Open and Obvious Defenses In Slip and Fall Cases

March 21, 2019

Delaware County Personal Injury Lawyers discuss "open and obvious" defenses used in slip and fall accident claims. Property owners should know that they are legally responsible to protect pedestrians or visitors from unreasonable and dangerous site hazards. Winter hazards such as snow and ice on the premises are a common occurrence. But slip and fall accidents can happen year-round on and at all kinds of business and commercial sites.

For those who are injured in a fall on another’s property, the first question after getting treatment is often: Who is responsible for my medical bills?

Premises Liability

A property owner has a legal responsibility to maintain the premises in a reasonable condition. Maintenance of the property, such as patching pavement holes; clearing spills, ice, and snow; and removing obstacles are common sense precautions.

Premises liability means that the owner is responsible if an unmitigated hazard results in an accident or injury to a visitor or customer.

But a property owner can try to argue that because the visitor should have noticed an obvious hazard, they, and not the owner, are legally liable. This is known as the “open and obvious” defense, and it is helpful to understand your rights if you have been injured.

Know Your Rights

Anyone who has experienced a fall knows that the injuries can range from minimal to major and can have long-term effects. They can include head injuries, back and neck injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding, and lacerations. If the hazard was something that the owner should have worked to mitigate, then the victim would likely have a strong case for their claim.

But the open and obvious defense can be used to deny coverage, if it can be demonstrated that a reasonable person should have been aware of the hazard and themselves taken steps to avoid it. Pedestrians or visitors do have a duty to use reasonable care and caution. Examples of this might be a pedestrian avoiding a raised parking barrier in a well-lit area or a large pavement hole that is easily visible.

Document Everything

Those injured in a slip and fall case should also document the conditions and hazards with witness statements, notes, and photographs as soon as is feasible. Helpful information also includes whether there were any warning signs or barriers, whether a spill or slippery surface was not cleared within a reasonable time, or why the hazard existed such as lack of removing snow and ice.

There are exceptions that courts have recognized to the open and obvious defense, such as code violations which fall under the legal doctrine of “negligence per se.” This means that even if the victim should have been able to view the hazard, it is still deemed negligence on the part of the owner because of the violation of a legal statute.

Courts will examine each case individually and assess whether the property owner or the accident victim is responsible. 

Delaware County Personal Injury Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Advocate for Those Injured in Slip and Fall Accidents

The Delaware County personal injury lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. are experienced in representing victims of slip and fall accidents and helping you get the compensation and medical care you deserve for your injuries. Contact us today by calling 610-565-3701 or contact us online for a free consultation. We represent clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County from our offices in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania.