There have been some cases in the news recently about claims for personal injuries after slip and fall accidents against national retailers and hotel chains. In one case, a customer in the retail store H&M in Pennsylvania slipped and fell on a wet floor at the entrance. In another case, a guest at a Hyatt hotel in Houston slipped and fell on a wet floor after it had been mopped by an employee. In both cases, the injured victim claims that the property owner failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the accident and their resulting injuries.
The injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident can be very serious. Often times these injuries can involve fractured or broken arms or legs, but can also include a head injury or even a broken neck. Needless to say, these injuries can have a devastating affect on the injured victim as well as the injured person’s family. Compensation for these types of injuries can include not only compensation for the medical bills and any future treatment, but also compensation for lost wages and loss of services and companionship to the victim’s family.
The Atlanta area, and the state of Georgia as a whole, is home to a countless number of retailers, restaurants and hotels where thousands of patrons and guests frequent on a daily basis. At all of these types of properties, the owner or occupier of the property has a duty to exercise reasonable care to make sure the property where the customers or guests will be is safe. This undoubtedly includes the floor surfaces within the property.
In order to recover for injuries sustained in a slip and fall case, an injured party must be able to prove: 1) that the property owner had knowledge of the dangerous condition, i.e., the wet floor; and 2) that the injured victim did not have any knowledge of the dangerous condition.
Knowledge of a hazard or dangerous condition by the property owner can either be actual or constructive. Actual knowledge is as it sounds – the owner actually knows of the hazardous condition. Constructive knowledge, however, can be established by showing that the size or nature of the hazardous condition was easily visible by the property owner, or by proving that an employee or the owner itself was in the immediate area of the dangerous condition and therefore could have easily seen it to remedy it. For example, in the Houston Hyatt case, constructive knowledge may be established as the hotel employee had recently mopped the floors where the injured party fell. Therefore, the property owner, through its employee, had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, in that case, the wet floors. Given this, the hotel had the duty to put up signs or otherwise warn its guests of the dangerous wet floors in order to prevent any falls from occurring.
A property owner can also be liable for a slip and fall accident if it failed to take reasonable steps to inspect the property and keep it in a safe condition for its guests. For example, in the Pennsylvania H&M case, if the entrance floors became wet because it had been raining, the property owner had a duty to inspect and put down floor mats or other protective covering to prevent the floors from getting wet and cause a slip hazard. Here, in Atlanta, as rainy weather is a frequent occurrence, a property owner has the duty to inspect the entrance and other areas of the property to make sure a dangerous condition is not created. If they fail to do so and a customer gets injured, they could be held liable.
The facts of a slip and fall case can vary greatly and can impact whether you may have a viable claim against the property owner. Consulting with a premises liability attorney will help you maximum the compensation will may be entitled to receive for your injuries.