Slip and Fall Claims Made Easy

Thousands of Chicago residents visit the emergency room every year as a result of injuries sustained in slip and fall accidents that occur on improperly secured or unsafe properties. Slip and fall claims are born when a hazardous or dangerous condition on another person’s property causes a victim to slip, trip, or fall, and be injured. Hazardous conditions such as wet floors, uneven ground, faulty wiring, loose carpeting, and improperly stacked merchandise can cause accidents resulting in serious or permanent injuries.

Under Illinois laws, property and business owners have a duty to provide reasonably safe environments for visitors to their property. If a property owner fails to take reasonable care, he or she may be held accountable for damages incurred by those hurt on the property. However, the injured person has to prove that the owner was aware or should have been aware of the hazardous condition, but failed to take timely steps to protect potential victims.

What Duty Do Chicago Property Owners Have to Prevent Slip and Falls?

Under the Illinois Premises Liability Act, a property owner, occupier, or operator has a duty to inspect and maintain the property to prevent harm from befalling people who visit. If a hazard is present, public notice should be provided. This applies to both public and private property, including shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, bars, stores, amusement parks, parking lots, apartment and condominium buildings, private residences, and more. Property owners and operators include businesses, landlords, homeowners, and others responsible for a property.

The property does not have to be in perfect condition. However, the ordinary care standard means the place is reasonably safe for guests, especially if it is a public place. For instance, a property owner or operator should fix a pothole, repair an uneven walking surface, or ensure there’s adequate lighting. Alternatively, he or she can have signs on the hazardous area to warn visitors.

Duty to Invitees and Licensees

Invitees are individuals who visit the property for the benefit of the property owners, such as an employee or a customer. Licensees are invited or uninvited individuals who enter a property for their own amusement, such as attending a party or social gathering, or a person whose presence is warranted because of their occupation, such as a delivery driver.

Traditionally, premises liability laws in Illinois distinguished these two categories of people and required separate property owners’ duties for them. Thanks to the 1995 amendment of the Illinois Premises Liability Act, both licensees and invitees are now afforded the standard of care. They should be able to enjoy their time on a property that has no hazards or be warned if there may be hazards or defects that could cause them harm.

A property owner or operator doesn’t have a duty to do the following:

  • Warn entrants about hazardous conditions that are obvious and exposed that any reasonable person should discover on his or her own
  • Warn visitors of defects or dangers the owner is not aware of and has no way to be aware of
  • Warn visitors of dangers that may arise from their own misuse of the property

Duty to Trespassers

Chicago property owners or occupiers do not owe a duty of reasonable care to adult trespassers. Failing to repair a defect or warn about a hazard will not make the owner liable for harm sustained by a trespasser. An exception does not apply when a child trespasser is involved.

However, if injuries to a trespasser result from the owner’s willful and wanton conduct, the property owner may be held liable. Willful and wanton conduct encompasses intentional actions or outright disregard for the safety of others.

Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall Case

When a person is injured in a slip and fall accident on another’s property, he or she may bring a claim against the owner, operator, or occupier of the property. But for a defendant to be held legally responsible for injuries sustained in a slip and fall, the plaintiff has to prove the following:

There Was an Unsafe Condition on the Property

A hazardous condition must have caused the accident. Examples of unsafe conditions include:

  • Liquid, grease, or food on the floors
  • Accumulation of snow and ice on walking surfaces
  • Cracked, uneven, or badly damaged sidewalks, walkways, or floorboards
  • Debris or objects left on floors or walkways
  • Missing, loose, or damaged railings in stairwells
  • Poor lighting

The property owner must have caused the hazardous condition, or at least allowed it to persist.

The Property Owner Failed to Make the Property Reasonably Safe

Slip and fall claims usually hinge on the notion of negligence. This assesses whether the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances that resulted in injuries. In determining the “reasonableness” of a property owner, the law focuses on adequate and regular efforts to keep the property clean and safe.

Here are some of the issues considered when evaluating an owner’s liability:

  • Had the danger existed long enough that the owner or operator should have known about it?
  • Did the owner have a procedure for regularly inspecting, cleaning, or repairing the property?
  • Could a hazardous object have been covered, removed, or made safe?
  • Could a warning sign have been given, or a barrier have been created?

The Property Owner Had Notice of the Danger

A property owner can be held liable if the plaintiff can prove that the owner knew or should have known that the unsafe condition on the property posed a risk of harm to visitors. Also, the property owner should have expected that visitors may fail to recognize the defect or hazard. Additionally, the owner failed to fix the issues or warn visitors of the danger.

Property owners and operators are entitled to a reasonable amount of time to discover the presence of unsafe conditions. For example, if a child spills some juice in a grocery store, and a shopper immediately slips and falls on the juice, the grocery store owner won’t be held liable for injuries related to the fall.

This can be the most challenging element to prove in a slip and fall case. If the accident occurs in a business premises, the management will likely generate an incident report to identify the cause of the accident and provide insight into how long the owner or operator was aware of the unsafe condition that caused the fall.

To prove that the property owner was or should have been aware of a dangerous condition, the plaintiff may use surveillance video of the areas where the accident took place to show how the condition arose and much time it was allowed to exist.

The Plaintiff Suffered Harm and Damages Due to the Hazardous Condition

The last element in slip and fall claims is proving that the plaintiff’s injury was a direct result of dangerous conditions on the premises. To seek compensation after a slip and fall accident, the victim must have suffered real and provable injuries. This can be established using medical records, witness testimony, photos, incident report, and other types of evidence.

In the same vein, the plaintiff must have suffered damages due to the slip and fall injuries to recover compensation. This can include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, medical assistive equipment, loss of earning capacity, rehabilitation, and pain and suffering.

When to Make a Claim for a Slip and Fall Injury

You shouldn’t wait to report and file a slip and fall claim. As soon as the accident occurs, seek medical attention and contact a Chicago slip and fall lawyer to start the process. There are time limitations for filing a slip and fall claim. In Illinois, you have 2 years from the time of the incident to file a claim or lawsuit against the alleged negligent party. If the slip and fall happened on property owned or operated by a local government entity, such as a government building, public school, or city sidewalk, the statute of limitations is 1 year from the time of the accident. If you delay or fail to file your claim within this time limit, you’ll likely lose the ability to recover compensation for your losses.

There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, so it’s important to talk to your slip and fall attorney in Chicago about how the time limits may apply to your claim.

What to Do After a Slip and Fall in a Public Place

Knowing what to do if you slip and fall in a store or any other public place plays a key role in protecting your claim. Taking the necessary steps immediately after the accident could boost your chances of recovering fair compensation for your losses and damages.

Get Medical Treatment Without Delay

Getting prompt medical treatment is one of the most important things you can do after a fall. This allows you to establish a link between your injuries and the accident. Injuries are not always obvious, but a doctor’s examination can help determine your health issues and recommend treatment.

If you’ve been severely injured, allow a bystander or the manager to call 911. Never refuse medical treatment at the scene, as it could give the insurance carrier an excuse to deny your claim. If an ambulance isn’t called to the store, visit the emergency clinic or see your primary physician that same day.

Adhere to Your Doctor’s advice 

Once your physician examines your condition and gives you a course of treatment, it’s important that you follow the plan to the letter. Following your doctor’s orders for treatment could speed up your recovery time and improve your chances of winning your personal injury case.

Your obligation as the victim is to mitigate the damages by preventing them from worsening unreasonably. If you miss medical appointments or fail to adhere to the medical plan, the insurance company (or the jury) will assume your injuries were not serious or that you recovered as of the time that you stopped following the plan.

Identify What Caused the Slip and Fall Accident

While you may be in shock and pain after the accident, you’ll need to look around to determine what caused your accident. For example, did you slip on a puddle of water or a wet floor because no one posted a sign? Were the handrails unstable? Did you trip on an obstacle because there was poor lighting?

Establishing the exact cause of the slip and fall helps you determine if you’re a victim of someone else’s negligence. 

Report Your Accident 

If you slipped and fell at a business premises, make sure the management knows of the incident and your injury before you leave. This can put it down on official record, detailing what happened and that you informed someone. Be sure to ask for a copy of the accident report before leaving the premises.

Collect Important Pieces of Evidence

Evidence collection should begin immediately after your slip and fall accident. If you can, take videos and pictures of the accident scene and the injuries sustained. Get close-up photos of the hazardous conditions that led to your injury. If you can’t take the photos, ask someone to help you.

Also, be sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses to your accident. Do not wash or clean the clothes and shoes you wore on the day of the incident. Any damage, blood, or dirt on your clothes may serve as proof of the seriousness of your accident.

You could also benefit from noting down as much information as you can regarding the facts surrounding your fall. And make sure you maintain a case file by saving all documentation linked to your case.

Don’t Accept or Assign Blame

Avoid any inclination to discuss the details of your case with the property owner or his or her insurance company until you have talked to your lawyer. Also, don’t make excuses for your fall. Blaming your shoes or underestimating your injuries could compromise your claim.

In the same vein, avoid giving recorded statements or signing anything from the property owner or insurance carrier.

Contact a Chicago Slip and Fall Attorney

A slip and fall accident attorney can provide valuable assistance after your accident. He or she can investigate your case, identify all liable parties, gather necessary evidence, and file a premises liability claim within the stipulated time. Your lawyer will also deal with the insurance claims process and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you get maximum compensation for your damages. Above all, they can help you understand what to do and what not to do after a slip and fall accident in Chicago.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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