Proving Liability for Slip and Fall Injuries in Columbia, S.C.
Slip and fall accidents are an area of law known as premises liability. A premises liability claim is filed against a property owner who did not keep their property in a safe condition or failed to warn visitors about possible dangers.
A premises liability action entails the same four elements involved in most negligence claims:
- Duty of Care — A property owner has an obligation to visitors to keep their property in safe condition or warn them about any hazards.
- Breach of Duty — The property owner breached their duty of care by failing to keep the property in safe condition or warn about hazards.
- Causation — The breach of duty caused the victim to suffer injuries.
- Damages — The victim’s injuries resulted in damages.
Not all people are owed the same duty of care in South Carolina. The law divides visitors to property into three categories:
- Invitees — Individuals on a property by expressed or implied invitation of the owner, usually for the financial gain of the owner. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care. Customers in most retail establishments are considered invitees.
- Licensees — Individuals on a property with the owner’s consent, but often for their own purposes. One kind of licensee would be a meter reader.
- Trespassers — Individuals on property unlawfully and without permission. Trespassers generally are not owed a duty of care except in special cases.
The law contains an important exception for instances when the trespasser who is injured is a child and the property owner has a swimming pool or trampoline that presents an attraction to children too young to appreciate the possible danger. In such cases, property owners can be liable for injuries when they did not secure their property to make the attractive nuisance inaccessible to children.
You should not assume that you cannot recover damages if you were partly responsibility for your accident. In South Carolina, a person is allowed to recover damages as long as he or she was not more negligent than the defendant.
When a person is awarded damages, the damages will be reduced in proportion to their degree of negligence. In other words, a person awarded $100,000 in a Columbia slip and fall case but found to have been 15 percent at fault will have their damages reduced by $15,000 and ultimately receive $85,000.
Many slip-and-fall accidents are resolved through settlements, but some cases go to court. When a case goes to trial and a jury awards the victim compensatory damages, the compensatory damages are usually a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are tangible costs that can be calculated and proven, such as medical expenses, lost income, and property damage. Non-economic damages are much more subjective and cannot be proven, with such awards as loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.