Slip & Falls in Indiana
No. The landowner or business owner is not required to pay your medical bills at any time after you slip and fall or trip and fall on their property and get injured until you prove "fault" on their part. This is often called "negligence" on the part of the landowner.
How do you prove the landowner was at fault? Well, let's examine Indiana premises liability law.Slip and Falls Laws in Indiana Explained
In order to win a slip and fall case, the injured person must be able to prove two things:
- A hazardous condition on the property caused the fall; and
- The defendant had "notice" of the hazard.
This might sound elementary, but it's amazing how many times the two elements can get confusing. Being able to prove these elements is necessary to move your case forward to a jury. Oftentimes, a defendant property owner's lawyer will file what is called a "Motion for Summary Judgment" which asks the Judge to throw the case out of court before a trial because one or both of these elements cannot be proven. This is because Indiana law follows laws from a long time ago that require these two elements be shown in order to win.
Let's look first at "hazardous condition." This is a legal term that simply means that "something" improper caused your fall. It can mean a foreign object on the floor like a BB or a pellet. It can mean a slippery substance on a floor like water or snow/ice or oil. It can mean a crack in pavement; uneven concrete; or even a pothole. It simply means that something happened to cause your fall other than you tripping over your feet or fainting.
Many people mistakenly believe that if you fall on an owner's property, that it must pay for your medical bills and pain. That' simply not true. The property owner is not like an insurance company that must pay for your bad health -- you can only recover if you show that a hazardous condition caused your fall. That might seem unfair, but it's settled Indiana law.
That's why it's so important to attempt to document what caused your fall after it happens. Fortunately, Indiana law does not require that you know exactly what caused your fall before you fell -- it's okay to simply recognize it was "something" out of the ordinary and not a loss of balance on your own.
This recognition of the foreign substance or defect can come after you fall. For example, it is okay to fall and then realize it was ice that caused your fall because you felt it with your hands as you attempted to stand up. Or after you fall, you realize that your clothes were cold and wet, so it must have been a liquid on the floor that caused you to fall. Indiana law says that's okay to recognize the hazard after you fell.
Additionally, it's sufficient to recognize the hazard by means other than yourself -- a witness or a photograph or an incident report that describes the hazard is okay to keep your case moving forward. Hazards can be proven by other means than yourself.
The second thing you must prove in order to win is "notice." This is a trickier concept. Many people have a hard time understanding why "notice" to the Defendant property owner is required to be proven by the injured person. Once again, it's old Indiana law. It's rooted in a sense of fairness to the landowner. If the landowner did not know there was a hazard, why should he be held responsible for not fixing it?
Consequently, you must show the landowner knew about the hazard (actual knowledge or actual notice) or should have known about the hazard (constructive knowledge or constructive notice) and didn't fix the problem or warn about it.
How long the hazard existed in that particular spot helps determine whether the defendant knew or should have known about the hazard. Clearly, if something is completely unknown to the defendant and impossible for him to discover, you cannot win your case. That wouldn't be fair to the property owner.
On the other hand, if you can show the hazard was caused by the natural activities of the property owner itself (like a leaky cooler in a grocery store), you might not be required to prove "notice" at all. It might be assumed the landowner knew by law.
The idea of "notice" is fairness to the property owner. The law requires that a defendant property owner have a reasonable opportunity to remedy the defect. For example, if a pothole existed for a few months, that would probably be unreasonable for the property owner to ignore it. The longer the defect was on the property, the more likely the law considers the landowner to have had "constructive knowledge." Additionally, the landowner is required to do periodic timely inspections of his property. He can no longer simply ignore his property and let the customers fend for their own safety.
Temporary conditions like ice and snow can be more difficult to prove the landowner knew or should have known of the defect, but had time to remedy it. For example, Indiana law doesn't require the property owner to plow his parking lot during a snowstorm because it would simply get snowed over again, even though snow is certainly a "hazardous condition" that can cause a fall.
There are an infinite amount of situations in which a person can fall. Proving "notice" is dependent upon those facts and each situation is different. A jury will decide what is a "reasonable" amount of time to allow a defendant property owner to remedy his hazardous condition. It has been ruled by Indiana courts that overnight was not enough time for a landowner to inspect and plow his land before customers arrived. On the other hand, a matter of a few days was held to be enough time. And it can be argued the size of the defendant also plays a role in how much time is appropriate.
We have now explained what steps you need to take to win a slip and fall case -- a very challenging case to win in a court of law.
We highlighted what makes us different and what has allowed Shaw Law to be successful for over 50+ years of combined experience.
If you have a question, simply call us or text us at (877) 225-5742. Get us working on your case from the comfort of your home within minutes.
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