Who’s liable if you fall on someone else’s property, or someone falls on yours?
A “premises liability claim” is a type of personal injury claim brought against a property owner for an injury that occurred on their property. The most common type of premises liability claim is a slip and fall.
As the name suggests, a slip and fall claim occurs when someone suffers an injury due to slipping, tripping or falling.
Let’s take a look at what constitutes a slip and fall accident in Tennessee, how liability can be established, and where you can find an attorney to handle your case.
How do slip and fall accidents happen?
There are all sorts of factors that might cause a person to slip and fall. Some common examples include:
- Icy sidewalks
- Spilled drinks
- Protruding objects
- Holes or cracks in the floor
Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere, but some of the most common places include:
- Grocery stores
- Movie theaters
- Stadiums and other sports arenas
- Apartment complexes
- Nursing homes
- Parking garages
When is a property owner liable for your slip and fall?
Property owners are not required to guarantee your safety. In order for a property owner to be held liable for your slip and fall, you need to prove that:
- A dangerous condition (such as a spilled drink or hole) on the property caused your fall,
- The property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, and
- The property owner failed to warn you or fix the dangerous condition.
Cases in which the property owner knew about the dangerous condition are relatively rare. More common are cases in which the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition.
There is no bright-line test to determine when a property owner should have known about a dangerous condition. Courts typically take into account how long the condition existed on the property.
Consider the following real-life example:
Shamery Blair sued the West Town Mall in Knoxville, Tennessee after she slipped and fell on a slick oil spot as she exited the mall.
Shamery couldn’t prove that the West Town Mall knew about the oil spot, so she alleged that the West Town Mall should have known about the oil spot.
To prove that the West Town Mall should have known about the oil spot, Shamery introduced video evidence that the oil spot had been present for several hours.
The court agreed with Shamery and explained that constructive notice can be established by proving that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the defendant should have become aware of the condition. The court also noted that constructive notice can be established by showing that the dangerous condition was recurring.
Evidence commonly used in slip and fall cases includes:
- Security camera footage
- Photographs of the scene
- Testimony from witnesses, property owners, and employees
- Expert testimony and reports from accident reconstructionists, building inspectors, flooring and traction specialists, and medical doctors
Slip and fall lawsuits are a type of personal injury lawsuit. Find out where to file your personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee.
What defense is a property owner likely to raise in a slip and fall case?
The 2 most common defenses raised in slip and fall cases are:
- Open and obvious. Defendants often argue that they’re not at fault because the dangerous condition was “open and obvious.” In other words, you should have seen the dangerous condition and avoided it.Just because a dangerous condition is open and obvious doesn’t mean the property owner automatically wins. Rather, the court will consider the openness and obviousness of a dangerous condition as a factor in determining liability.
- Modified comparative fault. Tennessee follows the modified comparative fault rule, which means that your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. What’s more, if you are 50% or more at fault, you won’t be able to recover any damages.The most common example of a plaintiff who is partially at fault for a slip and fall accident is a plaintiff who is running through a store when they slip on something.
What happens if your slip and fall happens at work?
The vast majority of employers in Tennessee are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation provides financial benefits to employees injured on the job.
If you slip and fall at work, you will, in most cases, file a workers’ compensation claim instead of a personal injury lawsuit.
Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, you don’t need to prove fault to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, you simply must establish that:
- Your employer carries workers’ compensation,
- Your injury occurred during the course and scope of your employment, and
- Your injury is covered by workers’ compensation (most injuries are covered).
If your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation or your slip and fall was caused by the actions of a third party (someone other than your employer or colleagues), you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Your attorney can talk you through these options.
What damages are available in a Tennessee slip and fall case?
Tennessee allows plaintiffs to recover both economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit based on a slip and fall:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by your injury, including medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by your injury, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
In rare cases, when the defendant acted maliciously, fraudulently, or recklessly, plaintiffs may be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants and deter similar actions in the future.
In most cases, Tennessee law caps the amount of non-economic damages you can receive at $750,000 and the amount of punitive damages you can receive at $500,000. However, if you suffer a catastrophic injury, the non-economic damage cap is increased to $1 million.
Learn more about how to calculate the value of a personal injury claim in Tennessee.
How long do you have to file a slip and fall lawsuit?
The statute of limitations determines how long you have to file a lawsuit before that lawsuit is permanently barred. In most slip and fall cases, you have 1 year from the date of the fall to file the lawsuit.
How do you find a slip and fall attorney in Tennessee?
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, it’s important to find a licensed Tennessee attorney who has experience litigating slip and fall cases.
There are a number of resources to help you locate an attorney in Tennessee, including:
When looking for an attorney, keep in mind that attorneys typically represent either plaintiffs (slip and fall victims) or defendants (property owners).
Once you’ve identified a few potential attorneys, set up initial consultations with the attorneys. Initial consultations are typically free and are a great way for you to meet an attorney before you hire them. To make the most out of your initial consultation, consider reviewing the following resources:
- Initial consultations with personal injury attorneys
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- Interview questions to ask your attorney (downloadable checklist)
- What to bring to your first meeting (downloadable checklist)
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.