We’re in the thick of New Jersey winter, which means snowy streets, icy sidewalks, and, unfortunately, slips and falls that can lead to serious injuries. If you’re the victim of a slip and fall during wintry weather, it’s important to understand when the property owner could be liable. Below, I’ll describe the basics for succeeding in a premises liability case, as well as occasions where the property owner cannot be held liable. If you have questions about a slip or fall you experienced this winter, don’t hesitate to contact a slip and fall lawyer serving Northern New Jersey. Buttafuoco & Associates specializes in slip and fall cases, and we understand that what might look like a small accident can have big consequences for your life and your finances.
Basics for a Slip and Fall Case
Most slip and fall cases fall under the legal category of premises liability. In order to have a case, the situation in question must meet the following three criteria:
- Hazardous Conditions: Hazardous conditions must have directly contributed to your injury. In the case of winter slip and falls, this will typically be snow and ice, but melted snow tracked inside can be just as dangerous as the slick patches in the parking lot.
- Negligence: Under New Jersey negligence laws, in order to have a case, the hazardous conditions must have directly resulted from the negligence of the property owner. In other words, the property owner must have known that there were hazardous conditions and then failed to take reasonable measures to eliminate the conditions or provide ample warning. For winter slip and falls, a property owner who fails to shovel sidewalks and parking lots after snow has stopped, or doesn’t mop up wet floors from tracked-in snow could be considered negligent if an injury results.
- Damages: Not everyone who slips and falls on another’s property has a legal case; you must seek damages (AKA compensation) for a loss, which can include medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering. Additionally, the plaintiff must have been injured as a direct result of the hazardous conditions.
If your situation meets these conditions, it is worth consulting with a Buttafuoco & Associates slip and fall attorney in Northern New Jersey to determine which evidence will be most useful for your case. Security camera footage, witness testimony, and medical records of assessment and treatment are just a few common types of evidence in slip and fall cases.
Three Kinds of Slip and Fall Plaintiffs
The New Jersey Supreme court ruling in Taneian v. Meghrigian set the standard for the categories of plaintiffs in New Jersey premises liability law. If you were injured on someone else’s property while acting in any of the following roles, you may have a case:
- Business Visitor: Business visitors are among the most common examples of slip and fall plaintiffs. A business visitor is someone who is allowed on the premises to patronize a business. If you slipped on an icy walkway or in a parking lot while shopping at a store, exercising at a gym, or eating at a restaurant, the owner may be liable.
- Social Guest: Unlike a business visitor, the ruling in Taneian v. Meghrigian defines a social guest as someone who enters a property for their own reason, not for the benefit of the property owner. Even if you slip and fall at a friend’s home, you need to be compensated for your injuries, especially if their negligence caused your accident.
- Trespassers: New Jersey law defines a trespasser as a “a person who enters or remains upon land in the possession of another without a right to enter or remain on the property.” A trespasser typically isn’t entitled to damages in a slip and fall case, but if you were injured due to someone else’s negligence while trespassing, reach out to a personal injury lawyer because you may still be entitled to damages.
The Exception: Discovered Trespassers
In most cases if someone becomes injured while trespassing, the property owner is not liable. For example, if someone slips and falls while trying to steal your TV, you won’t be held responsible for their injuries. However, a Northern New Jersey slip and fall lawyer can tell you that there is a notable exception when it comes to trespassing and winter slip and falls: discovered trespassers. This is when the property owner knows that trespassing individuals are on or regularly enter their property. An example might include neighborhood kids taking a shortcut through their yard or a holdover tenant in a condemned building.
If the property owner is aware that individuals (discovered trespassers) enter or cut through their property AND is aware of any hazardous conditions, then the property owner has an obligation to keep the property reasonably free of hazards. If they fail to do so, a trespasser may be entitled to compensation if they’re injured.
When to Call a Lawyer
If you have suffered a slip or fall this winter and believe the property owner may be responsible, it is in your best interest to get in touch with a slip and fall attorney serving Northern New Jersey right away. Buttafuoco & Associates has helped many people recover the compensation they need to recover from their injuries and we may be able to help you as well.
Get in touch today at 1-800-NOW-HURT.