Why Are Premises Liability Cases So Difficult To Pursue?
Our office receives numerous inquiries every day about persons injured as a result of a slip and fall or trip and fall accident case. Most laypersons are under the belief that if you sustain an injury on another person’s property, that the landowner is automatically liable. While that may be the law in other jurisdictions, that is certainly not the law in the state of Wisconsin. You must prove that the landowner did something wrong (i.e. that they were “negligent” that contributed to the fall, that they knew a condition existed with sufficient time that they could have corrected the problem and did nothing to correct it. Further, the person injured cannot be more than 51% at fault for the accident or under Wisconsin law, you cannot recover for your injuries under Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law. Without photographic or video showing what made the person fall, or independent witnesses who might come to court to indicate what made a person fall down, these type of cases are very difficult to win at trial.
Most insurance companies routinely deny slip and fall/trip and fall “premises liability cases.” They claim the landowner did nothing wrong, and if there was some type of defect or problem, the plaintiff should have seen it as being open and obvious and avoided it. When the claim is denied, it forces the injured person to start a lawsuit to pursue their case. At mediation or somewhere down the line, the insurance company will offer at best, “nuisance value” to settle the lawsuit. This amounts to an offer of $5,000 or less. Unless a person is seriously injured as a result of a slip and fall, or trip and fall accident, such as a broken leg, or other similar injury, most personal injury lawyers shy away from taking these cases, as they know how tough they can be to pursue. While we handle them we will only do so where we have photographic evidence of what made the person fall down, serious injuries and that the injured person presents well and can draw sympathy from ultimately may be 12 people sitting in a jury box who will have to decide (a) how the accident happened (b) is the landowner at fault (c) was the condition causal of injury (d) whether the injured party did anything wrong in contributing to the fall and (e) what amount of money will adequately compensate them for their injury.
Where the “Safe Place Statute,” applies, the case becomes much less difficult to pursue. In Wisconsin, “the “safe place” law covers (a) places of employment (b) public buildings and (c) employment. Persons liable under the law are (a) employers (b) owners of public buildings, (c) owners of places of employment and (d) architects and builders. The duty under the safe place statute is non-delegable. The Safe place statute covers (a) employees and (b) frequenters.
The safe place statute imposes on employers, owners of public buildings and owners of places of employment, the duty (as to employers) of providing employment and (as to each group), of constructing, repairing and maintaining the premises as free from danger to the life, health, safety or welfare of employees or frequenters “as the nature of the employment, place of employment, or public building will reasonably permit.” Sec. 101.11 Wisconsin Statutes. For an excellent book on the safe place statute in Wisconsin, you should read “Wisconsin Safe-Place Law Revised” by Howard H. Boyle, Jr.
If you were injured in a premises liability case, whether it is a trip and fall or slip and fall accident, call one of the experienced premises liability lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.C. to assess your injury case.