Slip & Fall Information Center

NJ Store and Business Liability Regarding Slip and Fall Accidents

It's usually not a good thing when you slip and fall. It's worse when you slip and fall and suffer injuries as a result. And it doesn't get much worse than when you slip and fall, suffer injuries, and it's someone else's fault. That "someone else" is often a retail store or other commercial enterprise (even commercial residential building) which typically attract large numbers of people. These people, called "business invitees", enter the premises at the express or implied invitation of the business owner and for the owner's benefit.

Once you've stepped into or onto the premises of a store owner or occupier, you are entitled to certain basic protections. Specifically, the landowner owes all customers a duty to make and keep the premises safe, even if you don't end up spending any money while there. If they fail to do so, the owner/occupier may be held liable for damages resulting from an injury you suffer as a result of that failure. The owner's responsibilities include:

  • Warning about dangerous conditions of which the owner/occupier is aware which are not obvious to the invitee;
  • Using ordinary care while conducting business operations;
  • Conducting reasonable inspections for dangerous conditions and, if discovered, remedy them.

If you're out shopping and are injured because you slipped and fell while on store/mall property, there are some things you must know if you hope to recover damages. First, New Jersey law requires that you commence legal action (meaning file a law suit) within two years of the date of your injury. If you put off filing a legal claim because you are in the midst of negotiations with the landowner's insurance carrier, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

Although the insurer's claims adjuster may try to convince you that you don't need a lawyer, remember this: The claims adjuster works for the landowner's insurance carrier which, in turn, works for its shareholders. The bottom line? Well, the bottom line is that the insurer is concerned solely about its bottom line, not your claim. The adjuster's job is to get you to agree to settle for as little as possible, a job which you can make much easier if you allow the statute of limitations for commencing legal action to expire. When that happens, the insurer can make you a "take it or leave it" offer, assuming they make you an offer at all.

What does this all mean to you? Well, because the landowner has professional representation dedicated to protecting its interests, shouldn't you as well? If the insurer's number one job is to ensure you recover as little in the way of damages as possible, wouldn't it make sense for you to use the services of someone for whom the number one job is maximizing any recovery to which you may be entitled? If you or a loved one is injured after slipping and falling on the premises of a commercial establishment, you would be well-served to speak with an attorney experienced in New Jersey personal injury law. Still not convinced an attorney is needed? Perhaps the following information will help persuade you otherwise.

An owner or occupier (and sometimes both) may be liable for injuries you suffer that were caused by a slip and fall on commercial property if:

  1. The owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition in question
  2. The owner, by its action or inaction, created an unreasonable risk of harm
  3. That the dangerous condition was an actual and proximate cause of your accident and resulting injuries, and
  4. That you did, in fact, suffer injury

In a retail setting, a slip and fall accident often occurs because of a substance (juice, liquid soap, cleaning fluid, grapes, etc.) on the floor that caused the customer to slip and fall, that he was injured because of the accident and that the owner or occupier caused the dangerous condition, knew or should have known of its presence and should have cleaned it up but did not do so. The longer the substance was allowed to be on the floor, the greater the chance that you can establish that the owner/occupier knew or should have known of the condition and was, therefore, negligent in failing to clean it up and prevent your accident from happening in the first place. Other factors courts have determined support a finding of negligence include:

  • If the substance appeared to have been on the floor for a significant period of time. For example, was it partially dry or were there footprints of other customers in it. If so, the property owner/occupier will likely be considered to have had "constructive notice" of the dangerous condition;
  • Evidence that customers often dropped similar substances near the same spot or that substances frequently made their way to the floor (as is often the case in produce aisles);
  • Evidence that the store lacked reasonable inspection procedures;
  • Evidence that the substance could be observed by store personnel.

If you believe you can show evidence of the factors necessary to establish that negligence of the owner/occupier caused you to slip and fall and injure yourself, you can be fairly confident you'll recover damages, right? Don't be. Remember that claims adjuster? The one whose job it is to protect the interests of the property owner and the bottom line of the insurer and its shareholders? Right. The person who not only doesn't work for you but is actually compensated to work against you? That adjustor may assert that the store owner or operator did not know about the dangerous condition or that the dangerous condition did not exist long enough for store staff to discover or remedy it. And... bingo, the store wasn't negligent! So now not only do you have to show evidence supporting your case, your evidence has to be strong enough to disprove the store owner's defense.

Which brings us back to whether you need a lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to evaluate the information related to your accident and determine what rights you have, what the owner's responsibility was, what your chances for recovery are and whether you should communicate with the insurer at all (rather than relying on legal representation instead). If your injury is minor, or if you really believe the claims person is being fair with you (which is so unlikely) perhaps you can get the claim settled by yourself. But don't be surprised if the claims person leads you to believe he or she will be fair with you and in the end makes no offer at all - or an offer so low it offends your sensibilities. It's at that point you'll remember reading this and wonder why you did not get a lawyer involved sooner.

With no disrespect intended, if you are reading this you probably are not sufficiently qualified to handle a personal injury insurance claim or legal matter on your own. This is, however, what I am qualified to do. It is what I have been doing for clients for over thirty years. I gather all the information available necessary to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your insurance claim and potential litigation if the claim isn't settled to your satisfaction. I'll gather all the facts that may impact your chances of prevailing, including:

  • Did the owner cause the dangerous condition or allow one to exist?
  • Did the owner remedy the dangerous condition?
  • Was your presence on the premises legitimate?
  • Were you acting in a reasonable prudent (safe) manner or did you contribute to your accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a slip and fall accident that occurred on commercial property, I can explain your rights, your legal options and fully represent your efforts to recover damages for the injuries you suffered. I'll communicate with the insurer and, if settlement negotiations fail, zealously represent you in a court of law. It's what I do. There is no obligation to talk to me, and the consultation is free. There is no fee if there is no recovery. I can be reached at 888-233-1272, 908-233-5800, or by email at Frank@FrankSmithLaw.com .