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Who is responsible when you slip and fall?

As a New Jersey resident, you know how hazardous outdoor walking can be, particularly during the winter months when the possibility of snow- or ice-covered sidewalks and parking lots always exists. Should you happen to slip and fall, however, exactly who do you sue to recover your medical costs and other damages?

As FindLaw explains, a slip-and-fall action is a form of premises liability lawsuit. Under the legal theory of premises liability, the property’s owner is the person responsible for keeping the property in a state of good repair so that it is safe for visitors to be there. Sometimes, though, the responsible party is a lessee of the landlord who owns the property, such as in the case of a commercial property. Other times the responsible party may be the person who has actual control of the property, whether or not he or she is the owner.

Condition of the property

Whoever the responsible party is deemed to be, he or she is obligated to use reasonable care to protect your safety while on the property. What constitutes reasonable care can depend on a number of factors, including the following:

  • How the property is being used
  • The foreseeability that a certain property condition is dangerous and may cause an accident
  • The responsible person’s knowledge that such a condition exists
  • The reasonableness of the responsible person in repairing the dangerous condition and/or warning visitors of its existence
  • The circumstances under which you are on the property

Your status as a visitor

Whether and to what extent you can recover damages if you slip and fall on someone else’s property depends on how you came to be there. You could have been an invitee; that is, someone invited onto the property either actually or impliedly, as in the case of a customer, client, patient, delivery person, etc. You could have been a social guest, specifically invited to attend a social function.

If you were a trespasser, however, you had no right to be on the property. Nor did you have the consent of the owner, lessee or resident to be there. Consequently, you may not be able to recover damages if you slipped and fell under these circumstances. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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