We’ve all seen the cartoons where the character being chased throws a bucket of ice cubes on the floor or dumps water on the floor to make his pursuer slip and fall. We even cheer for the one who causes the slippery surface and laughs when the other one falls. But in real life, slipping on ice or water is no laughing matter, and as we suffer through the remainder of winter, there will be plenty of opportunity to hit a slick spot and come crashing down.
Slip and fall cases can be tricky. Just because someone is injured when he falls on someone else’s property does not mean he is automatically entitled to compensation for his injuries. Several criteria need to be considered in this type of situation.
1. Was there something that caused the fall?
2. If there was a cause, is it something the property owner was aware of, or should have been aware of?
3. Did the property owner have time to remedy the situation?
4. Did the property owner attempt to alert everyone on the property of the situation?
Let’s look closer at each of the above questions. If you are clumsy and simply trip over your own feet or stub your toe on the floor or doorway, the property owner would most likely not be liable for any injuries. You are just a klutz. If there was a reason you fell – like the floor was extremely uneven or slippery, or the parking lot was covered with ice – then it has to be determined whether or not the property owner should have been aware of it. If it has been cold and snowing for the past several hours, then the property owner, unless he lives in a windowless closet, is probably aware that the sidewalk, driveway, or parking lot could be slippery. But if his new refrigerator that has never leaked before suddenly leaves a puddle on the floor, he may not be aware of it until someone slides through the water.