In general, a slip and fall case will be brought against a defendant as a negligence action or as a statutory action under the Premises Liability Act. These cases are usually brought against the owner of the property where an individual was injured by tripping or slipping. An injured person does not automatically have the right to recover just because they have fallen on someone else’s property. The injured person (plaintiff) must demonstrate that the owner (defendant) was careless in some way and that carelessness caused the plaintiff to fall. Negligence cases require the plaintiff to show that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, breached that duty, and caused an injury. Actions under the Premises Liability Act require the plaintiff to show that property owner/defendant failed to maintain the property in a safe condition which caused their injury.
The Defendant Owed a Duty
The duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant depends on a host of circumstances. Usually these circumstances depend on the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. The duty owed to an individual when he visits family members at their homes is not the same as the duty owed to the same individual by a storeowner whilst he is shopping. The duty owed to an individual also depends on the circumstance that caused him to fall.
In general, everyone owes a duty to everyone else to act reasonably under the circumstances. Sometimes this may mean placing a “wet floor” sign near the risk or raking leaves off the sidewalk. Once the plaintiff has established exactly what the duty was, he can determine whether the defendant complied with that duty or breached it. The Premises Liability Act places a duty on landowners to keep their property free from known unsafe conditions.
The Breach Caused the Fall
Depending on the circumstances, it can be tricky to determine whether the breach of duty caused the fall. Generally, in a slip and fall case, the plaintiff will come in contact with a risk and fall to the ground. This would be a very straightforward situation. Often, however, a variety of circumstances will culminate and result in an accident. Sometimes a plaintiff will have created a situation that will contribute to their accident, for example, if a plaintiff is intoxicated while on the premises, and comes into contact with an obstacle.
Illinois uses a system of contributory negligence in determining who was responsible for the injuries suffered in the accident. This means that a plaintiff can recover unless he was more than 50 percent at fault for his injuries; if he is deemed more than 50 percent responsible for his own injuries, then he may be barred from recovery. The most common defense used in a slip and fall case is the “open and obvious” defense. Here, the defendant claims that the plaintiff should have seen the defect in the property that caused their fall because it is obvious.
The Breach Caused an Injury
A plaintiff must show that the breach of duty owed to him by the defendant resulted in an injury. It is not relevant that the injury is new. The injury can be a preexisting condition that was made worse by the fall. This is sometimes referred to as the “eggshell skull plaintiff” rule. Basically it means that everyone is protected from the carelessness of others, not only people who are perfectly healthy. Once the plaintiff shows that his injuries were due to the defendant’s carelessness, he may be awarded damages.
Filing a lawsuit in Illinois for slip and fall under a negligence or statutory claim must be done within two years of the accident. If you have been injured by the carelessness of a property owner, contact the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. today for a free case review. We will help you seek the compensation to which you are entitled.