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What Happens If You Slip And Fall At A Business?
Landowners and occupiers are responsible for keeping their buildings and grounds reasonably safe for visitors. Pennsylvania courts have noted that owners of businesses open to the public do not have to guarantee the safety of all customers and business visitors--they are not the "insurers" of the public's safety. However, a business owner is responsible for injuries suffered by patrons if the owner either knows of a potentially dangerous condition on the business premises or should know of the condition and fails to correct it or warn customers about it.
One of the most common causes of injury to business customers is a customer's fall on a slippery or defective surface. Supermarket fresh fruit, bakery goods, or other spilled food can create dangerous conditions for customers whose attention is drawn to the eye-catching shelf displays. Water or ice tracked into a store on a foul-weather day can cause or contribute to falls.
Store owners are responsible if the spilled substance or wet floor was neglected for an unreasonable period of time. If a store owner knows or should know that the floor is in a dangerous condition, he or she will be held responsible. In slip-and-fall cases, great attention is focused on the specific condition of the floor and on the facts relating to the owner's knowledge.
Business owners should maintain records of their cleaning and maintenance--even hourly records in large establishments. By requiring all employees to watch for spills or slippery conditions and to keep records of their vigilance, store owners can substantially limit their liability.
While it may be very difficult to do so while in pain or discomfort, a customer who is injured in a fall should be sure to carefully look at the area where he or she fell and determine what caused the fall. For example, where a food substance is ground into the floor and tracked through the area, it is clear that the substance was spilled long before the customer's fall. Noticing these details can make a tremendous difference in a liability case.
Falls on snowy or icy surfaces are treated differently since even the most vigilant business owner sometimes cannot keep up with falling snow and ice. An owner is only liable to customers for their injuries from falls if the accumulation of snow and ice has extended over such time that it has formed into "ridges and hills."
The "ridges and hills doctrine" protects an owner or occupier of land from liability for generally slippery conditions where ice and snow have not been permitted to unreasonably accumulate in ridges or elevations. This doctrine came about because a requirement that a business's walkways always be free of ice and snow would impose "an impossible burden in view of the climatic conditions in this hemisphere." Local ordinances and common sense require that business owners promptly remove snow and ice from areas where people can be expected to walk.
If you are injured by a fall on snow or ice, you should determine whether your fall was unavoidable or was the fault of careless snow removal. Unless the snowy/icy condition is marked by an accumulation that has formed ridges and hills, the business owner will not be considered negligent.