As a St. Louis dangerous property law firm, I handle cases involving injuries on property. Premises liability or “slip and fall” cases include many circumstances including falls at a restaurant, grocery store, residence, business, sidewalk or street. Property owners may be held liable for things such as slippery surfaces, poor lighting, walkway impediments, violations of building codes, uneven stairs, broken railings, and cracked sidewalks.
Your class (invitee, licensee, trespasser) at the time of the fall will determine, in most instances, your rights in such a case because property owners owe different duties to different classes of people.
Invitee – a person who is invited to enter a property for a business or commercial purpose. You are an invitee when you visit a grocery store or restaurant.
Licensee – a person invited to enter a property for a purpose other than business. A social guest is a licensee.
Trespasser – a person who enters the property without an invitation, for his or her own benefit.
In order to win your case, you generally have to prove that there was a dangerous condition on the premises, which the owner knew or should have known of the condition, that you did not know of the condition and that the fall was foreseeable. A common defense to such cases is that the danger was “open and obvious”. Property owners usually do not have to warn the public about dangers that are easily seen. A good lawyer will know how to get around this defense.
A landlord may be held responsible for injuries that occur in the common areas, such as stairs, hallways and parking lots. The landlord has a duty to keep those areas reasonably safe for the tenants and if he or she does not, liability may exist. To prove such a case, you would need to show that the danger existed and that the landlord knew or should have known about the danger before you were hurt. It is typically difficult to prove that the landlord knew of the problem beforehand. If the danger was actually created by the landlord, you do not need to prove notice. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, landlords can even be held liable for injuries that occur within the leased space if you can show that the danger could not be discovered by you after inspection.
Walkways do not need to be perfect. There will often be elevation changes where two slabs of concrete meet. The owner has no duty to fix all of these elevation changes. The theory is that a pedestrian has some responsibility to watch where he or she is walking. If, however, there is a significant crack or change, liability may exist.
Property owners generally do not have a duty to remove natural accumulations of ice, snow or water. The reason behind this is that a general condition of ice or snow creates a hazard for anyone who encounters it – just because it is on someone’s property doesn’t make that property owner liable. If, however, the owner does something that makes the accumulation no longer natural (inadequate gutter drainage, installing an awning which allows snow to drip and freeze, uneven land grading, blocked drains), the owner will be liable.
Whether in Missouri or Illinois, if you injured yourself on public property owned by the City or State, you must immediately notify the proper entity within days. Even if you were not hurt on government-owned property, it is wise to seek representation right away so that evidence may be preserved.
If possible, take pictures of the area where you fell, make a note of the shoes you were wearing that day as well as the weather at the time.
If you have been injured on property and have questions, Contact St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney Lindsay Rakers or call at (800) 517-0602.