Proving Fault in Massachusetts Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents in Massachusetts are some of the toughest personal injury claims to win. The reason is that often the accident is solely the fault of the person who slipped and fell. But, of course, many times it is the property owner of the premises who is totally, or at least partially at fault for the accident.
When establishing fault on the part of a property owner in a Massachusetts slip and fall accident – other than those that involve ice and snow – you must generally establish the following, as provided by Findlaw:
There is no precise way to determine when someone else is legally responsible for your injuries if you slip or trip. Each case turns on whether the property owner acted carefully so that slipping or tripping was not likely to happen, and whether you were careless in not seeing or avoiding the condition that caused your fall. Here are some general rules to help you decide whether someone else was at fault for your slip or trip and fall injury.
In most cases, a person injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s property must prove that the cause of the accident was a "dangerous condition", and that the owner or possessor of the property knew of the dangerous condition. A dangerous condition must present an unreasonable risk to a person on the property, and it must have been a condition that the injured party should not have anticipated under the circumstances. This latter requirement implies that people must be aware of, and avoid, obvious dangers.
In order to establish that a property owner or possessor knew of a dangerous condition, it must be shown that:
- The owner/possessor created the condition;
- The owner/possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or
- The condition existed for such a length of time that the owner/possessor should have discovered and corrected it prior to the slip and fall incident in question.
For a property owner or possessor to be held liable, it must have been foreseeable that his negligence would create the danger at issue. For instance, if a can of paint falls to the ground and spills into an aisle in a hardware store and, one day later, the store has not noticed or cleaned up the spill, and someone slips in the paint and is injured, one might argue it was foreseeable that the store’s negligence in failing to inspect its aisles and clean up spills would result in someone slipping and injuring himself on a spilled item.
Occasionally, a plaintiff can prove negligence by showing that the property owner violated a relevant statute. For example, building codes often dictate when and where handrails and other similar features must be installed. If you fall on a stairway that lacked appropriate handrails, and the lack of the handrail caused your injuries, you may have a valid claim against the building owner based on his or her building code violation.