What is a Virginia Slip and Fall Accident?

A slip-and-fall (or trip-and-fall) is part of a larger classification of personal injury cases that fall under the umbrella of premises liability, essentially where a person is injured because of negligence or dangerous conditions on someone else’s property.  If you or a loved one is injured due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property in Virginia, call a Virginia slip and fall lawyer today as you may be entitled to compensation.

Property owners owe a duty to those lawfully on their premises to keep the premises reasonably safe and to avoid injuring persons lawfully on the premises. The landowner must repair dangerous conditions that they know, or should know, exists on their property. If a landowner does not repair a dangerous condition they have a duty to warn of the dangerous condition. Property owners’ violations of  Virginia building codes or other ordinances may also be factors in determining liability.

Direct causes of slip/trip-and-fall accidents can include:

  • Spilled liquids or food on floors
  • Cracked sidewalks
  • Objects on stairs
  • Ice and snow – either on the owner’s property or on sidewalks in front of the property
  • Broken or missing floor tiles
  • Uneven steps or uneven tread and riser heights
  • Missing or damaged steps
  • Hidden defects
  • Other obstacles

Indirect or contributing causes of these accidents can include dim (or absent) lighting or missing handrails on stairs or in stairwells.

There Are Two Key Liability Questions In A Slip-And-Fall Case

  1. Who are the potentially liable parties?

Much of the answer depends on whether the accident occurs on owned or leased property.  With the former, it is likely that the owner is liable, if they knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, though some third-party actions by visitors or the failure of the injured person to exercise ordinary care could relieve the owner from some or all of the liability. If the injury occurs on rental property, the legal occupant (the renter) typically has the responsibility to ensure that the premises are kept in a reasonably safe condition and to warn visitors or invitees of any dangerous conditions. In many apartment complexes, there are common areas for which the landlord is responsible, and the individual tenants will be responsible for their own individual unit. There could be instances where both owner and legal occupant of the rental property may share liability.

  1. Were the parties actually negligent, and were they the direct cause of the slip/trip- and-fall accident?

This second point is especially important in Virginia due to the fact that contributory negligence may apply.  Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that provides a defense if the injured person’s own carelessness caused or contributed to the accident in any way, with a few clear exceptions, the victim may not be able to collect legal damages if a judge or jury finds that the plaintiff caused or contributed to their own injuries.

Unless the accident is caused by some sort of intentional act by the defendant/owner, the injured plaintiff must prove negligence: that the defendant failed to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances.  One example would be the owner of a grocery store breaching its duty to place a warning sign in recently mopped areas of their business. If the owner fails to do this, and a customer slips on the wet floor and injures his back, or breaks her ankle, there will be a strong case for liability against the store for its negligence.

Damages That May Apply In Any Premises Liability Case

If injured plaintiffs are able to successfully sue the negligent party for their slip-and-fall injury, or if their attorney is successful in negotiating a pre-trial settlement with the defendant’s insurance company, compensation for all of the following damages may be awarded:

  • Payment for all medical bills, including rehabilitation and outpatient services, as well as the expenses incurred traveling to and from doctors offices and rehab centers
  • Lost wages for the entire period of time the victim missed work, and compensation for any loss in earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Compensation for permanent injury
  • Compensation for interference in customary leisure activities

There could be additional damages – depending on the circumstances of the case – if the slip-and-fall caused a wrongful death.

In Virginia, plaintiffs injured in a slip and fall accident need to provide detailed information to their attorneys about the location of where they fell. Call today to schedule a free consultation.