If news reports were to be believed, every person who falls down outside of their home should be able to sue the property owner for thousands of dollars in damages. The reality, however, is not that simple. Slip and fall accidents, while among some of the most common accidents, can prove to be complicated legal cases. This is because in many cases, the injured party must provide evidence showing that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard that caused the injury. If this is not shown by a sufficient amount of evidence, the property owner will not be held liable for the injured party’s medical bills. Not all cases require this level of evidence, however, and so it is a good idea to speak to someone who has experience in this area before deciding whether or not to file a lawsuit.
When is prior knowledge not required?
Generally under Illinois law, a property owner is not liable for hazards of which he or she has no knowledge. This is because when the laws were written, they were based on the idea that any other standard would violate the general fairness principles underlying the American legal system. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. Instances for which a property owner will be held liable for an injury due to an unknown hazard include hazards that were created pursuant to the regular business operations or activities of the property owner. This is why many slip and fall accidents that occur in grocery stores do not involve a high level of proof to show that the owner was aware of the hazard. An example of a “hazard pursuant to regular business operations” is if a store employee is stocking shelves and a jar of tomato sauce falls and breaks open in an aisle of the store. The resulting slippery mess would be a hazard, and if a store patron were to slip and fall because of the tomato sauce, the store owner would likely be held liable for their injuries because it was their employee that caused the hazard.
Know before you go
The previous example may be an oversimplification of the facts that apply to many slip and fall situations, but knowing the level of proof that is needed is key to obtaining the right amount of damages. Sometimes, the best course of action may be to approach a property owner and discuss settlement in lieu of filing a lawsuit. By presenting your case informally with the property owner and explaining the facts as you see them, many property owners will be open to settling in order to avoid the potential costs of litigation. However, if an injured party walks into settlement discussions unprepared, the property owner may be able to manipulate the process and settle for far less than the injured party is entitled to recover.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, the knowledgeable attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. can help. We can talk with you about your case and help you from beginning to end, to ensure you receive the compensation you need to obtain adequate medical care.