Who is responsible for my slip-and-fall injuries?
Property owners are responsible for providing a safe environment or warning visitors of hazards. When property owners fail to do this, accidents such as slip-and-fall injuries may result. These injuries often involve preventable factors, such as spills, poorly maintained floors or dim lighting. The victims of these accidents may be entitled to compensation. However, as any injury lawyer in Illinois can explain, visitors do not enjoy absolute legal protection.
The Illinois Premises Liability Act prescribes a narrow set of responsibilities for property owners. A slip-and-fall injury is only compensable if it occurs because a property owner failed in one of these duties.
Knowledge of hazards
The property owner and visitor’s knowledge of a hazard can determine whether an injury is compensable. Property owners cannot be held accountable for hazards they did not know about. Regardless of personal knowledge, property owners cannot be held liable for hazards visitors should have been aware of. Such hazards include:
- Hazards that are “open and obvious”
- Hazards the visitor can easily discover
- Hazards the visitor should reasonably know about
For example, if a sign warns of a hazard, it is reasonable to presume visitors know the hazard exists. If a hazard is clearly visible, visitors could also be expected to know about it. For example, an uneven walking surface could be considered an “open and obvious” hazard. However, other factors may also affect liability. For instance, a visitor might be reasonably distracted or powerless to avoid a visible hazard. In this case, the owner might still be considered liable for a slip and fall accident.
As any injury lawyer in Illinois knows, this knowledge standard is applied less strictly in accidents involving children. It is not reasonable to expect younger children to understand or anticipate certain hazards. Thus, property owners owe a greater duty of care to children.
Trespass and misuse
The Illinois Premises Liability Act typically does not protect trespassers in the event of a slip-and-fall injury. Property owners are prohibited from knowingly engaging in activities that would harm trespassers. Outside of this requirement, property owners owe no legal duty to trespassers.
State law also does not require property owners to protect visitors from misusing property. Property owners aren’t responsible for preventing injuries arising from misuse of the premises or its fixtures. Additionally, owners aren’t required to warn visitors about the potential for injury resulting from misuse.
Due to these standards, property owners may deny that an injured visitor was welcome or using the property as intended. If a slip-and-fall injury is severe or the facts surrounding it are disputed, victims may benefit from legal advice. An injury lawyer in Illinois may be able to provide guidance on documenting and pursuing a premises liability claim.
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