Business owners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for customers, suppliers, and anyone who the business expects to use the property. Business owners need to prioritize protecting people who visit the property from slips and falls. The most common type of accident at a retail store, apartment complex, hotel, or any other business is a slip and fall. Business owners include for-profit businesses that sell products and services. Organizations and non-profits are generally liable for slip and fall accidents too.
The duty to protect visitors applies to anyone who is invited onto the property and to anyone the property owner allows on the property – even if the person isn’t on the property to make a purchase. Generally, the duty to protect against slip and fall accidents does not apply to trespassers.
Why do slip and fall accidents happen?
The owners of the premises should take steps to make necessary repairs, conduct inspections, warn users of the property, and other precautions to ensure invitees and licensees don’t fall. Some of the common causes of falls include:
- Spills from drinks or any type of liquid container
- Snow and ice that melts
- Carpets that are torn
- Broken tiles
- Ramps that are inclined too steeply and don’t have handrails
- Objects on the floor of a store or building
- Objects on the grounds of a construction site
- Other causes depending on the type of business
What slip and fall protections business owners should take?
Some of the general steps business owners should take include:
- Routinely inspect their property for any possible dangers
- Respond promptly to any complaints about the condition of their property by making necessary repairs or taking other appropriate actions
- Place warning signs and markers near any part of the property the business owner knows to be dangerous
- Make sure that all parts of the property that anyone might use are properly lit
- Comply with any building code and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements
Some of the solutions that should focus on the specific type of dangers are:
- Wet and slippery surfaces should be dried as soon as possible
- If surfaces are polished, customers should be warned not to walk on the polished area
- Ice and snow should be removed as soon as possible
- Ramps should have friction strips or materials that provide traction
- Workers at construction sites should be required to wear sturdy shoes and safety helmets
- Carpets and tiles should be repaired
Understanding Washington’s rules about “unnatural accumulations”
Not all dangerous conditions will necessarily lead to a successful claim. For example, if snow piles up around a business’ front doors, but that business remains closed, then people who fall outside the business may not be able to sue the owner for negligence.
Further, Washington State has rules about the way snow or ice accumulate. Basically, it has to be an “unnatural accumulation” for an owner to be liable. So, if rain coming down a rainspout pools in front of a door and creates an icy patch, and you slip on that ice, then you can hold the owner responsible because the ice wouldn’t have been there if not for the rain, and the rain wouldn’t have landed in that spot if it hadn’t traveled down the rain spout.
What kind of injuries do slip and fall accidents on a business cause?
In tragic cases, someone you love may die if they strike their head, the fall is from a great height, or for other reasons. Slip and fall accidents can cause:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage and/or paralysis
- Simple and compound fractures
- Muscle and soft tissue injuries
- Torn ligaments and nerve damage
- Cuts and bruises
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver, WA premises liability lawyers hold all responsible parties accountable for slip and fall accidents. In addition to the business owner, maintenance crews and repair companies may also be liable. If you or a loved one slipped and fell while on the property of any business, call our offices in Vancouver, WA and Battle Ground, WA at 360-200-7137 or use our contact form to discuss your case.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.