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Premises Liability:  Trip & Falls and Slip & Falls



Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up has been a tag line for an emergency alert system for decades, and has also been a joke for just as long. However, falling is no joke for the person who falls and is injured because someone created a hazard that caused the fall. Sometimes this is your own fault, but many times the hazard is at a business, and in those cases, the business will often face responsibility for your injuries.





For clarity’s sake, trips are when you stumble, and almost always fall forward. Slips tend to cause your feet to come out from under you, and you fall on your buttocks, or sometimes backwards. Trips are usually caused by uneven surfaces, while slips tend to be caused by water or some sort of foreign substance on the ground (banana peels, crushed grapes).


Briefly, if you are hurt on your own property, you likely have no one to go after to pay for your injury. Liability usually is attributed to the property owner, either directly for causing the dangerous condition, or because their agent created the problem. Thus, falls are normally part of what we call premises liability, which is a form of negligence.



Oregon Law


Thus, if you injured on someone else's property, the under Oregon law, those landowners (or occupiers such as a business that leases space at the mall), need to protect their visitors from the various dangers on their property. The level of care the property owners owes you varies dependent upon the reason you are on the property. This is different from some other states, where the modern trend is to do away with the classification as to what type of visitor you are.


Most importantly, is that commercial establishments (businesses such as the grocery store or gas station) have a higher level or care that they owe customers due to the fact that the business is making money, or hopes to make money, due to your visit. In such situations, the business owner needs to not only warn of any dangers they know about, but they also generally must take an active role in finding any dangers. Plus, in some cases warning is not enough, they have to actually fix the problem.


The is a big difference than say a trespasser. There, landowners have little duty towards these people who are not supposed to be there to begin with. And, just because you are at a business does not mean you are not a trespasser, since if you leave the public area and go where you are not supposed to be, then you will then be a trespasser.


The other main type of visitors is social guest. This is where you have friends over to your house for a visit. Now, if you have them over to host some sort of sales party (Mary Kay, Norwex, Tupperware), then your friends are then business invitees. This would also be the case if they are there to see you in a business capacity, such as you are seeing them in your home office to finalize their taxes. But if they are just a social guest/invitee, then you only have to warn them of dangers you are aware of.





Now that we have some background out of the way, the most common issue are slips and falls, plus trips and falls. Examples include slipping on a puddle of water inside the department store, tripping over a defect in the sidewalk, or falling down stairs that are not clearly marked. These types of things are dangerous, and these dangers could easily be rectified by the business, or at least greatly reduce the hazard with little effort and for little cost. The fact is, commercial establishments such as grocery stores, hospitals, malls, hotels, and offices need to protect visitors from dangerous conditions.


Other examples of injuries include falls related to poorly designed or poorly constructed stairs (often not in compliance with the building codes), stairways that become hazardous because the property owner has failed to maintain them (paint has worn off, slip strip is worn out), or even chairs that brake as people sit down to eat at a restaurant.


All of these can lead to serious injuries. Broken legs, broken hips, bruises, broken ankles, broken hands, cuts, and even death can be caused by these falls. Death usually is due to a head injury. Even if you survive a head injury, you can still suffer long-term damage from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These have to be taken seriously, and proper treatment is key.



Hiring an Attorney


On the legal side of this issue, we have getting the problem of getting the responsible party to pay for the damages. Fortunately, if your injury is at a commercial establishment, most business do carry liability insurance to cover these types of issues. However, the insurance adjusters never seem to think their insureds did anything wrong.


This is where hiring an attorney becomes critical, as the adjusters just want to play the denial game, and attorneys skilled in this area know how to play too. An experience attorney, knows many of the businesses have a medical payment provision in their commercial insurance policy, which will pay for the medical expenses. This is regardless of if the injuries were anyone’s fault, though the amount they will pay is usually limited to $5,000 or $10,000. This does not cover much with healthcare as expensive as it is, plus it only pays the medical bills, not your lost income or pain and suffering. An attorney can help you get the later, and try to make sure you get enough so all of your bills are paid.


Stevens & Legal has this experience. Stevens & Legal knows that for slips on wet surfaces, you need to hire an expert to determine the coefficient of friction of the tile. Attorney Michael Stevens has handled many cases involving falls on both sides of the aisle. He knows what defense counsel is looking for and what their experts will likely say. This helps you recover what you deserve.


Steps inside the Astoria Column
Snow covering the western steps of the Hillsboro Civic Center
Wet floor caution sign at Witch Hazel Elementary in Hillsboro
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