If you have been injured in a slip and fall, it is important to identify the responsible party, as well as if you may be able to successfully pursue a claim for your injuries. Unlike some other types of personal injury claims, such as those arising from motor vehicle collisions, there may be multiple potentially responsible parties, and significant investigation may be necessary to even identify them let alone determine why they may be held liable for your injuries.
I’ve been injured in a slip and fall. What should I do?
Take pictures of where you fell and any conditions of the property that may have caused you to fall. It’s also usually a good idea to report the incident to the party that appears responsible, such as the employees if you fell at a business. You should also, of course, seek medical treatment for your injuries. If you hire a personal injury attorney, the attorney may follow up by sending an investigator to take additional photographs and interview witnesses, researching property records, and opening claims with the insurance companies of each potentially responsible party.
Who is responsible for my injuries from a slip and fall?
The Colorado Premises Liability Act states that landowners are generally responsible for injuries resulting from dangerous conditions on their property, but defines the term “landowner” as “without limitation, an authorized agent or a person in possession of real property and a person legally responsible for the condition of real property or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing on real property.”
Often, the above definition of landowner can extend to a number of people and business entities, even those that might at first glance not appear responsible. Colorado courts have held, for example, that a sheep grazing permit was enough to make its holder a “landowner” of land owned by the United States Forest Service.
In the case of a slip and fall in a common area of a condominium complex, for example, “landowner” could include:
- the condo association;
- the property management company hired by the condo association;
- the maintenance company hired by the property management company;
- any subcontractors hired by the maintenance company; and
- the individuals hired by either the maintenance company or subcontractors.
Additionally, in some situations a governmental entity may be classified as a landowner, for example for a slip and fall on a public sidewalk.
Beyond identifying the landowners, it is also necessary to identify why each might be legally responsible.
What kinds of property conditions can I make a personal injury claim against a landowner for?
A landowner’s legal liability for a condition of the property depends on why you were on the property. The Colorado Premises Liability Act divides potential claimants in to three categories: invitees; licensees; and trespassers.
An invitee is a person who is on the property to transact business with the landowner, or who as a member of the public is present on the property at the landowner’s express or implied invitation. This includes:
- a customer at a business;
- a member of the public walking down a public sidewalk; and
- a delivery person making a delivery to a condo or apartment building resident.
An invitee can recover for injuries caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he or she actually knew or should have known (except in the case of agricultural or vacant land, in which case the landowner actually has to have known of the danger).
A licensee is a person who is present on the property for his or her own reasons, but with the landowner’s consent. This includes:
- the social guest of a condo or apartment building resident;
- a worker present at a workplace after hours; and
- a member of the public who enters a store to use the restroom rather than to make a purchase.
A licensee can recover for injuries caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to dangers created by the landowner of which the landowner actually knew. A licensee can also recover for injuries caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to warn of dangers not created by the landowner which are not ordinarily present on property of the type involved and of which the landowner actually knew.
A trespasser is a person who is present on the property without the landowner’s consent. This generally includes a member of the public who has entered private property that is not open to the public. A trespasser may recover only for injuries willfully or deliberately caused by the landowner.
A skilled personal injury attorney can help identify which of the above categories your claim might fit in to. This is important because not only might it affect your ability to recover, but if a lawsuit is filed against the wrong person or entity and subsequently dismissed you could be held legally responsible for the other party’s attorney’s fees.