When people refer to a “slip-and-fall accident,” they usually mean one of two types: the slip and fall or the trip and fall. The first indicates a fall caused by slipping on a slick surface, and the second refers to a fall caused by tripping over an object in the way or a defect in the path. Both can be debilitating or even fatal, especially to older adults. According to the CDC, one out of five falls results in an injury, and falls have led to over 32,000 deaths among older adults annually.

Common results of falls from slipping or tripping include:

  • Broken bones
  • Joint injuries: knees, ankles, wrists
  • Head injuries: skull fractures, traumatic brain injuries
  • Hip fractures

Any personal injury like a fall can result in a tort claim if another party is liable. That means that if you are injured in a fall, you have the right to sue for compensation if:

  • The premises owner had a duty of care toward you while you were on their property
  • They breached that duty by not taking reasonable care
  • As a result of that breach, you were injured

South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state. If a court finds you partly at fault for your accident, you cannot recover your full claim for damages, and if you are found to be 51% or more at fault, you cannot recover at all.

Thus, by state law, your pathway to legal recovery will differ depending on where, how, and why you fell, as well as who you are.

When You Are at a Business

In a store, a restaurant, or another business that expects customers, you are an invitee—someone who was invited in for the owner’s benefit. Business owners have the law’s highest duty of care towards their invitees. They must keep their premises safe and inspect them for hazards. Any hazards in the public area must be appropriately marked unless they are open and obvious. Even then, the owner should anticipate the particular issues that the hazard could cause. If the business knew or should have known about the hazard, it can face liability.

Grocery stores in particular often undergo product spillage, creating as many risks as there are products. Liquid spills—broken milk cartons, smashed jars—can lead to slipping, while scattered objects—leaking bags of beans, candy thrown aside—invite tripping.

People often fall because a hazard like this was not cleaned up or cordoned off. Insurance defense lawyers will claim that the hazard was open and obvious or that the person who fell was careless. Whether a plaintiff can recover will depend on what exactly took place, on the evidence they can show, and whether the plaintiff has an attorney on their side.

When You Are Another Person’s Guest

When you are visiting someone else’s home, you are a licensee—allowed to enter the property for your own benefit. Host property owners do not need to keep their property as strictly safe as a business owner does, but they do have a duty of care.

If, for example, a guest trips and falls because there was a hidden or concealed condition known to the land owner and there was no warning or way to see it, the homeowner could be liable. But if you are allowed onto someone’s land for recreational purposes—to hike, to camp, to swim—South Carolina law specifically provides that the owner does not assume liability unless they were grossly negligent or malicious.

If you are injured as a licensee, speaking to an attorney about what happened is even more important. Although no one wants to sue friends or family, homeowners’ insurance policies generally cover injuries that guests might incur at an insured property. Personal injury attorneys are familiar with the process of recovery on insurance policies. Insurance companies may try to “lowball” an unrepresented claimant or deny their claim outright, but an experienced attorney can help resolve the matter quickly and fairly, avoiding the courts entirely.

Falls and Trespassers: Adults and Children

Although well-meaning people do not usually consider themselves trespassers, it can apply to a simple cut across a yard or a stroll through woods. Trespassing simply means being on another person’s property without permission, and there is little legal protection for trespassers. The outdoors can be full of slipping and tripping hazards—concealed burrows, tangling vines—but property owners have no duty of care to adult trespassers. The law only forbids owners from deliberately hurting them.

The law does offer more protection to trespassers who are children. Under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, if an owner knows that children might want to investigate a feature on their property, such as a swimming pool, and knows (or should know) that there are children in the area, they must take reasonable care to secure it. Anywhere that curious children could look for trouble—a building site, an animal pen, an interesting ruin—can be an attractive nuisance. If a child wanders off to look for frogs in standing water at a neighboring property, then slips in the mud and gets injured, the property owner may be liable.

Have You Had a Fall in South Carolina?

If you or your child were injured in a fall on someone else’s property, it’s wise to speak with an attorney about it, no matter how it happened. Experienced personal injury attorneys can review your evidence and your situation to determine what happened and help you recover damages for your medical bills, lost wages, and more. Call Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC today at (803) 888-2200 to schedule a free in-depth consultation.