Conditions Leading to Indoor Slip and Fall Accidents
As a small business owner, it is important that you (and your employees) take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of a slip and fall accident on your business's property. What follows are some examples of common conditions that lead to slip and fall accidents indoors, and the rules regarding a business owner's duties with respect to those conditions.
It is expected that businesses will mop, wax, or polish their floors. Nonetheless, if a slip and fall accident occurs as the result of a wet floor, the business owner may be liable. Examples of conduct for which a business owner may be held responsible if a slip and fall accident results are:
- Failing to provide adequate warnings, such as signs, that the floor is being cleaned and is still wet or damp;
- Failing to provide adequate barriers to close off an area where there is a wet or damp floor;
- Using an excessive amount of wax or polish;
- Applying wax or polish unevenly;
- Treating a part of a floor and leaving a part untreated, so that the change in conditions causes a slip and fall;
- Applying a floor treatment to a sloping or inclining part of the floor;
- Failing to use a floor treatment with "non-skid" ingredients, when such treatment is required.
A business owner's (or employee's) neglect in properly maintaining carpeted floors, rugs, and mats can also create liability if a slip and fall accident occurs. Examples of such conditions that often lead to slip and fall accidents are:
- Torn, worn, or broken or bulging areas of carpet;
- Rugs or mats with curled edges, worn spots, or holes with edges sticking up;
- Items caught in the carpet material that stick up and catch on footwear.
Stairs are often made of materials that become worn with continued use. Stair edges can become rounded and may cause people to slip when they step on them. A business owner will be liable for a slip and fall accident occurring on stairs when the owner knew of the dangerous condition, or the condition existed for sufficient time that the owner should have known about it. If the owner knew or should have known about a stairway condition, liability may arise when:
- One or more steps are worn and rounded;
- Debris, such as trash, pieces of paper, dirt, gum, etc., is present on the stairs;
- The stairs have been waxed or polished, and the stair materials lack a non-skid surface;
- A handrail is missing or broken.
Escalators and Elevators
Common mechanisms for getting from one floor to another in a building are escalators and elevators. Because escalators and elevators are designed to carry passengers, in some instances, business owners have a higher legal duty than in other premises liability situations. When vehicles such as trains and buses are used for public transit, the owners of those vehicles are often held to a high standard of conduct. Some courts impose the same high standard of safety on owners and operators of escalators and elevators.
Slip and fall accidents can occur on escalators and elevators when there are unexpected, sudden movements or "jerks" in the machinery, or when articles of clothing, footwear, fingers, hands, or feet are caught in various parts of an escalator or elevator. Business owners are responsible for maintaining their escalators and elevators so that they operate safely.
Legal Advice for Your Business
If you run a business open to the public, you'll need to be aware of the laws surrounding slip and fall accidents. Whether you are attempting to prevent slip and fall accidents or are a party to a lawsuit, speak to a business and commercial law attorney.