Business owners open themselves up to potential liability for slip and fall accidents each day they play host to customers. But there are times when deciding the fault of a business owner in these accidents becomes a little murky. While there are not many certainties regarding court issues, business owners are generally not responsible for slip and fall accidents when the following circumstances apply.
When Negligent Conditions are not Present
There are times when an accident is nothing more than an accident. A business owner only becomes liable for accidents that result from reasonable dangers of which the owner should be aware. Examples of slip and fall accident causes that will lead to owner liability include:
- Wet floors
- Cracks in the sidewalk
- Uneven surfaces
- Spilled produce
- Missing handrails where stairs are used
When Business Owners do not Enjoy Reasonable Time to Inspect and Remedy Problem
A common misconception is that business owners are strictly responsible for any accident that happen on their property. The truth is, a reasonable amount of time for business owners to inspect the property and remedy potential problems must first elapse. One example of this concept is when a customer inadvertently causes a product to fall to the floor while reaching for an item on the same shelf. If another customer in the store trips on the object five minutes later, owner liability may become difficult to establish. The difficulty lies in the fact that sufficient time was not available to inspect and remedy the hazard.
When No One is Injured
Business owners will not need to pay damages to slip and fall victims when no injuries result from the fall. Slip and fall accidents are always frightening for the accident victim. But the liability for the business owner is based on the damage that occurs. This fact eliminates attempts by opportunists who believe a fall in a store equals a windfall of money blowing in their direction. The simple equation is no injuries equals no premise liability.
When Damages Are Not Caused by Negligent Conditions
A discernible cause and effect must be evident between the negligent conditions and the damages received from a slip and fall accident before a business owner becomes liable for the accident. A person who falls and injures themselves inside a store can not claim owner liability because there is a crack in the sidewalk leading to the store entrance.
When Intervening Causes are Present
A customer who suffers an accident will likely not be the only person patronizing a business. And there are times when one customer will create a dangerous situation for another. An example would be a customer running or horseplaying while causing another customer to fall. Attorneys in search of a slip and fall settlement for their client may make various arguments that point to owner liability. However, the customer who was running possesses definite blame for the accident. Intervening causes such as the example above can reduce the responsibility of a business owner. There are also cases in which intervening causes are enough to eliminate owner liability.
There is a common misconception that business owners become automatically liable when a slip and fall accident occurs. The truth is several factors are relevant for determining the extent of business owner liability when someone suffers an injury in their establishment. The five scenarios above represent situations in which business owners are not liable for slip and fall accidents.