Slips, trips, and falls cause many injuries every year in Iowa. Many of these injuries are minor but some can be life-threatening, particularly if a person injures their head or spinal cord during the fall. A person who has been injured in a slip and fall accident may be able to file a claim against the owner of the premises where the fall occurred for damages.
Premises Liability in Iowa Slip and Fall Accidents
Some of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents include the following:
- Loose carpeting
- Broken flooring
- Obstacles in hazardous areas such as stairs
- Liquid or food spills
- Snow and ice
A plaintiff in a slip and fall accident must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff at the time the accident occurred to prevail in a claim against the defendant for damages. The duty of care owed to the plaintiff will depend on the type of guest the plaintiff was at the time of the accident as well as the type of premises. A business that is open to the public owes a greater duty of care to a business guest who tripped in a public place than a homeowner does to a guest.
Business owners are responsible for making areas safe for the public. This includes cleaning up spills and removing obstacles such as loose carpeting or wires which could cause a trip or fall accident. The plaintiff does not need to demonstrate that the business owner was negligent by creating the dangerous condition such as a spill, only that the owner or the employees failed to use reasonable care to make the area safe for guests.
Whether or not a business owner exercised reasonable care may depend on whether or not the employees working at the place of business had a chance to prevent an accident. Business owners may claim that there was no chance to clean up a fresh spill and allege that they should not be held liable because their employees could not have prevented the accident.
Luckily, most businesses that are open to the public have many cameras operating at various angles during business hours to record thefts as well as accidents. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a slip and fall accident so that the attorney can request that this type of evidence be preserved. Some camera systems erase footage after a period of time, sometimes as little as 30 days. A letter from an attorney may prevent crucial evidence from being destroyed.
If a business guest was trespassing in an area that was not open to the public, their right to recover damages for their injuries may be affected. For example, if there were signs in the area that advised members of the public not to enter an area due to dangers, a business owner may be able to defend the claim by arguing that the plaintiff assumed the risk of danger by ignoring warnings. Landowners must not knowingly create hidden hazardous conditions for trespassers.
Homeowners do not have to keep their homes free from obvious hazards but must disclose hidden dangers to guests. For example, if there is a known danger of a hole at the bottom of basement stairs where lighting will make the hole difficult to see, a homeowner has a duty to disclose the risk if a guest enters the area. A homeowner does not have to disclose the danger of obstacles a guest should be able to observe like a child's toy's in the middle of the floor.
Slip and Fall Accidents On Ice or Snow
Many slip and fall accidents occur during winter weather conditions. Many business owners have a contract with a snow and ice removal company to keep all walkways, parking lots and other areas where members of the public are likely to walk cleared. Usually, the contract with a snow and ice removal company specifies who will be held liable in the event of an accident. Claims related to snow and ice are often covered by insurance carried by the landowner or the ice removal company.
Claims Against the Government
When a government entity is sued, the government may claim “sovereign immunity” as part of its defense. Government entities include police and fire departments, schools and political organizations. Sovereign immunity traditionally freed state agencies from liability in a lawsuit. There are many exceptions to sovereign immunity. Government agencies such as the Iowa State University may waive sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity may not apply in cases where a dangerous condition on public property caused an injury.
Contact a Slip and Fall Personal Injury Attorney in Iowa
If you or a loved one were injured in a slip and fall accident in Iowa, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to fight for you. Call Shawn Smith today to schedule a consultation. Contact the Smith Law Firm, PC online or call (855) 451-1260.