The general rule is that the property owners have a duty of care to ensure that the property and public sidewalks adjacent to the property are reasonably safe for all lawful visitors. There are two types of lawful visitors: invitees and licensees. Invitees are people that the property owner invites to come onto their property for lawful purposes, like shoppers, customers of a restaurant, or friends you invite over for a dinner party. Licensees are allowed to be on your property for their benefit, not for your services like a utility meter reader or a mail carrier. In Massachusetts, the distinction between invitees and licensees has been largely abandoned. As a general rule for property owners, you owe a duty of reasonable care to anyone who is lawfully present on your property, which means that you have to keep your property safe from hazards and remedy any dangerous conditions.
There are also trespassers that landowners owe only a lesser duty of care, warning a trespasser of any known or existing hazards.
Let’s discuss the two key defenses often brought up by the homeowner or their insurance company in premises liability cases. One, issue of lack of notice to the homeowner. A homeowner or their insurance company might raise as a defense that, because the homeowner didn’t know and didn’t have actual notice of the hazardous condition on their premises, they didn’t have the opportunity to remedy it, therefore they cannot be held responsible for the victim’s injuries. This is an instance where the importance of having an attorney comes into play. We respond that even if you didn’t have actual notice, you probably had constructive notice. Constructive notice is if the hazardous condition has existed long enough so that they should have been aware of the hazard and should have remedied it in the exercise of ordinary care.
Two, the issue of the victim’s own negligence or fault in causing their injuries. The defendant might argue that the defect is so open and obvious that a reasonably prudent person would have seen the defect and would have taken precautionary measures to avoid getting injured by the defect.
What Are Some Of The Most Common Causes Of Slip And Fall Accidents?
A common cause is defects on a public way, like a protruding metal post, a hole, uneven walking surface, or obstacles. We had a client who was pregnant who tripped on a hose in an area where sidewalk cleaning work was being done. Another common cause is an accumulation of snow and ice. A very interesting cause of slip and fall accident is display produce in supermarkets. It typically occurs in supermarkets where if they have a display of produce, grapes, for example, or corns, that customers can help themselves. We had a case where our plaintiff was injured slipping and falling on a grocery store’s fallen grape. In this type of premises liability case, you don’t have to show that the supermarket had notice. There is a presumption that it should have been foreseeable to the supermarket that these types of self-help produce stands might create slip-and-fall hazard because items are apt to fall on the floor, causing someone to slip and fall and be injured.
Uneven or shaggy carpeting in a restaurant caused one of our clients to trip and fall. We were able to prevail in representing her and getting an excellent settlement. We also had a case where our client suffered severe injuries after she tripped and fell on the legs of a clothing rack that were obscured or hidden by the clothing items that were on display. We were able to prevail in resolving it and getting an excellent settlement for her as well.
What Are Some Common Injuries That Result From Slip And Fall Or Trip and Fall Accidents?
The woman that tripped over the hose ended up having steel pins put in both of her legs because of the injury. She was a medical professional, impacting her ability to practice medicine, which added value to her settlement. Then we had a still-active case in which our client tripped and fell because of a protruding metal post on a sidewalk. She fractured the shoulder ball, and it happened years ago, but she is still suffering. She still can’t raise her hand overhead.
For more information on Premises Liability Claims In Massachusetts, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (617) 752-7571 today.
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