Liability in San Antonio Slip and Fall Claims
To successfully recover damages after suffering injuries in a slip and fall accident, the injured party must prove that the business or the property owner negligently maintained the premises.
The mere fact that a party becomes injured after slipping and falling on a premises does not conclusively establish that the property owner was negligent or at fault and thereby liable for resulting damages. Additionally, there can be scenarios where multiple parties are responsible for a slip and fall accident. In that instance, a court will assign each party a percentage of the fault, and each of the at-fault parties will be subject to paying their shares of damages.
To prevail on a slip and fall injury claim, injured parties must show the property owner was negligent by proving:
- The defendant owns, leases, or manages the property where the injury occurred, establishing their duty to maintain a safe environment.
- The defendant breached their duty by failing to warn visitors of a known hazard or maintaining the premises inadequately.
- The property owner’s breach of the duty to keep the property reasonably safe contributed to the slip and fall accident.
- The slip and fall accident was the direct cause of the resulting injuries and losses.
When considering whether the property owner acted negligently in causing the slip and fall accident, lawyers, insurance adjusters, and courts may ask the following questions:
- How likely would another person suffer a slip and fall injury in the same situation?
- How severe are the injuries?
- Did the landowner know about the hazard that led to the slip and fall accident? Where is the property located?
- How much of a burden would it be for the landowner to fix the dangerous condition or remove it from the property?
- How much control did the landowner have over the situation that led to the slip and fall accident?
Establishing the property owner’s knowledge and control over a dangerous condition on the premises helps prove liability.
Visitors’ Status in San Antonio Slip and Fall Cases
While Texas law requires landowners to keep their properties reasonably safe for visitors, the specific obligations that a property owner owes to visitors depend on that particular visitor’s status. A visitor’s status also determines how much they can recover monetarily from the property owner for slip and fall accidents. Texas law recognizes three categories of visitors: invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
An invitee is someone the property owner explicitly invites onto their property for public use or business. A typical example of an invitee is a customer who patronizes a business for the business owner’s benefit, such as a patient who visits a doctor’s office to obtain medical treatment or a customer who dines at a restaurant. People who visit public places, such as parks, beaches, and playgrounds, are also invitees.
Texas law imposes the highest duty of care to invitees. Landowners owe legal obligations to invitees to remove hazardous conditions on the premises or warn invitees of known dangerous conditions that could lead to a slip and fall accident. Failure to fulfill these obligations is a breach of duty owed to the invitees and would, in turn, subject landowners to potential liabilities if slip and fall accidents occur.
A licensee is a visitor who may or may not have explicit or implicit permission to visit another’s property. Invited licensees are primarily family members and other social guests. Other licensees who have implied consent to visit the property include salespeople, postal workers, off-duty employees, and delivery persons. The level of care owed to a licensee depends on their specific purpose for entering the premises and whether the property owner explicitly invited them.
Uninvited licensees generally don’t have the same rights under Texas law as those to whom the property owners have extended explicit invites. But property owners still have a duty to refrain from intentionally harming uninvited licensees, such as by creating a hidden hazardous condition that’s likely to cause injury to people on the premises.
Trespassers are people who enter another person’s property without explicit or implicit permission from the landowner. Under Texas law, property owners only owe a duty to child trespassers to protect them from injuries. A young child might intentionally or unintentionally trespass on private property. Property owners are liable for child trespassers if the law classifies the dangerous condition on the premises, resulting in injuries to the child, as an attractive nuisance.
This is a feature on private property that’s likely to draw in a young child and cause them harm due to its dangerous nature. Texas landowners have a legal obligation to protect child trespassers by eliminating potential “attractive” dangers that can lead to severe injuries or death.
Examples of attractive nuisances are:
- Swimming pools
- Backyard trampolines
- Piles of sand, dirt, and wood at construction sites
- Bulldozers, tractors, and other heavy equipment
- Piles of furniture, old appliances, and old cars
- Ponds, lakes, fountains, and other water features
- Outdoor play equipment, such as treehouses and swing sets.
Property owners are not liable for slip and fall injuries suffered by adult trespassers. But as with licensees, landowners must not intentionally cause injury to adult trespassers.