think about the soaking rug. If you had fallen, sustained injuries, and missed a week of work, the business owner would be liable for the medical bills associated with the injuries even if you could not prove the owner was negligent. However, if he was not negligent, he would not have to pay for your pain and suffering or your missed work.
With a private residence these is no premise liability law. Therefore, you are required to show that the homeowner was negligent in order to receive any compensation for your injury. Also, negligence is harder to show as because a reasonable, prudent homeowner is not going to maintain his home the same as his business. For example, if a business has a set of steps that are easy to miss, it is expected that they would put a sign stating something like, “Watch Your Step”. A homeowner with the same issue is not expected to put up a sign. That said, it is harder to prove negligence in a slip and fall case at a private residence.
Contributory negligence or lack of awareness could be an issue in your personal injury case. There is an expectation that a person will watch where they are walking. If you walking and step into a six foot, gaping hole, it is your own fault. You were also negligent because a reasonable, prudent person would look in front of them and not walk into a six foot wide hole. This is an easy examples of someone not being aware of their surroundings but let’s look at a more complicated example, the icy grocery store parking lot. If you slip and fall on a patch of ice in a parking lot, the store owner would remind you that it is winter in Wisconsin and you need to watch where you are walking outside. You, lying on the ground, would argue that a reasonable, prudent store owner would have his parking lot plowed and salted to prevent icy patches and he is at fault. Which one is correct in their thinking, the store owner or yourself? That would be left up to a jury!
Slip and fall accidents are always difficult due to the fact that you need to prove negligence on the property owner and prove that you yourself, were not negligent. If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident and think you might have a personal injury case call our office to find out. Pedersen Law Office offers free consults in all of our areas of practice and will meet with you personally to discuss your specific circumstances and see what options are available for you. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.