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Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents
In Maryland, property owners have a duty to protect the safety of the people who are on their property.
Accidents that occur on another person’s property due to a dangerous, defective or hazardous condition that cause personal injuries are often the fault of the property owner.
Premises liability is the law that governs slip and fall accidents and determines who is at fault.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a slip, trip or fall accident, a physical assault, or other accident because of a dangerous, defective or hazardous condition on someone else’s property, the owner of the property may be liable for the injuries.
As a victim of a slip, trip or fall accident, there is no cost to you for receiving medical treatment and legal representation. These cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that the property owner’s Insurance company is responsible for paying for the injuries, damages, losses and expenses that result from the accident. This includes paying for medical treatment, losses and damages, related expenses and attorney’s fees so that you are compensated for the accident and made whole again from the negligence of the owner of the property.
Call me directly at 410-575-3255 regarding the accident, you may also contact me by completing the Contact box on the left side of this page, or by email. I will discuss, review and evaluate your case with you at no charge.
How To Prove Your Case
In Maryland, personal injuries sustained on another property, whether the injuries occur on a sidewalk, parking lot, private home, apartment complex, restaurant, store, hotel, park, or commercial property, are often the result of negligent maintenance of the property or a lack of security on the property.
In these negligence cases, in order to have valid action for negligence, the person who was injured must prove the following 4 elements:
(1) that the owner of the property was under a duty to protect the person on the property from injury;
(2) that the owner of the property breached that duty;
(3) that the person on the property suffered actual injury or loss; and
(4) that the injuries and losses proximately resulted from property owner’s breach of its duty to protect the safety of the person on the property from injury.
As mentioned above, in negligence cases against the owner of property, the property owner owes a certain duty to the person who comes in contact with that property. The extent of this duty depends upon the status of the person who was on the property while on the property.
Historically, in premises liability cases, there have been four categories of a person’s status, while that person is on someone’s property. The four categories are: 1. Invitee; 2. Licensee by Invitation; 3. Bare Licensee; and 4. Trespasser, and are explained below.
1. An “Invitee” is a person who is on the property for purposes related to the property owner’s business. For example, a customer who is shopping in a store is considered to be an Invitee because the customer is invited into the store to conduct business.
When the person’s status is an Invitee, the owner of the property owes the Invitee a duty of ordinary care to keep the property safe.
2. A “Licensee by Invitation” is a person who is on the property as a social guest. For example, a friend who visits another friend at home is considered to be a Licensee because the friend is invited onto the property socially.
When the person’s status is a Licensee, the owner of the property owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to warn that person of dangerous conditions that are known to the property owner, but not easily discoverable.
3. A “Bare Licensee” is a person who is on the owner’s property with permission, but for his or her own purposes and not for the property owner’s purpose. For example, a Firefighter who is on the property to extinguish a fire is considered to be a Bare Licensee because the Firefighter is there to fulfill the Fire Department’s purpose.
When the person’s status is a Bare Licensee, the owner of the property owes the Bare Licensee no duty except to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the Bare Licensee and from creating new and undisclosed sources of danger without warning the Bare Licensee.
4. A “Trespasser” is a person who intentionally and without consent or privilege enters the owner’s property.
When the person’s status is a Trespasser, the owner of the property owes no duty to the Trespasser, even if the Trespasser is a child, except that the owner of the property may not willfully or wantonly injure or entrap the Trespasser.
Another important factor used to determine the existence of duty owed to the person injured on the property by the property owner in slip and fall accident cases in Maryland is whether the accident was “foreseeable.”
Foreseeable means whether the occurrence of the accident was a probability under the conditions it happened and the seriousness of the harm, so that there is a duty to prevent it.
In slip and fall accident cases, even though the owner of the property has a duty to make the premises safe, the mere existence of a dangerous or defective condition in a store or public place of business that causes injuries, does not automatically as a matter of law make the owner of the property liable for the injuries caused by the dangerous or defective condition.
The owner of the property must also have knowledge, either actual knowledge or constructive knowledge of the dangerous or defective condition, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known of the dangerous or defective condition and failed to remedy it.
This means that if you slip, trip or fall on the property of another and are injured, the property owner may be liable and responsible for the injuries caused if the slip, trip or fall was caused by a dangerous or defective condition that the owner of the property caused, was aware of, or should have been aware of.
Many of the injuries in slip, trip or fall accidents occur because the owner of the property:
- Failed to properly remove ice or snow on its premises;
- Failed to provide adequate lighting;
- Failed to properly clean up spilled liquids, foods or other substances on its floors in a store, restaurant or other establishment;
- Failed to fix torn, raised or worn carpeting, flooring and steps;
- Failed to remove obstructions, such as electrical cords and wiring, inventory, crates and boxes;
- Failed to properly secure its inventory on its shelves and an object falls; and
- Failed to properly maintain its escalators and elevators.
The person who goes on the property also has a duty, imposed upon all individuals, to observe ordinary care for his or her own safety and to not contribute to the negligence of the owner of the property.
If you contributed to the negligence, you will not have a claim under the legal defense called “Contributory Negligence.”
Contributory Negligence is failing to follow the duty imposed upon all individuals to observe ordinary care for their own safety by doing something that a person of ordinary prudence would not do, or failing to do something that a person of ordinary prudence would do, under the circumstances.
For example, where there is a dangerous or defective condition that is open and obvious, such as a large spill of motor oil in an automotive store that is plain and clear to see, the people in the store have a duty to watch where they are walking and to not put themselves at risk by walking into the obvious spill.
However, even though the spill itself is obvious, if the spill was in a location where it could not be reasonably seen, such as at the end cap of an aisle, so that it would not be visible to a customer walking down the aisle who turns into the next aisle, then the owner of the property may be liable even though the spill was open and obvious.
Furthermore, the ends of the aisles are often stocked with sale and promotional items designed to capture the eye and attention of the shopper so that the customer is not looking at the floor.
Therefore, although the laws are clear, each accident has a different set of facts which must be examined because there are always exceptions to rules.
Here is another example showing that a single fact can make a difference in establishing the liability of the owner of the property for a customer’s injuries in a slip and fall accident. A customer in a store slips on a small amount of clear liquid on a floor and falls. This occurs after an employee of the store had inspected the floor for hazards 10 to 15 minutes before the customer slipped and fell on the floor.
Generally, the owner of the store would not be liable for the injuries caused to the customer from this type of slip and fall accident because the owner of the store did not know of, or could not have known of, the small clear substance on the floor, and the owner of the property did fulfill its duty to make the premises safe by having its employee inspect the floor for hazards.
However, in this example, if the small amount of clear liquid on the floor was caused by an employee, then the store may be liable and responsible for the injuries sustained by a customer who slipped and fell on the liquid even though an employee had inspected the floor before the customer fell.
The reason for this is because the store was on notice of the liquid on the floor because its employee created the dangerous condition.
The store then had a duty to make that area safe. Most safety procedures require that the employee not leave the area, guard it, direct customers safely around it and call for another employee to clean up the spill.
In our examples above, in order to succeed on the claim that the owner of the property was negligent and failed to keep its property safe, the customers in these slip and fall accidents must establish that:
- The store owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the substance on the floor;
- The store owner failed to remedy it; and
- As customers, they were exercising care for their own safety and were not contributorily negligent.
In Maryland, the standard for establishing that the store owner had “constructive knowledge” of the substance on the floor is as follows:
- The substance, the dangerous/defective condition on the premises, must be visible and apparent; and
- The substance, the dangerous/defective condition on the premises, must exist for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to permit the store owner’s employees to discover it and to remedy it.
There is no established time period that a dangerous or defective condition must exist before the property owner is deemed to have actual knowledge, or constructive knowledge of the dangerous or defective condition, for purposes of determining liability.
Also, there is no set standard for determining whether the owner of the property has a reasonable inspection procedure to safeguard people who on the property from being injured.
Courts will consider how long the unsafe condition that contributed to the slip and fall accident existed and whether the owner had time to discover and ultimately fix the problem.
Courts will also consider whether the steps taken were appropriate or reasonable and whether the carelessness of the victim contributed to the slip and fall injury.
Each case is different and depends on such factors as:
- The nature of the store’s business;
- The size of the store;
- The number of employees and customers;
- The nature of the dangerous or defective condition;
- The cause of the dangerous or defective condition;
- The customer’s actions;
- The location of the accident; and
- The time of day or night that the accident occurred.
In summary, to succeed in a slip and fall case, it must be established that:
- There was a dangerous or defective condition that the owner of the property either knew of, or should have known of;
- The owner of the property failed to remedy the dangerous or defective condition and make the area safe; and
- The dangerous or defective condition was not open and obvious to the person who was injured and therefore easily avoided.
Liability of a Landlord to an Injured Tenant
Another type of premises liability where the owner of the property may be liable for injuries caused on the property arises in Landlord and Tenant matters.
In Maryland, a Landlord has a duty to its Tenants to exercise reasonable care to protect against known risks, or reasonably foreseeable risks, within the common areas of the leased premises.
Maryland Landlords have been held liable for injuries sustained by Tenants in cases where the Landlord exercised a degree of control over the leased property with the defective or dangerous condition and failed to take steps to prevent injuries arising from the defective or dangerous condition on its property.
Landlords may also be liable and responsible for injuries that occur resulting from pre-existing defective conditions on the leased premises, and where there was a contract under which the Landlord and the Tenant agreed that the Landlord would remedy a defective condition.
A Landlord’s liability for injuries sustained on the Landlord’s premises depends on three (3) issues:
- The Landlord controlled the area with the dangerous or defective condition;
- The Landlord had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, of the condition causing the injuries; and
- The injuries and harm suffered by the Tenant were a foreseeable result of that condition.
As discussed in this section on slip, trip and fall accident cases, the property owner’s liability and responsibility for injuries that occur on its premises may arise due to the property owner’s negligence in maintaining the property in a safe condition, or because the owner of the property failed to provide adequate security.
Slip, trip or fall accident cases in Maryland have many issues, as seen in the examples above, and one fact can make a difference as to whether you may recover for your injuries.
My Firm knows and understands the dynamics of these cases and is experienced in handling the many aspects of these types of accidents in order to provide the level of expertise that is needed to handle these cases properly and to maximize your recovery.
After handling many slip, trip and fall accident cases throughout Maryland, including Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, Carroll County, Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, Howard County, Frederick County, and Harford County, my Firm knows the Insurance companies’ defense tactics and how to best prepare and present your case to protect your claim and to maximize your financial recovery.
The property owner’s Insurance company is not on your side and will protect their own insured, not you.
Before you speak with them, call me directly at 410-575-3255 and I will answer your questions and concerns, you may also contact me by completing the Contact box on the left side of this page, or email me directly.
I will discuss, review and evaluate your case with you at no charge. In Maryland, bodily injury accident cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning that you have no out of pocket expenses and that I only get paid by the insurance company when I successfully recover your losses and damages for you.