When Is a Business Not at Fault for a Sidewalk Slip Accident?

19 October 2016
 Categories: , Articles

If you injure yourself on a business property and require medical attention, then you may be able to sue the business for medical expenses as well as pain and suffering. If your accident involved tripping or slipping on a sidewalk, then dangerous weather conditions or the poor maintenance of the sidewalk may have contributed to the incident. In many situations, it is obvious that negligence occurred. For example, an uneven and broken sidewalk surface or the accumulation of several inches of ice on the concrete are likely apparent signs of neglect. However, the situation may be ambiguous. In some situations, you may actually be seen as the individual at fault for the accident. Keep reading to learn about some situations where you may not be able to sue for the accident. 

You Must Watch Where You Are Going

Every slip or trip and fall situation is different, and there are many different aspects of an accident that are taken into consideration when an injury occurs. This is one reason why it is wise to speak to an attorney and provide all of the facts of a case so a legal professional can assess your situation. While this is true, you should understand that as an individual walking on a sidewalk, you have a duty of care to pay attention to your surroundings and to walk carefully. Duty of care is a term used in personal injury cases to describe the actions of others and how everyone has a duty to act reasonably in a way that does not injure others. 

Duty of care can be used to describe negligence when it comes to a business making timely sidewalk repairs and when completing ice and snow removal. The term can also be used to describe your own actions and how a careless act can contribute to your own injuries. Specifically, you have a duty of care to watch out where you are going and to reasonable avoid hazardous situations. Typically, you will be considered negligent if you act in a way that another person in your situation would not typically act. 

For example, you may be considered at fault for your own tripping accident if you decide to look up at the clouds as you walk down the sidewalk. If you were looking up and tripped on the side of the sidewalk as you passed in front of a business, then the business did not contribute to your incident in any way. A reasonable person would not have been looking up as they walked, and this means that you were careless or negligent in your actions. Other examples of carelessness include tripping on a small crack as you walked and texted on your phone or running into an obvious barrier over a marked piece of broken concrete as you watched the traffic pass by you. 

Also, if you happen to trip over an installation that has an obvious purpose or function, like a storm drain that keeps water from building on the sidewalk and making it slippery, then you should have examined your own surroundings to avoid such a hazard. A reasonable person understands that such hazards exist and that they should be avoided. 

You are deemed comparatively negligent in the case where you are either partially or fully responsible for an accident that has occurred.

The Area Just Became Hazardous

While business owners are held to a high standard when it comes to maintenance practices and the upkeep of sidewalks, stairs, driveways, and parking lots, they cannot be held liable for immediately handling every situation as soon as it arises. For example, if the temperatures dropped unseasonably low in October and caused ice to form on the business's sidewalk, then the business owner may not have known that ice had formed on the walkway. This means that there should be no reasonable expectation of ice removal. If you slipped on this ice, then you would have to prove that the business owner should have known or did know that the ice formed and chose not to take care of the hazard.

Also, if a truck happened to jump the curb in front of the business and the sidewalk cracked, then the business may not be held liable for a slip and fall accident that occurred very soon afterwards. While the cracked sidewalk is obviously hazardous and likely to cause an injury, the business owner is not at fault if they did not know about the damage or if they did not have time to repair it. 

However, if someone else damaged the sidewalk that caused you to fall, like the driver of the truck, then you can sue this individual for your injuries. Also, if the business knew about the sidewalk damage and chose not to mark the hazard, then they may be held partially responsible for an injury. 

For more information about how to handle your case, contact a local slip and fall attorney.