With so many different variables to consider, determining who should be held responsible for a slip and fall accident can quickly become a complex issue. Although the actions of the property owner play a major role in determining fault, your own behavior can also become a significant factor.
Your actions leading up to the incident and the circumstances surrounding those actions can strengthen or weaken your slip and fall case. The following highlights four negligent and dangerous actions that could significantly weaken or even invalidate your slip and fall injury claim.
1. Being Where You Shouldn't
Having your slip and fall accident in an area that's normally off-limits can complicate matters. Property owners often declare certain areas of their businesses off-limits to customers and visitors for safety and liability reasons. While property owners are liable for accidents in areas where customers are expected, the courts may not consider it reasonable for them to anticipate a customer injuring his or herself in an off-limits area.
Entering these areas without permission or authorization can actually weaken your slip and fall claim if an accident occurs, even if you believe you had a valid reason to be there in the first place. Keep in mind that an off-limits area must be clearly marked with the appropriate warning signs posted; otherwise, the property owner may remain liable for your injuries.
2. Ignoring Warning Signs
Warning signs exist for a good reason. They're there to provide people with advanced visual warning of dangers that would otherwise go unnoticed. Ignoring a clearly visible sign that warns against a slippery floor, for instance, could bring about your own peril. However, your ability to recover damages for any injuries that occur afterward could be limited due to comparative negligence.
Under the following circumstances, property owners can still be held completely liable for slip and fall accidents despite the presence of warning signs:
- The warning sign itself is barely legible.
- The warning sign is too small to be readily noticed or was posted in an inconspicuous area.
- The warning sign is written in a foreign language not understood by most visitors.
In these cases, you'll still have a strong case for your slip and fall injury claim since the warning signs failed to provide adequate warning.
3. Ignoring the Actual Danger
There's a clear difference between not being able to spot a particular danger and taking deliberate steps to ignore it. People often ignore obvious dangers out of sheer convenience, such as someone ducking under a railroad crossing arm to cross an active set of tracks. When an obvious danger appears, you're duty-bound to make the best possible effort to mitigate or avoid it.
Deliberately ignoring an obvious danger can put your slip and fall case in a precarious spot. Unless you have a solid, legitimate reason for ignoring the danger, your own comparative negligence could result in a reduced or denied claim.
4. Engaging in Distracted Behavior
Although smartphones and other mobile devices have made life easier in many ways, they've also made it easier to engage in distracted behaviors. For instance, you may be too busy talking or texting on your smartphone to notice a wet surface. Engaging in horseplay can also prove distracting, which increases your chances of being injured in a slip and fall accident.
Engaging in distracted behaviors can constitute comparative carelessness on your part. This could potentially free the property owner of most, if not all liability for your subsequent injuries.
Knowing whether your actions prior to your slip and fall injury negatively impacted your claim can be confusing. Consulting with a seasoned slip and fall injury attorney can help you strengthen your case and get the settlement you deserve.