Liability in a Warwick Slip & Fall Injury Claim
Property owners have a responsibility to lawful visitors to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. This may include keeping walkways, stairs, and floors clean, well-lit, and free from hazards. In Rhode Island, a property owner may be held legally responsible for a slip and fall accident that occurs on his or her property if:
- The property owner knew or should have known, based on reasonable care, of the dangerous situation;
- The property owner failed to address the dangerous hazard, whether by repairing it or placing a warning sign informing others of the potential hazard; and
- Someone was injured as a result of the property owner’s lack of reasonable care.
Duties Owed to Others by Property Owners
Slip and falls are sometimes referred to as premises liability cases. No matter what they are called, though, they are based on the allegation that a property owner behaved carelessly in maintaining their grounds and, in so doing, violated a legal obligation to you. Their obligation depends on the reason you are on the property in the first place:
Customers and Invited Guests
If a property owner opens their business or home to you and invites you to come onto their property, that property owner owes you a duty of care. Specifically, the owner must take reasonable steps to identify potential hazards that could hurt you. Once identified, the property owner must either repair or warn you about them in an obvious and conspicuous way.
For example, suppose that you are shopping at the grocery store and notice a wet floor due to a leaking refrigeration unit. The property owner has a duty to clean the spill up promptly and place a placard or other warning sign to prevent others from slipping on the wet surface.
The duty to correct hazards extends not only to those dangers the property owner knows about but also to those that they should have known about. This means that property owners can also breach their duty of care toward guests and customers if they do not make regular inspections of their property to look for dangerous conditions.
Landowners who allow others to use their property but do not invite such people onto their property owe a duty of care to those individuals, albeit not as great as the duty owed to invited guests. In this situation, the property owner must take reasonable steps to repair the dangers and hazardous conditions they know about.
For instance, if a property owner allows beachgoers to walk across their property to gain access to a nearby beach, that property owner would need to repair an obviously defective walkway or move a hose lying across it.
Similarly, if a guest tells the landowner about a danger they encountered, the landowner would need to take reasonable steps to fix or warn about the danger. However, the property owner does not need to actively inspect their property and look for dangerous conditions that are not immediately apparent.
Property owners owe no legal duties to individuals who are present on their property without their consent. This means the property owner does not need to take any action to protect a trespasser from a dangerous condition that might exist on the owner’s property.
The owner cannot, however, deliberately hurt or create a dangerous condition just to harm a trespasser. For example, they cannot lay a trap for a trespasser designed to make them slip and fall.
Determining your legal status is the first step of building a successful slip and fall case. Trust your Rhode Island slip and fall attorney from Sands Law to take a hard look at the facts of your case and accurately determine your status. After doing so, they will take the necessary steps to help you assert your legal rights.