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Who is Liable in a Slip and Fall Accident?

  • By: Jeffrey Shaw, Esq.
  • Published: August 29, 2019

The landowner or business where you got hurt might be liable to you for damages including lost wages, medical bills, scars, pain and suffering and the general loss of the quality of your life including permanent injuries.

But, first the injured person must prove the landowner was “negligent” or “at fault” for the injury.

It isn’t enough that you were simply injured on somebody else’s land — you MUST show the landowner was at fault for not being reasonable and having a dangerous defect that injured you.

The status of the person on another’s land determines the duty the landowner owes him.

For example, all customers at a store are owed the highest duty to refrain from hurting them by the landowner. This type of person is called an “invitee.” An invitee is a customer, but does NOT need a formal written invitation to be upon the land (for example, McDonald’s does not send you a formal invitation, but rather sends an implied invitation by advertising).

A landowner owes the invitee the duty to keep its land reasonably safe for the customer. The landowner or business owner must try all reasonable measures to keep its land safe. This includes the duty to exercise reasonable care. This means the landowner must remedy (or clean up) all dangerous defects upon the land that it knows about or “should” know about. This requirement of “should know” means a landowner or business owner must perform reasonable inspections to discover dangerous conditions upon the land.

On the other hand, if you are a trespasser on another’s property, then the landowner owes you the lowest duty under Indiana law. This duty to trespassers is only that the landowner must not intentionally hurt trespassers without a warning (for example, you might have seen stories about landowners who construct booby-traps like a trapdoor or a gun rigged to fire upon uninvited entrants).

The middle duty involves “licensees” upon the land. While it is often difficult to determine exactly what a “licensee” might be, the best explanation I have ever heard was a description of a sight we see nearly every weekend while driving in Indiana cities and towns — the kids along the side of the road with signs announcing a “car wash.”

Those kids are not exactly invitees of the store, because they aren’t buying any items nor do they plan on doing so. And they clearly aren’t trespassers because the landowners or businesses allow them to be there as a charity event.

Those “licensees” are owed the duty by the landowner to warn them about dangers he knows about but is not required to perform inspections to discover dangers he does not know about. An example would be faulty wiring in a garage where the car wash is held or a loose grate that might give way when stepped upon.

Indiana Judges decided this classification of duty in the case of Burrell v. Meads, 569 N.E.2d 637 (Ind. 1991). The Indiana Supreme Court changed two major laws with regard to landowners in that case.

First, the Supreme Court added “social guests of homeowners” to the class of “invitees.” (It also clarified that no invitation was necessarily written).

Secondly, the Court adopted a written law called the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343.

It ruled that:

Status Landowner Duty
  • Invitee → use reasonable care to discover and protect
  • Licensee → warn of latent/hidden dangers, avoid willful/wanton acts
  • Trespasser → avoid intentional, grossly deviant conduct, &/or entrapment
Another way to explain these duties is like this:
  1. Trespasser: landowner must refrain from willfully or wantonly (intentionally) injuring him/her after discovering his/her presence.
  2. Licensee: landowner must refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring him/her or acting in a manner to increase his/her peril. The landowner must also warn a licensee of any latent danger on the premises of which the landowner has knowledge.
  3. Invitee: landowner owes the highest duty, which is to exercise reasonable care for his/her protection while he/she is on the premises.

The Restatement reads:

A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land if, but only if, he: (a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees; (b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it; (c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.

This explanation is still seen in almost every premises liability case today across the State of Indiana.

Do you believe that you have been hurt in an Indiana slip and fall accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence or dangerous behavior? Slip and fall accidents can be very problematic for the victim, who may have life changing injuries from which he or she may have to miss work and go through additional medical treatment and rehabilitation for.

A person who has been seriously injured in a slip and fall accident in Indiana cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of getting support in the form of compensation. Compensation in an Indiana slip and fall injury case might help a victim recover as this can compensate for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost time at work and more.

Determining who is liable in a slip and fall injury is extremely important. The support of a knowledgeable attorney like Jeff Shaw at Shaw Law is crucial for determining all potentially liable parties.

More than one individual or entity could be held liable in a premises liability accident. This means determining that the person or persons involved knew about the dangerous condition and failed to fix it or post warnings about it or would have had reason to discover this dangerous condition.

In some other situations, the premises liability owner or manager or his or her employees may have been directly responsible for creating the scenario that led to your slip and fall accident. An excellent example of this form of liability happens in grocery stores or other retail establishments when a liquid is spilled and not cleaned up properly. In these circumstances, it is imperative for the injured party to schedule a consultation with a dedicated premises liability lawyer immediately.

Determination of who is liable in an Indiana slip and fall, needs to occur quickly, so as not to exceed the statute of limitations which could bar the victim from ever bringing a case regarding the slip and fall injuries.

Recovering compensation can take several months, depending on the knowledge of your Indiana slip and fall lawyer. You might be able to recover compensation through settlement negotiations in which your attorney represents you or you might have to go to trial.

In either of these situations, it is critical to have a professional attorney who is highly experienced in determining liability and in crafting a compelling strategy to help you recover full and fair compensation. At Shaw Law, it is our goal to get you back on your feet as soon as possible- don’t wait to schedule your consultation to begin turning the wheels of justice for a better future.

Jeffrey Shaw, Esq.

Attorney Shaw has never lost a single jury trial for any premises
liability matter. In fact, Attorney Shaw has only a total of 3 jury
trial losses in the last 30+ years of jury trials...Read More

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