If you slipped and fell due to your own clumsiness or poor balance, that may just be bad luck and an unfortunate event. However, if you slipped on someone else’s property due to a hazard, or because of an unsafe condiiton, that may be cause for you to file a lawsuit and seek monetary compensation from the property owner or their insurance company.
There is something in Texas known as “premises liability”, and it is the legal principle that property owners have a legal duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition for those who come onto it. If they fail to do so, and someone is injured, then they may be legally responsible for the injury and the costs of treatment.
Slipping and falling isn’t automatic grounds for a lawsuit, but it might be a reason to explore one. Here’s a few things you need to know about premises liability laws in Texas if you have been hurt in a fall!
Your Relationship To The Property Owner Matters.
Under Texas state laws, property owners owe a different level of care to different people who come onto their property. Laws break up visitors into three categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
Invitees are people who enter onto a property for the benefit of the property owner, such as customers in a store or employees in a workplace or contractors fixing something at a place of business. Licensees are people who are property with the owner’s permission but for their own benefit, such as social guests at a house party, or people who go into a store to use the restroom. Trespassers, as you can guess, are people who are on the property without the owner’s permission.
To invitees, property owners have a duty to both take reasonable steps to discover and repair dangerous conditions and warn invitees of any hazards that can’t immediately be fixed, but to licensees, property owners only need to warn about those hazards. Owners aren’t required to do anything to keep the property safe for or warn trespassers, but they can’t intentionally harm them, and they can’t create hazards that are likely to injure them without warning.
Your classification as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser at the time of your fall will determine whether or not you have any basis for seeking to recover damages.
For example, if you were shopping at a grocery store and you slipped on a wet puddle of water in the refrigerated section that was later determined to be caused by something in one of the refrigerators that was leaking, the grocery store’s owner and their insurance company would likely be liable for your injuries if there were no warning signs or other preventative measures taken.
Both Public And Private Property Owners Have A Duty Of Care.
Premises liability laws in Texas apply to both public and private property owners, and to owners of all types of property – commercial, residential, public, government, etc. This means whether you were at a park, on a sidewalk, at a neighbor’s house, or somewhere else, as long as you were an invitee or licensee, if you were injured, they could be considered negligent and may owe you for damages you incurred.
You Have To Be Able To A) Prove Fault And B) Show That Direct Injuries And Costs Resulted From The Slip.
In order to hold a property owner accountable for your injuries, you have to show that they (or their employees) either caused or created the hazard that led to your fall, knew about the hazard but didn’t take reasonable steps to fix the problem or limit the danger, or should have known about the danger even if they didn’t because a reasonable person in their position would have.
(That word “reasonable” is the reason why premises liability in Texas can get so complicated. It doesn’t mean perfectly – it means reasonably, which is a word open to interpretation and that will ultimately, in many cases, cause a legal dispute.)
You will also need to show that the hazard was the direct cause of your injuries and that there were damages because of the hazard/your injuries. These damages can be economic (monetary), but can also be for things like pain and suffering, which may include the physical pain you experienced, a lack of sleep, emotional trauma, etc.
If You Were Partially At Fault For The Fall, Comparative Negligence May Come Into Play.
Proving fault can be complicated, as we mentioned, and most property owners and their insurance companies will not just accept losing a lawsuit without a fight. If they can prove that you were on part of the property where visitors weren’t expected, weren’t paying attention to where you were walking, wearing unsafe footwear, or that whatever hazard that caused you to slip and fall should have been obvious to you, then you may not be able to recover as much money as you otherwise would have.
For example, say that you fell inside a restaurant due to a bunched-up rug and broke your leg. Texas comparative negligence rules allow for damages to be reduced according to the percentage of your fault if it was 50% or less. A jury finds that you are 30% to blame for the fall because you were wearing sunglasses inside and were on your phone, so you didn’t see the hazard, even though the restaurant owner should have prevented it and provided warning. If they found that your damages totaled $100,000, for a subsequent surgery and other costs, then the restaurant owner would only owe you $70,000. (If you were found to be more than 50% at fault, you would not be able to recover any compensation at all).
There Is A Statute Of Limitations.
In Texas, you only have two years from the date the accident occurred to file a lawsuit, or else you will likely lose your right to take legal action and recover compensation.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall that wasn’t your fault, contacting a skilled local personal injury attorney who is familiar with Texas premises liabiltiy law gives you the best chances at winning fair compensation! At Ted Machi & Associates, P.C., we have over 25 years of combined experience. Our small firm that’s big on results offers a level of high-touch, personal legal service that larger firms can’t match. We’ll listen to your story, investigate your case, answer all of your questions, and explain how much your injuries may be worth! Call today to schedule a free consultation.