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Slip and Falls/Premises Liability
If you were hurt on someone’s property or place of business in a slip and fall accident, you may be able to pursue a claim against them for your injuries, in what is referred to as a premises liability claim. Examples of some situations which may entitle an injured person to compensation include:
uneven surfaces, including carpets, floors and stairs
stairs and staircases that are narrow or otherwise not up to code
snow and ice
cracks in sidewalk or cement
missing or improperly secured manhole covers
lack of guardrails or handrails
As more fully set forth below, the nature of your injury and the specific facts underlying the incident itself will be critical in determining whether you have a claim under Maryland law.
Maryland Premises Liability Law
Under Maryland law, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. However, whether and on what basis you are entitled to pursue a claim depends on status at the time you were injured.
Maryland law recognizes four different categories of Plaintiffs in premises liability cases.
An invitee is a person who is invited or permitted to be on the property of another for business purposes. The duty of care owed to an invitee is to use reasonable care to ensure that the portions of the property that the invitee may use are safe.
A social guest or licensee by invitation is a person who is permitted on the property for no business purpose, but as a guest of the property owner. The duty of care owed to a social guest or licensee by invitation is to exercise reasonable care to ensure the safety of the premises or warn the guest of known dangerous conditions that cannot reasonably be discovered by the guest.
A bare licensee is a person who is on the property with the consent of the owner, but not with an invite and is only there to advance his or her own personal or business interests. A bare licensee takes the property as it exists.
A trespasser is a person who is on the property without the consent of the owner of the property. A trespasser takes the property as it exists.
So, depending on your status at the time of the incident, two separate incidents with identical underlying facts could result in different outcomes depending on the status of an injured party at the time.
Notice and Opportunity
The most frequent category in premises liability claims in Maryland is invitee. Most claimants are injured on the property of another as a business guest of some kind, whether it is inside a store or outside private or publicly owned property.
In those situations, Maryland law requires that you demonstrate not only that the hazardous condition existed on the defendant’s property, but that they knew or should have known it existed and also that they had a reasonable opportunity to remedy it. Additionally, if the injury occurred on any governmental property, you may be required to place that governmental entity on formal notice of the claim.
Stated differently, Maryland premises liability claims are based on the fault of the owner of the property – you are not automatically entitled to compensation simply because you fell on someone else’s property. Negligence is a legal requirement, which means that legal defenses like contributory negligence, comparative negligence (in states other than Maryland) and assumption of risk are all available to the defendant property owner.
This puts the burden on the Plaintiff to establish how long the hazardous condition had existed prior to the incident and also whether the property owner had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the hazardous condition even if they had notice.
These questions are fact specific and depend on the nature of a particular case. For example, if someone spills water on the floor at the grocery store and you slip and fall on the water 45 seconds later, most people would agree that 45 seconds was not sufficient time to provide the property owner with a reasonable opportunity to clean up the mess before you fell.
However, if we change the hypothetical to add that at the time the water was spilt, there was a store employee standing directly next to the wet floor with a mop in his hand, and that the employee did nothing to clean the spill before the fall, it may well be that 45 seconds did provide a reasonable opportunity.
So, as you can tell, there are a lot of factors that need to be evaluated in order to determine whether a party has a viable premises liability claim. And this also makes clear how important it is to have a personal injury attorney with the knowledge and experience of handling such claims to help guide you through the process.
What Does This Mean for Me?
First and foremost, make sure you gather all the information your personal injury attorney might need in order to properly evaluate your trip and fall claim. It cannot be overstated how important that is. That includes:
Taking photos of the scene of the incident where you sustained your slip and fall injury while the hazardous condition still exists
Taking photos of your injuries at the time
Get names and contact information of any witnesses
If there were no witnesses, make sure to file a report or at least someone know what happened. It can be tremendously beneficial to have a contemporaneous report of the incident. And the lack of one, can be very harmful.
Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In many instances, especially when falls occur in commercial establishments, there is video footage of what occurred. But that video footage is not kept permanently and if there is no request made to preserve the footage, it will likely be deleted and forever lost. A good lawyer will know to send a preservation letter to the company or store requesting that they keep the video footage.
This legal standard and requirement requires extensive investigation and research by an attorney who knows and understands the law. Neil has handled many premises liability or “slip and fall” claims in his career and knows exactly how to investigate these claims to maximize the chance of success. And in addition to any investigation, we will handle all other aspects of the case as well including negotiating with the insurance company and, if necessary, taking the case to court. You owe us nothing unless we recover.
So if you were injured on someone else’s property in Baltimore or anywhere in the state of Maryland, call us at 443-275-NEIL (6345) and we can schedule a free consultation to discuss your personal injury claim and make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Let us fight for you!
Maryland Areas We Serve
Anne Arundel County
Prince George's County
Queen Anne's County
St. Mary's County