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How Liability Works In Slip And Fall Cases

by Kristin Hawkins

When a slip and fall lawyer tackles a case, the first order of business is figuring out who the liable party might be. Most of the time, liability rests with a property owner, a renter, or an event holder. There is a bit of a process, though, for how you establish liability and assign it to an at-fault party so let's take a look at it.

Liability for Premises

Nearly every case a slip and fall attorney pursues will derive from the legal concept of premises liability. Premises liability is a portion of American law that asserts that property owners must not leave their locations in dangerous conditions if at all possible. If they fail to do so, an injured party might claim damages from them for negligence.


Most U.S. states have invitation requirements. This applies to situations like when you go to the store. A store usually invites you to use a section of its premises, and they're liable for protecting you from any potential accidents that might be within their control. For example, a cleaning staff member can't mop the floor and just leave a puddle there for someone to slip on. This is why you'll see "wet floor" signs from time to time at stores.

Notable, the more public a space is the less invitation is required. Someone would have to be invited into your house, but the semi-public areas like a sidewalk or your front yard don't require overt invitations because people frequently access those areas.

Generally, closing access to a location imposes an invitation requirement. That's why you'll also see signs that say, "Only employees allowed past this point." Many property owners also put up fences and post notices to further eliminate liability.

Assignment of Liability

In some cases, the property owner is not assigned liability. This is usually due to some sort of usage or rental agreement. When someone rents a business stall at a mall, for example, they take on liability for the small premises they control. The same applies to event organizers of things like concerts and carnivals.

Strict Liability

One fairly rare exception is when someone is working with a known dangerous material. A contractor might be applying a coating to a surface. If they fail to cordon the area and put out signs that warn the public of the hazard, the contractor would likely be the liable party. When working with dangerous materials, strict liability applies, meaning you also won't have to prove negligence.